Tablet personal computer
Tablet personal computer
A tablet personal computer (tablet PC) is a portable personal computer equipped with a touchscreen as a primary input device designed to be operated and owned by an individual. The term was made popular as a concept presented by Microsoft in 2001 but tablet PCs now refer to any tablet-sized personal computer regardless of the operating system.
Unlike laptops, tablet personal computers may not be equipped with a keyboard, in which case they use a virtual onscreen substitute. All tablet personal computers have a wireless adapter for Internet and local network connection. Software applications for tablet PCs include office suites, web browsers, games and a variety of applications. However, since portable computer hardware components are low powered, demanding PC applications may not provide an ideal experience to the user.
The Tablet PC market was invigorated by Apple through the introduction of the iPad device in 2010. While the iPad may not adhere to the personal computer definition because of its critized restrictions on software installation, its uncompromising attention to the touch interface is considered a milestone to the Tablet PC development history
Booklet PCs are dual screen tablet computers that fold like a book. Typical booklet PCs are equipped with multi-touch screens and pen writing recognition capabilities. They are designed to be used as digital day planners, internet surfing devices, project planners, music players, and displays for video, live TV, and e-reading.
Slate computers, which resemble writing slates, are tablet PCs without a dedicated keyboard. For text input, users rely on handwriting recognition via an active digitizer, touching an on-screen keyboard using fingertips or a stylus, or using an external keyboard that can usually be attached via a wireless or USB connection.
Tablet PCs typically incorporate small (8.4–14.1 inches/21–36 centimetres) LCD screens and have been popular in vertical markets such as health care, education, hospitality and field work. Applications for field work often require a tablet PC that has rugged specifications that ensure long life by resisting heat, humidity, and drop/vibration damage. This added focus on mobility and/or ruggedness often leads to elimination of moving parts that could hinder these qualities.
Convertible notebooks have a base body with an attached keyboard. They more closely resemble modern laptops, and are usually heavier and larger than slates.
Typically, the base of a convertible attaches to the display at a single joint called a swivel hinge or rotating hinge. The joint allows the screen to rotate through 180° and fold down on top of the keyboard to provide a flat writing surface. This design, although the most common, creates a physical point of weakness on the notebook.
Some manufacturers have attempted to overcome these weak points. The Panasonic Toughbook 19, for example, is advertised as a more durable convertible notebook. One model by Acer (the TravelMate C210) has a sliding design in which the screen slides up from the slate-like position and locks into place to provide the laptop mode.
Convertibles are by far the most popular form factor of tablet PCs, because they still offer the keyboard and pointing device (usually a trackpad) of older notebooks, for users who do not use the touchscreen display as the primary method of input.
Hybrids, coined by users of the HP/Compaq TC1000 and TC1100 series, share the features of the slate and convertible by using a detachable keyboard that operates in a similar fashion to a convertible when attached. Hybrids are not to be confused with slate models with detachable keyboards; detachable keyboards for pure slate models do not rotate to allow the tablet to rest on it like a convertible.
Axiotron introduced at Macworld in 2007 an aftermarket, heavily modified Apple MacBook called Modbook, a Mac OS X-based tablet computer. The Modbook uses Apple’s Inkwell for handwriting and gesture recognition, and use digitization hardware from Wacom. To get Mac OS X to talk to the digitizer on the integrated tablet, the Modbook is supplied with a third-party driver called TabletMagic; Wacom does not provide driver support for this device.
One early implementation of a Linux tablet was the ProGear by FrontPath. The ProGear used a Transmeta chip and a resistive digitizer. The ProGear initially came with a version of Slackware Linux, but could later be bought with Windows 98. Because these computers are general purpose IBM PC compatible machines, they can run many different operating systems. However, the device is no longer for sale and FrontPath has ceased operations. It is important to note that many touch screen sub-notebook computers can run any of several Linux distributions with little customization.
X.org now supports screen rotation and tablet input through Wacom drivers, and handwriting recognition software from both the Qt-based Qtopia and GTK+-based Internet Tablet OS provide promising free and open source systems for future development.
