Windows XP Tablet Edition, as it was called, relied on an active digitizer that interacted with a pen-sensitive screen to provide input. This hardware was combined with a suite of software so the digitizer -- a fancy name for a mouse in the shape of a pen -- could interact with on-screen buttons, as well as write text. Windows XP Tablet Edition was updated in 2005, but the revisions were minor.
More than seven years since that launch, Windows-based tablet computers haven't evolved into much. The form factors are mostly the same, even though touch technology has leapt forward in capabilities. The new paradigm of computing that Gates spoke of never unfolded. At least, not yet.
For some, several features missing from the iPad's first iteration, call into question its future in an enterprise environment.
For others, the device is "naturally corporate." Its most fundamental design element -- that it can be held with one hand -- signals to one analyst, the iPad's potential to be a great business device. For the enterprise that wants to deploy tablet PCs today, the point is moot. The iPad is months away from shipping.
For enterprises that need tablet power today, out in the real, rough-and-tumble world (including out in the elements), the usual list of suspects has your back. Here are some examples of tablet PCs that are available today from Dell, HP, Lenovo, Motion Computing, Panasonic, and Xplore Technologies. We'll also take a peek at what's on the horizon from Dell, Lenovo, and HP.