Vendors Ready Slate of Offerings

Early Tablet PC designs are likely to sell in the $2,000 range and will use processors from Intel Corp., Transmeta Corp. and VIA Technologies Inc., analysts say.

Initial machines fall into two categories: convertible laptops that support both keyboard and pen input, and native Tablet PCs that don't include a keyboard. Users can use a docking station with a native Tablet PC, though, and hook up an external keyboard and monitor. All that extra desktop hardware adds to the overall system cost, however.

Early entries include:

Acer's TravelMate 100, the first convertible design, includes a 10.4-in. screen and a 700-MHz Pentium III processor. It supports 802.11b wireless LAN connections, weighs 3.2 lb. and has a screen lid that can either open to reveal a traditional laptop keyboard or swivel and fold over the keyboard to function as a tablet surface for pen input.

Motion Computing's M1200 is a native tablet design that can use a docking station. The unit has no keyboard, weighs less than 3 lb., has a 12.1-in. screen and will cost approximately $2,000, the vendor says.

Fujitsu PC Corp. in Santa Clara, Calif., and Hewlett-Packard are developing dockable and convertible models, respectively, but haven't publicly released details.

On the software side, Microsoft plans to offer the Microsoft Office XP Pack for Tablet PC, which will support digital ink within Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. Initially, however, digital ink will be stored as a separate file attachment rather than embedded natively in the document file. The company has signed up 16 software partners, including SAP AG and Salt Lake City-based FranklinCovey Co., which will offer a tablet-enabled version of its day planner software.

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