tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines

Tablet PC fiddling

At the Farm the other night Paul was kind enough to bring along his tablet PC for me to have a play with.

I thought about buying an AST tablet PC last summer, but the one I was looking at had keys that were smaller than my fingers, and I wanted one I could type on as well as draw. Paul got his, a Toshiba that's about two years old, via a good bargain on Ebay, but it has the latest version of XP Tablet Edition on it now. It's much better than I expected - the cursor keeps up with writing and drawing very well, it made a good stab at reading the neat version of my handwriting without any training (even I can't understand my normal handwriting so I don't expect any computer to be able to do it in the next twenty years or so.)

I'm very interested in having a computer I can switch around and draw on whenever I like, and the Toshiba was much better than the Wacom tablet with in-built screen I saw a few years back at a computer show. XP does a good job of integrating the text recognition around various applications, although it's still got a little way to go to be really integrated everywhere.

I'm really hoping Apple will come out with a tablet computer soon. They feel like they have the right sort of OS, plenty of designers all ready use it with tablets, and you have less dependence on context dependent menus (the ones you get up with a right-click) which means less fiddling with the pen by needing to use an extra button all the time. Also I basically just like OS X over XP. They've all ready got some good handwriting recognition software developed from what they had in the Newton, but just don't seem to want to make one. I think the market for tablet PCs is always going to be relatively small compared to standard laptops, unless the technology becomes so cheap they replace laptops completely, but Apple seems good at cornering niche markets, so I was hoping that wouldn't bother them.

Still, hopefully next year if I can get my work buffer up high enough to buy a tablet, even if it is a PC version. In fact, I can hear Ebay calling me right now, time to run away and hide the credit card.
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