Open source note taking software in Linux includes applications such as Xournal (which supports PDF file annotation), Gournal (a Gnome based note taking application), and the Java-based Jarnal (which supports handwriting recognition as a built-in function). Before the advent of the aforementioned software, many users had to rely on on-screen keyboards and alternative text input methods like Dasher. There is a stand alone handwriting recognition program available, CellWriter, which requires users to write letters separately in a grid.
A number of Linux based OS projects are dedicated to tablet PCs. Maemo (rebranded MeeGo in 2010), a Debian Linux based graphical user environment, was developed for the Nokia Internet Tablet devices (770, N800, N810 & N900). It is currently in generation 5, and has a vast array of applications available in both official and user supported repositories. The Ubuntu Netbook Remix edition, as well as the Intel sponsored Moblin project, both have touchscreen support integrated into their user interfaces. Since all these are open source, they are freely available and can be run or ported to devices that conform to the tablet PC design.
TabletKiosk currently offers a hybrid digitizer / touch device running openSUSE Linux. It is the first device with this feature to support Linux.
MeeGo is a new operating system developed by Intel and Nokia supports Netbooks, Smartphones and Tablet PCs.
The first MeeGo powered tablet pc is the Neofonie WeTab. The WeTab uses an extended version of the MeeGo operating system called WeTab OS. WeTab OS adds runtimes for Android and Adobe AIR an provides a proprietary user interface optimized for the WeTab device.
Windows 7 touch capability is built with Microsoft Surface technologies. This is a gesture and touch-centric UI enhancement that works with most current touch computers. Windows has a history of tablet technology including Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. Tablet PC Edition is a superset of Windows XP Professional, the difference being tablet functionality, including alternate text input (Tablet PC Input Panel) and basic drivers for support of tablet PC specific hardware. Requirements to install Tablet PC Edition include a tablet digitizer or touchscreen device, and hardware control buttons including a Ctrl-Alt-Delete shortcut button, scrolling buttons, and at least one user-configurable application button.
A few select high schools in the US use tablet PCs for every student.
Service Pack 2 for Windows XP includes Tablet PC Edition 2005 and is a free upgrade. This version brought improved handwriting recognition and improved the Input Panel, allowing it to be used in almost every application. The Input Panel was also revised to extend speech recognition services (input and correction) to other applications.
With the succession of Windows Vista, the Tablet PC functionality no longer required a separate edition. Tablet PC support is built into all editions of Windows Vista with the exception of Home Basic and Starter editions. This extends the handwriting recognition, ink collection, and additional input methods to any computer running Vista even if the input device is an external digitizer, a touch screen, or even a regular mouse. Vista also supports Multi-Touch functions and gestures (originally developed for the Microsoft Surface version of Vista) and is now usable by the public with the release of Multi-Touch tablets. Windows Vista also significantly improved handwriting recognition functionality with the introduction a handwriting recognition personalization tool as well as an automatic handwriting learning tool.
Tablet functionality is available in all editions of Windows 7 except the Starter edition. It introduces a new Math Input Panel that recognizes handwritten math expressions and formulas, and integrates with other programs. Windows 7 also significantly improved pen input and handwriting recognition by becoming faster, more accurate, and supportive of more languages, including East Asian writing systems. Personalized custom dictionaries help with the recognition of specialized vocabulary (like medical and technical terms), and text prediction speeds up the input process to make note-taking faster. Multi-Touch technology is also available on some Tablet PCs, enabling more advanced interaction using touch gestures with your fingers the same way a mouse is used . Despite such advances, problems may arise with tablet functions of the OS, when, for instance, touch screen drivers are recognized as PS/2 mouse input rather than a touch input device. In such instances tablet functions may be unavailable or severely restricted in functionality.
Applications developed for the tablet PC cater to the form factor and functionality available on the platform. Many forms of applications incorporate a pen-friendly user interface and/or the ability to hand write directly in the document or interface.
