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Tablet PCs Debut at WinHEC

Tablet PC to ship some time in 2002; Windows XP Beta 2, Hailstorm also top announcements from Microsoft and partners.

Anaheim, Calif. -- Bill Gates described the "better PC" of the future as being voice enabled, broadband and network enabled, containing at least 128MB, possessing high-performance graphics and high-quality audio, quiet, running "quality programs," with a faster "resume time." He made these comments during his keynote at Microsoft's WinHEC 2001 conference taking place this week in Anaheim, California.

Microsoft used the venue, attended by hardware engineers, to announce the Tablet PC platform. The company describes the Tablet PC as a slate-like, Windows XP-powered device "that represents the evolution of notebook computing.

Simulating how users often revert to pen on paper to write notes, Gates said the Tablet PC will offer users a more intuitive way of interacting through digital ink or voice input. Microsoft's Charlton Lui demonstrated with a prototype the ability to write and manipulate text and images, run a search across notes for handwritten text, and copy and paste hand-written notes to the Clipboard to move to other applications as ASCII text.

Gates said the market would likely see Tablet PC products next year from vendors including Compaq, Fujitsu, Acer, Toshiba, and Sony.

Sanjay Parthasarathy, Vice President for Platform Strategy at Microsoft, then repeated announcements made last week regarding "Hailstorm," the code-name for a project that's intended to advance the Microsoft .NET strategy. Hailstorm consists of a set of user-centric XML Web services that connects Internet applications, devices, and services and transforms them into a user's personal network-on their behalf with their permission.

In one demonstration, online auction company eBay showed instant messaging that alerted a user that he or she has been outbid using Hailstorm. Likewise, Parthasarathy said, the messaging capabilities would enable an administrator to receive instant messaging about a downed server from the network.

In his talk, Senior Vice President of the Windows Division, Brian Valentine, alluded to a new name for the consumer edition of Windows XP. Previously known as "Windows XP Personal," it's now called Windows XP Home Edition.

Valentine said the client editions, Windows XP Home Edition and Professional, would be released to manufacturing early in the third quarter. The Whistler Client Embedded would appear 30 days later. Whistler Server and Embedded Server editions would follow Embedded by four to six months later, putting those versions in an early to mid-2002 release timeframe.

Valentine also said the new generation of Windows software would support systems that have been released after January 2000, peripherals that have been on the market since January 1998, and all 32-bit Windows-compatible software.

Microsoft posted its second beta of Windows XP online for public download on Sunday. The company expects 300,000 beta testers to provide feedback during the next several months. Find out more at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/.

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