Microsoft demonstrated the Tablet PC at this year's Comdex Fall exhibition, a device it believes will be the PC of choice for computer users.
Described as the most fought-over prototype in Microsoft's research and development labs, the device resembles an over-sized pocket PC. It was shown for the first time during Microsoft chairman Bill Gates's keynote speech.
The Tablet PC was demonstrated running Whistler, the latest version of Windows, which is due for release in the second half of next year. The silver and orange prototype is a standalone device that does not rely on synchronisation with a PC.
Rumoured to contain the Crusoe chip from start-up Intel rival Transmeta, the device has 128Mb capacity and wireless networking capability. The key feature is what Microsoft calls "electronic ink", or handwriting input.
Handwritten text on the Tablet PC can be manipulated in much the same way as typed text. It can be highlighted, cut and pasted, made bold or italicised, and can even be used as a search term.
No indication was given of when such a device would reach the market, but Gates said that it is already gaining huge support on the Redmond campus. "There has been more fighting over who gets to use this prototype than anything we've ever done," he said.
Gates also introduced improvements to client-side computing, with demonstrations of the next version of Office, code-named Office 10. He concluded by predicting that XML would be at the heart of the next phase of computing.
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