Microsoft to refresh Tablet OS

Microsoft will ship a new version of its Tablet PC next year, which will include features to make it easier to create text in Windows and supporting applications. The new OS will also be free for existing Tablet PC users, the company said.

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By  Peter Branton Published  December 1, 2003

Microsoft will ship a new version of its Tablet PC next year, which will include features to make it easier to create text in Windows and supporting applications. The new OS will also be free for existing Tablet PC users, the company said.

Microsoft chairman Bill Bates announced the new OS as part of his keynote speech at the Comdex industry show in Las Vegas, US last month. The new version "include some pretty substantial advances" he told the audience, who also saw a demonstration of the new features in the OS. "You saw the demo there, the high quality of the ink to text, and the whole correction interface which has moved ahead very dramatically," he said.

As well as the Tablet PC, Gates also showcased Microsoft's SmartScreen anti-spam filtering technology, which will help guard users' inboxes from unwanted e-mails.
However, it was the Tablet OS that attracted attention, with Gates also showcasing new tablet PC launches from Viewsonic, Gateway and Toshiba. Almost exactly one year after its launch, Microsoft was "very excited to see the progress" the OS has made, said Gates.
The new version of the OS is timely, as tablet PC sales are still slow to take off, in EMEA at least. Analysts argue that Microsoft needs to do more with the pricing if it is to make the OS a success.

This is a view Microsoft is rejecting. "If you look at the deals we offer, such as for teacher and student versions, we're already competitive on pricing," Mazen Shehadeh, product marketing manager for Microsoft South Gulf told Windows in a recent interview.

The improvements to the Tablet PC OS include better integration with new features released in Office 2003, including its OneNote feature which allows users to make notes anywhere in Word, Excel or Powerpoint documents and send handwritten e-mails.

Bill Mitchell, vice president of the Tablet PC division at Microsoft, said the new features make it easier to insert text with the pen. The new OS will feature a higher level of handwriting recognition, including recognition of context. For instance, a user will be able to enter an internet address via the pen and the OS will interpret the context and recognise it as an internet address.

"These enhancements to the core Tablet PC software demonstrate how the Tablet PC really is the evolution of the laptop PC," Mitchell said.

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