Tablet PCs to catch on slowly, says Gartner

Business-meeting etiquette may be one factor that aids the success of tablet PCs, argues Microsoft. But Gartner's analysts are having none of it

Microsoft mounted a strong sales pitch for the full range of mobile flavours of Windows at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Cannes on Tuesday. Leading the onslaught was president of Microsoft EMEA, Jean Phillipe Curtois, who walked on stage for his morning Q&A session carrying a tablet PC.

But any hopes Curtois might have had of banging the drum for tablet PCs were halted by Gartner's Peter Sondergaard, who was resolute in reminding the audience of Gartner's criticisms of the tablet form factor -- eventually forcing Curtois to concede that addressing some of Gartner's objections might take "some time".

In a new report, Gartner projects that hardware based on the Tablet PC operating system will make up only slightly more than 1 percent of notebook sales in 2003. Standing in the way of wider adoption are "a lack of application support, clumsy hardware designs and a price premium will be barriers for most users," said Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney.

Microsoft's director of marketing for the EMEA mobile devices group, Robbie Wright, smiled through a series of demo gremlins to score some direct sales points for the tablet PC later in the day, with a hands-on demonstration of Microsoft's four mobile platforms: Tablet PC, Windows Powered Smartphone 2002, Pocket PC Phone Edition, and Pocket PC.

Wright argued that using a tablet PC in a business meeting is more socially acceptable than using a notebook. In a customer meeting, "it is not really appropriate to pop out your laptop and start typing away -- however, when you are writing notes it looks like you are at least paying attention... so we think the tablet PC is a replacement or upgrade for a laptop that makes a lot of sense in terms of increasing productivity," he said.

Security is still an issue for firms looking to deploy mobile devices, according to Wright. "Security, security, security" is constantly brought up by IS staff whenever you engage them about mobile devices, he said, adding that Microsoft has listened to the criticisms of security in some mobile devices and was committed to boosting security levels in Pocket PC.

Windows Powered Smartphone owners can look forward to a tidal wave of new applications, according to Microsoft: "One to two hundred in the next six months, and one to two thousand in the next eighteen months," promised Wright.

Sondergaard said that Gartner believed the tablet PC would only achieve a "slow uptake". "One of the problems we have with the curent edition is that it's still not completely embedded with the operating system... its not so much the form factor, but more the aspects of the integration with the operating system."

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