A brief description of the applications included follows:
- Experience Pack
- Ink Desktop: an Active Desktop control designed to run in the background and allow the user to write directly on the desktop.
- Snipping Tool: a screen capture application which allows the tablet pen to be used to select a portion of the screen and then annotate it and save as a file or send in an email.
- Ink Art: a painting application developed by Ambient Design originally as ArtRage, licensed to Microsoft for release to Tablet PC users.
- Ink Crossword: a crossword application developed to mirror the experience of a paper crossword puzzle on a tablet PC.
- Media Transfer: a synchronization utility designed to download music, pictures, and videos from computers in the same network.
- Education Pack
- Ink Flash Cards: an application designed to assist memorization by using a flash card approach, enabling the user to hand write their own flash cards and display them back in a slide show.
- Equation Writer: a recognition tool specializing in converting handwritten mathematical equations to a computer-generated image for pasting into other documents.
- GoBinder Lite: an organization and note-taking application developed by Agilix Labs.
- Hexic Deluxe: a game with a tablet PC specific gesture enabled for easier use with the tablet and better.
Tablets vs. traditional notebooks
The advantages and disadvantages of tablet PCs are highly subjective measures. What appeals to one user may be exactly what disappoints another. The following are commonly cited opinions of the tablet PC platform:
- Usage in environments not conducive to a keyboard and mouse such as lying in bed, standing, or handling with a single hand.
- Lighter weight, lower power models can function similarly to dedicated reading devices like the Amazon Kindle.
- Touch environment makes navigation easier than conventional use of keyboard and mouse or touch pad in certain contexts such as image manipulation, or mouse oriented games.
- Digital painting and image editing is enhanced and more realistic than painting or sketching with a mouse.
- The ability for easier or faster entering of diagrams, mathematical notations, and symbols.
- Allows, with the proper software, universal input, independent from different keyboard localizations.
- Some users find it more natural and fun to use a stylus to click on objects rather than a mouse or touchpad, which are not directly connected to the pointer on screen.
- Higher cost — convertible tablet PCs can cost significantly more than their non-tablet counterparts although this premium has been predicted to fall.
- Input speed — handwriting can be significantly slower than typing speeds, the latter of which can be as high as 50-150 WPM; however, Slideit, Swype and other technologies are able to provide alternate, speedier methods of input.
- Screen and hinge damage risk – Tablet PCs are handled more than conventional laptops, yet are built on similar frames; in addition, since their screens also serve as input devices, they run a higher risk of screen damage from impacts and misuse. A convertible tablet PC’s screen hinge is often required to rotate around two axes, unlike a normal laptop screen, subsequently increasing the number of possible mechanical and electrical (digitizer and video cables, embedded WiFi antennas, etc.) failure points.
- Ergonomics – a tablet PC does not provide room for a wrist rest while the screen is folded into slate mode. In addition, the user will need to move their arm constantly while writing.
- Weaker video capabilities – Most tablet PCs are equipped with embedded graphics processors instead of discrete graphics cards. In July 2010, the only tablet PC with a discrete graphics card was the HP TouchSmart tm2t, which has the ATI Mobility Radeon HD5450 as an optional extra.
In addition to the host of features found on regular laptops, tablet PCs may also possess:
- Capacitive contact technology, which can sense finger(s) on the screen without requiring significant pressure for system to recognize an input.
- Palm recognition, which prevent inadvertent palms or other contacts from disrupting the pen’s input.
- Multi-touch capabilities, which can recognize multiple simultaneous finger touches, allowing for enhanced manipulation of on-screen objects.
Major tablet PC Manufacturers include Acer, AIS, Apple Inc., Asus, Bosanova, Electrovaya, Fujitsu, Gateway, Inc.,G-NET, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lenovo Group, LG Electronics, MobileDemand, Motion Computing, Motiontek, NEC, Panasonic, Quaduro-Systems, TabletKiosk and Toshiba.
