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Tablet PCs go niche in 2003 – Gartner

Small market share

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Tomorrow, November 7, is as you all know Tablet PC Launch Day. We can expect a raft of form factors and price points from the serried ranks of notebook makers and rebadgers.

But it's going to be a while, at least a year, probably a wee while longer, before the Microsoft-inspired devices hit the mass market. According to those number-crunchers at Gartner Dataquest, Tablet PCs will account for just 1.2 per cent of all worldwide notebook shipments in 2003 - equivalent to 423,000 units.

"Initial interest could cause an early spike in purchasing that will eventually level out," says Leslie Fiering, vice president for Gartner Dataquest. "Outside of the vertical industries, only the bravest will implement Tablet PCs widely toward the end of 2003."

In other words, Tablet PCs will first of all mop up in industries which already use pen-based tablet-style PCs. This is possibly the first time in history - and almost certainly the last - that traffic wardens are volunteered for a brigade of technology early adopters.

But why will initial take-up (beyond the verticals) be so sluggish? Spreading the quotes around, Gartner has the answer, citing "a lack of application support, clumsy hardware designs and a price premium will be barriers for most users," through the mouth of Ken Dulaney, Gartner veep.

Also Gartner anticipates a six-nine month evaluation period for Tablet PCs, even with companies already using pen-based computing devices.

And then what? The future for Tablet PCs is rosy, according to Gartner, which forecasts a sales ramp all the way to 2007, when "at least 35 percent of all notebooks sold will have screen digitizers with a convertible or separable keyboard design". ®

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