Sunday, May 1, 2005

Exploring Windows XP Tablet PC Edition

MOBILE OPERATING SYSTEMS

By Jason Giacchino

I do my best to avoid hearing the birds sing their slightly pre-dawn awakening song from the massive oak outside my office window, but must confess that it happens more often than I'd like to admit. The reality is that breaking in new test hardware is a time consuming affair, and although well justified, can eat a chunk of evening hours that spreads into the morning if you're not careful.

In my case, having recently studied the practicality of another piece of hardware designed to fill the void between the Palm Tungsten E and Dell Latitude D510 laptop sitting on my desk at work, I was exploring the features Microsoft had packed into Windows XP Tablet PC Edition shown in Figure A.

FIGURE A

A Tablet PC running Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. (click for larger image)

A sensible travel-friendly slate would, theoretically, function primarily as a useful tool for jotting creative writing thoughts in compact spaces, at least in my own test.

Was this merely a more powerful version of Graffiti 2 in terms of handwriting recognition and text conversion applications? I simply had to find out, even at the cost of a good night's sleep, and as the birds continued to chirp their welcome to the sun's early blue kiss across the morning dew, I had come to some pretty solid conclusions.

It turns out the original Tablet PC Edition of Windows XP is still fairly young, having been released in November of 2002. Although Microsoft claims handwriting recognition isn't the centerpiece benefit of using XP Tablet, it is the backbone on this year's first major revision of the operation system. Codenamed "Lonestar", Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 in Figure B, incorporates Service Pack 2's increased security and protection features in addition to offering a host of other improvements.

FIGURE B

Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 looks like the desktop Windows XP. (click for larger image)

Best of all, the upgrade is free for those still using the first version of XP Tablet.

It turns out that Microsoft is pushing the Tablet market to the masses, as they're producers of the only available operating system for these units (unlike the handheld market where Palm OS offers serious competition for Windows Mobile). The hardware itself is an interesting blend of components and design features that's truly the middle ground between laptop and handheld. Palm, and particularly Pocket PC users, will have no trouble adapting to the Tablet's stylus-based interface, and certainly die-hard laptop aficionados shouldn't have much trouble either.