Popular models include:
- Android Tablet PC
- Archos 9
- Axiotron Modbook
- COWON Q5W
- Dell Streak
- Electrovaya Scribbler SC4100
- Fujitsu Stylistic ST5010
- Fujitsu Stylistic ST5111
- Fujitsu Stylistic ST5112
- Fujitsu Stylistic ST6012
- Fujitsu Stylistic ST1010
- G-NET Rugged Tablet PC
- JLT8404 Field Tablet PC
- MobileDemand xTablet T7000 Rugged Tablet PC
- MobileDemand xTablet T8700 Rugged Tablet PC
- MobileDemand xTablet T8600 Refurbished Rugged Tablet PC
- Motion M1200, M1300, M1400, LE-Series, LS800, LE 1700
- Motion J3400 Semi-Rugged Tablet PC
- Motion C5 Mobile Clinical Assistant Tablet PC
- Motion F5 Rugged Tablet PC
- Motiontek x9
- Motiontek Ripple
- PaceBlade SlimBook 200 Series Tablet PCs
- Panasonic Toughbook 08
- Quadpad Slate Style Tablet PC
- Quadpad 3G HSDPA Tablet PC
- Samsung Q1 (Q1 Ultra)
- TabletKiosk Sahara Slate PC i400 series Tablet PCs
- TabletKiosk Sahara NetSlate a230T Tablet PC
- TabletKiosk eo a7330 Ultra-Mobile Tablet PCs
- TabletKiosk eo TufTab Rugged Ultra-Mobile Tablet PCs
- Xplore Technologies
- Viliv S5
- Viliv X70
- Acer TravelMate C100/C200/C210/C300/C310
- Asus R1F
- Asus R1E
- ASUS Eee PC T91 and the derived multi-touch T91MT (8.9″ Netbooks)
- Averatec C3500 Series
- Dialogue Flybook V5
- Dell Latitude XT/XT2
- Fujitsu LifeBook P1610, P1620, P1630 (8.9″ Ultraportable)
- Fujitsu LifeBook T4020, T4210, T4220 (12.1″ Thin and Light, Business)
- Fujitsu LifeBook T1010 (13.3″ Thin and Light, Consumer)
- Fujitsu LifeBook T2010, T2020 (12.1″ Ultraportable, Business)
- Fujitsu LifeBook T4310 (12.1″ Thin and Light, Consumer)
- Fujitsu LifeBook T4410 (12.1″ Thin and Light, Business)
- Fujitsu LifeBook T5010 (13.3″ Thin and Light, Business)
- Fujitsu LifeBook T900 (13.3″ Thin and Light, Business)
- Fujitsu LifeBook U810, U820, U2010 (5.6″ Ultraportable)
- Gateway C-140X (aka S-7235/E-295C)
- Gateway C-120X (aka S-7125C/E-155C)
- HP TC4200/TC4400
- HP Compaq 2710p
- HP EliteBook 2700 series
- HP Pavilion tx1000 series
- HP Pavilion tx2000 series
- HP Pavilion tx2500 series
- HP TouchSmart tx2 series
- HP TouchSmart tm2 series
- Kohjinsha SX3 (8.9″ Netbook)
- Lenovo ThinkPad X41 Tablet
- Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet (known popularly as “X60t”)
- Lenovo ThinkPad X61 Tablet (12.1″ MultiView/MultiTouch XGA (1024×768) TFT)
- Lenovo ThinkPad X200 Tablet (12.1″ WXGA (1280 x 800)) Released September 2008
- Lenovo ThinkPad X201 Tablet (12.1″ WXGA (1280 x 800)) Released 2010
- LG XNote C1
- LG XNote P100(C1 Upgrade Model)
- LG LT-20-47CE
- Motiontek 180 switch
- MDG Flip Touchscreen Netbook (8.9″ Tablet Netbook)MDG Flip
- Panasonic Toughbook 19
- Toshiba Portégé 3500/3505
- Toshiba Portégé M200
- Toshiba Portégé M400/405/700/750
- Toshiba Portégé R400/405
- Toshiba Satellite R10/R15/R20/R25
- Toshiba Tecra M4/M7
- Viliv S7
- Viliv S10
- To compare various Tablet PCs, visit the Tablet PC comparison page.
