Tablets are everywhere, as Microsoft tries to tell us that what we need is a laptop with no keyboard. Personally, I find A4-sized tablets hard to swallow. It's true that they have some amazing handwriting recognition, and that the coming of the Web makes it much easier to envisage doing useful work armed just with a screen to read Web pages and a pen to click on links. Something that did that, ran all day, weighed next to nothing and cost a few hundred quid would be in with a shout as a nice domestic and office toy. But the tablet PC is almost none of these things. They really are laptops without keyboards, and have the same weight and battery life. Two to three hours between charges is just not interesting, even if you can top it off every half an hour or so from a charging point Three to four pounds in weight isn't something you'd want to take with you on your journey through daily life, and the thousand quid-plus price point is just plain daft. All through the sorry history of pen-based computing, one thing remains enormously clear -- they're good for single tasks, and rubbish at anything else. PDAs are OK once you get rid of the stray computing bits and make them very small, very light and cheap. Stock-taking systems love pen-based computing. Punters, though, are not interested in something with few advantages and plenty of drawbacks, especially when it's in direct competition with cheaper, more powerful, more portable alternatives. But Microsoft will keep on at it, in the same way that it'll produce an Xbox II and embedded XP. It gives us something to write about, I suppose, and we really should be grateful.