Three DACS members traveled down to Broadway to see Bill Gates introduce the new Tablet PC. Bruce Preston, Mike Kaltschnee and I attended the launch event as user group representatives. Since this was my first "launch event" I can't compare it to other events. In terms of scale, it was certainly not like the super big event that launched Windows 95 but I thought it was fun and informative with the emphasis on fun.
The day started with the 5:30am train from Danbury. Yes, this was a very early start. Bruce joined me when the train stopped in South Norwalk. Once in New York, we made our way to the Westin Hotel for a breakfast hosted by Microsoft for the user group representatives. We met several people who had won Acer Tablet PCs plus free trips to the launch event in two contests run by Microsoft Mindshare. In all I think seven or eight people won free Acer Tablet PCs in these contests or raffles held that day. Unfortunately none us were among the winners.
Following the breakfast we walked to another hotel where all of the Tablet PC manufacturers and several software companies had demonstration booths. We could poke, prod, and best of all write on Tablet PCs from Fujitsu, HP/Compaq, Acer, ViewSonic, Toshiba and a couple of the Asian manufacturers that make many brands of notebooks. This was interesting as many of the manufacturer representatives were quite knowledgeable about the products and why things are the way they are. For instance, everyone but HP/Compaq uses the same digitizer in the screen for pen input, so the stylus pens are interchangeable between all Tablet PCs except HP/Compaq. If you by an HP machine, don't lose the stylus! The HP is a "pure tablet" with an attachable keyboard which then makes the machine into a convertible tablet like the Acer. The convertible format has an attached keyboard that swivels so the machine can close like a conventional notebook or can fold with the screen exposed for pen input. The Fujitsu, Toshiba and ViewSonic machines are strictly tablets with no clip-on keyboard, however all offer innovative docking stations.
Naturally the operating system for all of the machines is Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. The OS gives these machines many features beyond just writing on the screen. All of the machines can switch the screen orientation from landscape, like a normal monitor to portrait mode which makes it more like writing on a paper tablet. Several machines do this switch automatically when you simply rotate the tablet in your hand. The docking function goes a couple of steps beyond what we have seen in current notebooks in that these machines are better able to remember and adjust their configuration. For instance, when docked they can automatically set the tablet screen to be a second monitor. This is a pretty neat idea. Since the screen will be visible anyway, you might as well use it. The suggested application is to keep your calendar open on the tablet screen while your work using the larger monitor screen. Naturally they always assume an unlimited budget!
After playing with the machines and drinking more coffee to shake off the effects getting up at 4:30 to catch the train, we walked across the street to the theater for the actual launch event. Seating for the user group representatives was on the main floorthe best seats in the house! Bruce, Mike and I sat in the center of the fifth row. Eventually Bill Gates came out to tell us why the Tablet PC is the "next big thing." The presentation started with a history lesson on past failures. At one point, Bill Gates held a Radio Shack Model 100 and said that it was the last project at Microsoft where he wrote the majority of the code. The celebrity of the event was Rob Lowe of "The West Wing" on NBC. There is also a woman writer I had never heard of who said that she liked to read electronic books in bed on her Tablet PC because the screen is illuminated and "it doesn't disturb her husband."
I'm working on a means to make these opportunities more available to the DACS membership. There was very little lead time from the time we first got word of the event to when registration was closed so there was no way to open this up to more people. I'm hoping we can find a way to both communicate and coordinate these opportunities in the future so more people can attend.