TabletPCs to debut in 2002 at laptop prices

Microsoft is hoping to debut its TabletPC sometime in 2002 with the device being sold by OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) at "laptop prices", key members of the Microsoft development team said at Comdex.

The company has been working in earnest since July of last year on the device which will be made by OEMs, according to Alex Loeb, general manager of Microsoft's TabletPC. The hardware draws on Microsoft technology such as handwriting recognition which has been in development at the software giant for a number of years, she added.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed that the device appears sometime in 2002," Loeb said. "It's a lot of work." In terms of the identities of the TabletPC OEMs, the major laptop manufacturers are the most likely suspects, she added, with the device costing around the same price as laptops.

Microsoft is also intending to include its speech-recognition technology in TabletPC devices from "day one", according to Loeb. "My theory is that there's a very vocal minority who wants speech," she said. The company may also use speech as another user interface for the devices, Loeb added.

Currently, there are a couple of hundred TabletPC prototypes in existence and Microsoft is already talking to OEMs about the devices, Loeb said.

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