- Compaq TC1000
- HP Compaq TC1100
- Lenovo IdeaPad U1 (coming Summer 2010)
- Tatung Tangy
- Compaq Concerto
- Comfort On-Screen Keyboard – advanced on-screen keyboard for Tablet PC
- Microsoft Windows Journal
- Microsoft Office OneNote
- Einstein Technologies Tablet Enhancements for Outlook
- FutureWave Smartsketch drawing program published by FutureWave Software
- GO Corporation
- Agilix GoBinder
- Mobilis – Protectis Range
- InkSeine: Prototype Tablet GUI/Interface – Microsoft Research
- IHMC CmapTools – a free concept mapping application
- Xournal – a linux notetaking application
- OnSite Companion Construction Software for Tablet PC
- MusicPad Pro: MusicReader – Electronic Music Stand – sheet music display on Tablet PC
- Documentor: A Documentation Engine for Health Care Professionals
- StarDraw Contol – Room automation / Home cinema control system
Screen size trends
Many Tablet PC makers have standardized on a 12″ widescreen format, with a resolution of 1280×800 pixels. The Fujitsu T5010 has a larger 13.3″ display, but still runs at the 1280×800 pixel resolution. The Acer TravelMate C300 has a 14.1″ screen at 1024×768.
The 12″ form factor is optimal for the power, size and weight considerations required for portability. Although there is some demand for larger Tablet PC screen sizes from consumers, larger screens add significant weight and bulk to Tablet PCs. They also require more power, therefore larger, heavier batteries or shorter battery life.
The Tablet PC and the associated special operating software is an example of Pen computing technology, and thus the development of tablet-based PCs has deep historical roots.
The depth of these roots can be quite surprising to people who are only familiar with current commercial products. For example, the first patent for an electronic tablet used for handwriting was granted in 1888. The first patent for a system that recognized handwritten characters by analyzing the handwriting motion was granted in 1915. The first publicly-demonstrated system using a tablet and handwriting text recognition instead of a keyboard for working with a modern digital computer dates to 1956.
In addition to many academic and research systems, there were several companies with commercial products in the 1980s: Pencept, Communications Intelligence Corporation, and Linus were among the best known of a crowded field. Later, GO Corp. brought out the PenPoint OS operating system for a tablet PC product: one of the patents from GO corporation was the subject of recent infringement lawsuit concerning the Tablet PC operating system.
The following timeline list gives some of the highlights of this history:
- Before 1950
- 1888: U.S. Patent granted to Elisha Gray on electrical stylus device for capturing handwriting.
- 1915: U.S. Patent on handwriting recognition user interface with a stylus.
- 1942: U.S. Patent on touchscreen for handwriting input.
- 1945: Vannevar Bush proposes the Memex, a data archiving device including handwriting input, in an essay As We May Think.
- Tom Dimond demonstrates the Styalator electronic tablet with pen for computer input and software for recognition of handwritten text in real-time.
- Early 1960s
- RAND Tablet invented. The RAND Tablet is better known than the Styalator, but was invented later.
- Late 1960s
- Alan Kay of Xerox PARC proposed a notebook computer, optionally using pen input, called the Dynabook: however the device is never constructed or implemented with pen input.
- In the science fiction television series Star Trek, crew members carry large, wedge-shaped electronic clipboards, operated through the use of a stylus.
- Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick imagines a flatscreen tablet device wirelessly playing a streaming video broadcast in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- Pencept of Waltham, Massachusetts markets a general-purpose computer terminal using a tablet and handwriting recognition instead of a keyboard and mouse.
- Cadre System markets the Inforite point-of-sale terminal using handwriting recognition and a small electronic tablet and pen.
