The October 2005 Issue of MSDN Magazine has a Microsoft sponsored article titled The Evolution of Tablet PC Technologies in Microsoft Windows Vista. The basic gist of the article is that Microsoft is moving the TabletPC Framework into WinFX. This means that ink technology can be used anywhere Vista is installed. I’ve long thought that this would occur after TabletPC became popular. If you have ever worked on a PC with a touchscreen or Tablet, I’m sure you’ve experienced the urge to poke or write on your normal desktop monitor, just to meet disappointment when your regular CRT fails to respond to tactile inputs.
This is going to be both a good thing, and a bad thing for the TabletPC brand as a whole. Basically Microsoft is sacrificing some of the consistency of the TabletPC brand in order to leverage it’s marketshare to effect universal adoption of the key technologies of TabletPC. Overall, I think this is a good thing, since hardware lock-in has never really propelled a platform forward in the mainstream computing community.
Some really good things are probably going to come out of this. Imagine being able to add complete tablet functionality to a computer, just by purchasing a LCD monitor with a built-in WACOM digitizer. I could see this working great in doctor’s offices, hotel & tourism, restaurants, retail, basically anywhere where customers are served. Even though the traditional TabletPC could have worked in these locations, it hasn’t received widespread adoption. I can think of several factors. The portability of the platform increases the perceived risk of theft (even if it’s locked down). TabletPC’s are expensive, and you’re paying for a lot of features you may not need. Mounting the TabletPC into a workspace may seem gimmicky.
This is going to force some interesting changes in both the TabletPC and Desktop marketspace. Eventually I believe that TabletPC will just designate a Slate/Convertible form-factor, and will guarantee a certain hardware set. Tablet functionality will be everywhere.