Glance at IT research firm IDC’s forecasts for Tablet PC sales and you’ll see bar graphs rising faster than Bechtel stock after Gulf War II. While total shipments are not expected to break 1 million in 2004, vendors are predicted to ship more than 6 million units in 2007.
Hardware makers are already getting a jump on this market, presenting enterprise buyers with intriguing choices when comparing Tablet PCs to laptops. Acer is looking to pave the way for companies curious about Tablet PCs with the launch of its TravelMate 250PE TabNote. The 250PE is a pen-enabled notebook running Microsoft’s Windows XP Tablet PC OS. It’s Acer’s effort to combine the form factor—and value pricing—of a traditional notebook with the pen-input capabilities of a Tablet PC.
The device is a clamshell-style notebook with a touchscreen that enables users to compute using digital ink. A fold-out stand on the back of the notebook’s cover supports the touchscreen for pen input. Sporting a 2.60GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, 256 MB of RAM and a 40GB hard drive, the 250PE has four USB ports, two PC Card slots and an integrated 802.11b radio. It boasts battery life of approximately 2.5 hours and weighs 8.38 pounds, so it’s no trans-Atlantic ultraportable. But that might be worth the trade-off for the industry’s first Tablet PC device with a 14.1-inch display. And at $1,600—hundreds less than traditional Tablet PCs—the price won’t weigh you down.
If you’re after a more conventional Tablet PC, check out Sharp’s new Actius TN10W. A true convertible Tablet PC, the TN10W’s display rotates and folds against the keyboard so that it can be used as a clamshell notebook or a writing slate. The TN10W is slim and trim enough, measuring 11.4 by 10.1 by 1.13 inches and tipping the scales at 4.3 pounds. It boasts a 1.1GHz Intel Pentium M processor with Centrino technology, 256 MB of RAM, a 30GB hard drive and a battery with a preliminary run time of 5 hours. The 12.1-inch XGA display is unique with a viewing angle of 160 degrees from all directions, according to Sharp.