Speaking at the opening of Comdex Fall 2001, Gates provided a concrete example with the Tablet PC, which uses a touch screen and a forthcoming version of Windows XP. The device, unveiled as a concept last year, was shown in prototype form Sunday with examples from Compaq Computer, NEC, Toshiba, Intel and others.
One of the devices resembled an Etch A Sketch, while another looked more like a notebook PC with a screen that could be rotated to sit on top of the keyboard. Others were almost small enough to be considered handhelds.
Microsoft also announced the name of the software that powers the Tablet PC: Microsoft Windows XP Tablet Edition. Gates said the company hopes the devices will be commercially available in 2002.
“Next year I hope a lot of people in the audience will be taking their notes on a Tablet PC,” Gates said.
The Tablet PC is a pen-driven, fully functional computer that converts pen strokes into graphics that can be handled in ways similar to ordinary computer type. Although the computer doesn’t recognize specific words, it distinguishes between words and pictures. It also lets people perform some word processing-like tasks, such as inserting space between lines, copying text or boldfacing pen strokes.
Some of the devices will be about the width and length of a legal-size pad of paper, measure between 1.5 inches and 2 inches thick, and provide a color touch screen with a resolution sharp enough to allow people to read electronic books.
Gates said the Tablet PC and other advances would help ensure that technology remains relevant.
“In the decade ahead, we’ll provide over twice the productivity improvements we did in the ’90s,” Gates said.