Sales of Tablet PC devices were driven principally by vertical markets, according to a new study by In-Stat.
Applications in healthcare, real estate, insurance and salesforce automation were cited as principal reasons for organisations to buy the portable computers.
Tablet PCs are laptop computers that run a special version of Windows XP. They can be operated with a pen and in the future will support touch screens.
Because the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition operating system offers handwriting recognition, a keyboard and trackpad are optional.
Launched nearly three years ago, the devices have failed to live up to early expectations. Microsoft acknowledged earlier this year that the first models were nothing more than "a noble attempt to get to the end goal very quickly".
Bill Mitchell, corporate vice president for the Windows client business, told delegates at the WinHEC conference last April that a lack of applications using the pen's capabilities for screen-based input, as well as limited ease of use, were reasons for the disappointing sales.
But Tablet sales are expected to pick up, according to In-Stat analyst Brian O'Rourke. "Broad horizontal markets should start to make an impact on the market in 2005," he said.
O'Rourke suggested that a price drop for the computers, as well as new software and larger form factors, will drive sales from $1.2bn in 2004 to $5.4bn by 2009, an average annual growth rate of 34 per cent.
The analyst said that Tablet sales could rise further if Microsoft decided to make support for the special pen-based input capabilities a standard option for Windows Vista. This feature is currently available only in the Tablet PC edition of Windows XP.
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