- Pencept and CIC both offer PC computers for the consumer market using a tablet and handwriting recognition instead of a keyboard and mouse. Operating system is MS-DOS.
- The first commercially available tablet-type portable computer was the GRiDPad from GRiD Systems, released in September. Its operating system was based on MS-DOS.
- Wang Laboratories introduces Freestyle. Freestyle was an application that would do a screen capture from an MS-DOS application, and let the user add voice and handwriting annotations. It was a sophisticated predecessor to later note-taking applications for systems like the Tablet PC. The operating system was MS-DOS
- In partnership with Fujitsu, the Poqet Computer Corporation announced the arrival of the Poqet PC.
- The Momenta Pentop was released.
- GO Corporation announced a dedicated operating system, called PenPoint OS, featuring control of the operating system desktop via handwritten gesture shapes.
- NCR released model 3125 pen computer running MS-DOS, Penpoint OS or Pen Windows.
- The Apple Newton entered development; although it ultimately became a PDA, its original concept (which called for a larger screen and greater sketching capabilities) resembled the hardware of a Tablet PC.
- GO Corporation shipped the PenPoint OS for general availability and IBM announced IBM 2125 pen computer (the first IBM model named “ThinkPad”) in April.
- Microsoft releases Windows for Pen Computing as a response to the PenPoint OS by GO Corporation.
- Fujitsu releases the Poqet PC the first pen tablet to use an integrated wireless LAN
- Apple Computer announces the Newton PDA, also known as the Apple MessagePad, which includes handwriting recognition with a stylus.
- The IBM releases the ThinkPad, IBM’s first commercialized portable tablet computer product available to the consumer market, as the IBM ThinkPad 750P and 360P
- AT&T introduced the EO Personal Communicator combining PenPoint with wireless communications.
- The “QBE” pen computer created by Aqcess Technologies wins Comdex Best of Show.
- PaceBlade develops the first device that meets the Microsoft’s Tablet PC standard and received the “Best Hardware” award at VAR Vision 2000
- The “QBE Vivo” pen computer created by Aqcess Technologies ties for Comdex Best of Show.
- Bill Gates of Microsoft demonstrates the first public prototype of a Tablet PC (defined by Microsoft as a pen-enabled computer conforming to hardware specifications devised by Microsoft and running a licensed copy of the “Windows XP Tablet PC Edition” operating system) at Comdex.
- PaceBlade receives the “Innovation des Jahres 2002/2003” award for the PaceBook Tablet PC from PC Professionell Magazine at the Cebit
- Fingerworks develops the touch technology and touch gestures later used in the Apple iPhone.
- Samsung introduces the Samsung Q1 UMPC.
- Windows Vista released for general availability. Vista included the functionality of the special Tablet PC edition of Windows XP.
- On Disney Channel Original Movie, Read It and Weep, Jamie uses a Tablet PC for her journal.
- Axiotron introduces Modbook, the first (and only) tablet computer based on Mac hardware and Mac OS X at Macworld
- In April 2008, as part of a larger federal court case, the gesture features of the Windows/Tablet PC operating system and hardware were found to infringe on a patent by GO Corp. concerning user interfaces for pen computer operating systems.[ Microsoft’s acquisition of the technology is the subject of a separate lawsuit.
- HP releases the second Multi-Touch capable tablet: the HP TouchSmart tx2 series.
- Asus announces a tablet netbook, the EEE PC T91 and T91MT, the latter which features a multi-touch screen.
- Always Innovating announced a new tablet netbook with an ARM CPU.
- Motion Computing launched the J3400.
- MobileDemand launches the xTablet T7000 Rugged Tablet PC which runs a full Windows OS and features include a integrated numeric keypad, bar code scanner, credit card reader, etc.
- Apple unveils the iPad, running Apple iOS.
- Samsung unveils the Galaxy Tab, running Google Android.
- Neofonie releases the WeTab, a MeeGo-based slate tablet PC, featuring an 11.6 inch multi-touch screen at 1366×768 pixels resolution.