By Patricia Fusco
Just one-inch-thick and weighing only three pounds, the sleek new tablet PC forged from a union between Gateway and Motion Computing features a large 12-inch-plus display that’s easy to view in a variety of environments. The tablet PC design couples the flexibility and mobility of a simple note pad with the full computing power of a notebook PC.
If on-the-go productivity is essential to your small business, then it might be worth integrating tablet PCs into your daily operations, at least according to the software maker at the forefront of the tablet PC movement — Microsoft Corp.
“The Tablet PC is an evolution in mobile computing, delivering innovative new designs and the anywhere, any time flexibility that business users want from their PC,” said Leland Rockoff, Microsoft’s Director of Marketing and Business Development for the Tablet PC division. “We’re excited that Gateway and Motion Computing have come together to offer this exciting new technology to business users everywhere.”
The new Gateway tablet PC uses a special edition of Windows XP. Consequently, in order for it to connect with your computer network, your business will need to run on Microsoft Windows XP. The tablet edition of the software comes with Microsoft Windows Journal, a note-taking utility that allows users to create and organize handwritten notes, diagrams and pictures.
Because the Gateway tablet PC uses a pen-based format for data input, many different types of businesses are taking a long, hard look at moving to tablet PC use. Especially businesses that need an easier way to input data while working outside of the office.
Traditionally, attorneys are always taking a lot of handwritten notes; the attorneys at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP (WG&M) are no different. These notes eventually must be cataloged, filed, and stored in their handwritten form, or converted manually into electronic text. According to WG&M Chief Information Officer Jim McGinnis, that exhaustive process is eliminated by its use of tablet PCs.
“When we first saw the Tablet PC, we knew that it would be valuable to get the attorneys away from paper-based note taking,” McGinnis said. “Attorneys take copious amounts of notes, so they are using the Tablet PC as a replacement for their notepads.”
Tablet PCs provide the same advantages that a standard notebook computer does, but in a format that allows office personnel on the move to be more productive. So far, Gateway has targeted institutions and larger enterprises — some of the tablet PC’s first customers include educational administrators visiting classrooms, doctors and nurses making rounds in hospitals, as well as warehouse and manufacturing facilities. But the company reports that orders from smaller businesses are starting to come in, signaling that businesses of all shapes and sizes recognize the many benefits of moving to tablet PCs, like the Gateway slate-style model.
It’s too early to tell if tablet PCs are the “next big thing” in business computing. Industry analysts forecasts are conservative — IDC projects that nearly 750,000 will adopt Microsoft’s tablet PC operating system next year. But that’s a small fraction of the portable PC market — 13 million notebooks are expected to be sold in the U.S. in 2003.
Gateway is selling the tablet PC for $2,799. Unlike some offerings that may only include a portable computer, the Gateway tablet PC comes with all the supporting peripherals needed to hit the ground running, including an 802.11b-based Wi-Fi card for wireless connectivity, a docking station, two digitizer pens, a mobile keyboard, and an external DVD/CD-RW combination drive.
The device is powered by Intel’s 866MHz mobile Pentium III processor and comes with 256MB of memory and a 40GB hard disk. If your business benefits from picking up the latest and greatest gadgets, you can test-drive a tablet PC for yourself at one of Gateway’s 270 retail locations scattered around the country.