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Should Your Next PC be a Tablet PC?

By Bill Mann
Posted Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Describes situations where someone should consider buying a Tablet PC instead of a regular desktop or laptop computer. The Tablet PCs are finally here. We've been hearing about them for years—small, light (some weigh less than 3 pounds) computers that you can write on as if they were a pad of paper or a personal digital assistant. These tiny powerhouses run a version of Windows XP, so you can use them like high-end notebook computers and run all your favorite applications. But you can also use them like virtually endless digital notebooks or sketchbooks, entering information with a special pen in environments where a desktop or notebook computer just won't cut it. You can even talk to them.

Since their launch in November 2002, Tablet PC sales have exceeded even the most optimistic predictions. Clearly the portability, usability, and sheer coolness of Tablet PCs are striking a chord with users. They've been particularly well received by doctors, lawyers, real estate professionals and artists. The question is, "Should your next PC be a Tablet PC?" The answer to that question depends on how you work.

Do you spend a lot of time taking notes in meetings? These days, most people frown on anyone using a laptop computer during a meeting, and many organizations have outright banned them from meeting rooms. But taking notes on a Tablet PC is like taking notes with pencil and paper. There's no annoying click, click, click of a keyboard, and no screen standing upright between its user and everyone else. Using a Tablet PC in meetings causes no such disruptions (once everyone stops gawking at it).

Do you take lots of handwritten notes, only to find that you have problems locating the right piece of information when you need it? With a Tablet PC, you don't have to worry about losing your notes, as they're all safe and sound in the computer. Even better, while you write the Tablet PC recognizes your handwriting and creates an index of key words in your notes. This allows the computer to search your handwritten notes for you. While handwriting recognition on the Tablet PC is by no means perfect, it does work reasonably well and greatly improves your chances of finding the information you need.

Do you need to use your computer in places where it's not practical to sit down and type? You can use a Tablet PC just like you would a pencil and paper, holding the computer in one hand while writing on the screen with the pen. It's a natural and practical way to work that lets you work on the move and beats the heck out of trying to type while balancing your computer in your lap.

If you're an information worker that doesn't spend the day sitting in one place, or a "corridor warrior" who spends your time going from meeting to meeting, perhaps your next PC should be a Tablet PC.

About the Author
Bill Mann writes regularly about mobile and wireless technology. He is the author of more than one dozen technology books including his latest, "How to Do Everything with Your Tablet PC," McGraw-Hill 2003.


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