More languages, more makes, more, more, more...
Microsoft has announced broader language support for its Smart Display and Tablet PC technologies and announced a manufacturing deal with Packard Bell.
Packard Bell, NEC's consumer PC division, joins Samsung, ViewSonic and other display makers in manufacturing so-called smart displays. Packard Bell plans to start selling a 10-inch smart display in Europe by the end of the first half of the year.
Microsoft has also greatly expanded language support for tablet PCs, with the beta release of Multilingual User Interface & Recogniser Pack (MUIRP). The final version is scheduled for July release.
Smart Display-based and Tablet PC-based products let consumers and business people access information using a stylus instead of a keyboard and mouse, although there are major functionality differences between the two tablet-like devices.
A smart display is a 10-inch or 15-inch detachable monitor running Microsoft's Windows CE for Smart Displays operating system. Once detached, the smart display connects back to the PC using wireless LAN for accessing email, surfing the web or reading documents. The tablet PC is an independent portable computer running Microsoft's Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.
Microsoft made its Smart Display and Tablet PC announcements at the CeBIT trade show in Hannover, Germany.
Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg said: "Both Smart Display and Tablet PC are gaining momentum as Microsoft refines the products and brings new hardware vendors on board. Adding new vendors helps create choice in the marketplace, and refining features like language options helps drive the product into new markets."
Microsoft on Wednesday also announced the general availability of 10-inch and 15-inch smart displays in Europe. Prices for 10-inch and 15-inch models, respectively, are £869 and £1,100 in the UK.
AboCom Systems, BenQ, First International Computer, Fujitsu, Intel, LG Electronics, National Semiconductor, Philips Consumer Electronics, Tatung, TriGem Computer and Wyse Technology are among the other manufacturers producing smart displays. Microsoft launched the monitor technology in January.
Tablet PC will now also support Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Spanish, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish. Using MUIRP, a technology manager could quickly switch the user interface, including dialog boxes and drop-down menus, from one language to another, according to Microsoft.
Tablet PC's handwriting recogniser also gets new language support for Iberian Spanish, in addition to the already available English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese. As a result, Tablet PC can now convert handwritten Spanish to text.
Additionally, a new speech recogniser adds support for traditional Chinese. The feature already supports English, Japanese and simplified Chinese.