Tablet PCs' Future UncertainBy John G. Spooner | Print
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New shipment forecasts show that, despite early predictions to the contrary, tablets may not break into the mainstream anytime soon.
Tablet PCs can't catch a break.
The fate of the pen-driven, portable PC category, which got a boost in 2002 when Microsoft Corp. first rolled out its Windows XP Tablet PC Edition software, is uncertain, as some analysts have begun to lower their long-term growth projections for the category and Microsoft remains mum about its future tablet operating system plans.
Despite early expectationsthe Tablet PC Edition OS provided an easier method of allowing people to navigate their computers with a pen, make digital annotations and capture handwriting, while a new "convertible" form factor was more like a traditional notebooktablets have failed to woo mainstream business users and consumers as quickly or as easily as initially expected, market watchers say.
The machines, which have caught on in areas such as health care and education, are thus likely to remain trapped in those niches for some time to come, forecasters now say.
Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates and a former International Data Corp. analyst, issued a dire forecast for the market.
Kay, in a report published late last week, predicts that tablet shipments will total less than 4 million units per year by 2009, well below some recent forecasts, which had predicted shipments as high as 14 million during the same time period, he said.
Kay argues: "Rather than becoming a general-purpose computing platform, tablets will settle in as a long-term niche product."
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