January 13, 2003
The Notebook of the Future: Focus on the Tablet PC
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on GIScafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
Each GIS Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the GIS industry, GIS product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by GISCafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

Message from the Editor

Welcome to GISWeekly! For those of you just tuning into GISWeekly for the first time - it is a
weekly newsletter available at your desktop every Monday morning - and GISCafe's new offering for 2003. GISWeekly will examine select top news each week, pick out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature an article on the Tablet PC, Industry News, Alliances/Acquisitions, New Products, Announcements, Around the Web, Downloads and Calendar.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Ultimately, we would like to include a Letters department at some point in the future. Send your comments to me at
Best wishes for the year ahead,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

The Notebook of the Future: Focus on the Tablet PC

In the last quarter of 2002, Hewlett Packard-Compaq released their Compaq Tablet PC TC 1000. The first part of this article will focus on general questions about the Tablet PC, featuring an interview with Mark Baerenstecher, Worldwide Product Manager, HP Tablet PC, who works with engineering to define requirements and timing for the product.

The second part of the article focuses on the Tablet PC and GIS, with input from Jim Skog, Manager of HP's GIS Division, and Autodesk's Senior Business Manager, GIS Division, Colin Hobson.

Tablet PC demo at Autodesk University
Who would you say the Tablet PC targeted toward?

Mainly professional knowledge workers, more like you and I who end up taking notes a lot, when you want to have to eye to eye contact with people and still have access to information that helps us make decisions.

Is there any group within that group who is responding to it more enthusiastically?

CEOs and others who want to be able to do email quickly, send notes, mark up documents. I can annotate documents sent to me, keep a copy for myself and send them back. So it's not just for one specific purpose-- it fits the needs of a lot of different people. The key thing is it appeals to people who want to take a lot of notes, keep notes in their own handwriting and maintain eye to eye contact while doing so.

What are some of the features of the Compaq Tablet PC that are different than others on the marketplace?

One is that you have a keyboard that detaches so you can have a slate for writing on that is very convenient, because you can use it as a tablet, but then when you want to use it as a note book, you can quickly unstow the keyboard or attach the keyboard from its tablet position, put it into notebook position. It's a normal notebook position with a keyboard and a point stick. We've done a lot of things to make sure the tablet is an ideal writing pad. We made sure the top cover is extended beyond the edge of the screen so there are no obstructions to your hand when you're writing. We've also put on a wide angle viewing film so you can write at your normal angle.

It's a 3 pound tablet and you get over 4 1/2 hours of battery life.

Does the software save the notes in actual text or does it save in your handwriting?

It depends on what application you want to use. There is an application that comes standard with Microsoft Windows XP the PC edition that is called Microsoft Journal and it actually captures your handwriting. It renders it very well as your handwriting, in fact you don't need to recognize everything as text with this. We've done things with our hardware to make sure you have a pleasant handwriting experience.

What are some of the technologies that are innovative that are designed to operate with the Tablet PC?

In recent years we've been able to come out with really small notebooks, but only now have we been able to come out with really low powered processors, that give you longer battery life. There's more attention to providing lower power consuming components that still give a great PC experience. We have been waiting for the right kind of software to make this experience right for the business professional. The software has existed for awhile for the vertical markets, but now it's right for the business professional.

How does the Tablet PC compare with the notebook PC?

Everything we have in the Tablet PC you find in the notebook PC so when you're looking at an ultra portable PC you should consider a Tablet PC. Because just for a small premium you can get the added feature of handwriting. Everything else is the same in terms of performance, power, capability. We can build notebooks this size that have the same performance and capabilities -- they just don't have handwriting.

If you're going to compare it to a Pentium 4 15-inch notebook, there's a different target market for those than for the Tablet PC. Tablet PCs typically come in a 10 inch form factor and are more focused on battery life, whereas a 15 inch notebook is more focused on having the greatest performance but it's not very mobile.

The key thing is if you're looking at a ultra portable PC you should get a Tablet PC because for not much more you're going to get handwriting in addition.

What are some of the features that make the Tablet PC appealing to mobile users?

The Compaq Tablet PC has a 4 ½ - 5 hour battery life. You've got to design a mobile system for the Tablet and that's why we're focused on long battery life. And the other part is, as a Tablet it should be a primary PC, so we looked at how to build a PC that adapts to your environment the way you do. If you work in a lot of mobile scenarios, you're going to want a Tablet PC that is a great PC, and has great handwriting capabilities, but then when you need to get to a keyboard quickly and easily, you can. The Tablet is all about smooth and seamless transitions. When you transition in a hotel you may be using the Tablet, and when you transition back to your office, you have a docking
station that transitions back to a full size keyboard, mouse and monitor.

The whole design--from the hardware and software standpoints--has incorporated this notion of smooth and seamless transitions.

In your office you want to be able to drive everything on your Tablet PC to your monitor, as well as view your notes on your Tablet. When you dock everything comes with you, when you're using the Tablet you have long battery life and you'll be able to write on it, get to things very quickly.

For years companies have been trying to develop “pen based computing” solutions. How do you see the Tablet PC being different from those previous solutions?

Pen based computing is good for verticals - I think people who know how to use keyboards know that the keyboard is a good tool in terms of business use. And that's great when you're sitting down, but when you become more mobile then the pen becomes more active. How do you keep the pen as much a part of the system as the keyboard? And without trading off much, how do you adapt your PC to the way you work?

Is this about pen computing? No-the Tablet is about how you use a pen in addition to your keyboard. For some people a pen is all they need, for others, they want to be able to get to their keyboard when they need it.

The Tablet PC For GIS

With regard to the use of the Tablet PC specifically for GIS, I spoke with Jim Skog, manager of HP's GIS division. “I was surprised at the speed of the adaptation of the IPAQ and Jornada handhelds. I didn't really expect tens of thousands of those to get snapped up in GIS usage so quickly. The Tablet PC fits halfway between a handheld and a laptop - it's got some of the advantages of both of those things, therefore there will be a lot of people who try them out, particularly in utilities and municipalities, and those that work onsite with GPS devices. I think they're going to find that they fill a niche for people who
want to handwrite notes as opposed to type them in. That lightweight portable technology will be valuable whether they're in the field doing wildlife observation, or whether they're taking GPS readings, or doing any kind of documentation.”

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-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.

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