What do you get when you take the lap out of the laptop and the book out of the notebook? Tablet PCs. Bill Gates predicts that in the next five years, these PDA lookalikes "will be the most popular form of PC sold in America." Microsoft introduced prototype machines from Acer, Compaq, Fujitsu and Toshiba at Fall COMDEX 2001. With that kind of backing, you can expect to hear them knocking on your office door before year-end.
This new computer crop will run Windows XP Tablet PC Edition with "ink" software, which lets you use it as a notepad with a stylus. Handwritten notes can also be converted to text with a handwriting-recognition program, appealing to those who haven't given up paper pads just yet.
Microsoft and its partner hardware manufacturers are targeting the first crop of Tablet PCs at the business market. A revamped version of Office XP will integrate with the ink software. For those seeking a desktop replacement, some Tablet PCs will feature thin keyboard laptops with swivel screens that convert to a slate form. As with any new technology, you might want to wait and see how well Tablet PCs are received before buying.
The Net Generation
If you want a glimpse of the future of technology that doesn't involve personal jet packs and robot maids, try Internet2. The Internet2 Consortium is a tossed salad of public companies, government entities, academic organizations and nonprofits working to develop cutting-edge technologies for the Internet. It's a testing ground for advanced applications ranging from videoconferencing to virtual labs. Consortium's goal is "to accelerate the diffusion of advanced Internet technology, in particular into the commercial sector."
Public and private collaborations have brought us some of today's most ubiquitous technologies, like e-mail and the Web. With corporate membership starting at $10,000, joining is out of reach for most growing businesses. Still, for tech entrepreneurs, it's worth keeping track of Consortium's nonprofit activities by visiting their Web site (www.internet2.edu). Internet2's projects today could be the seeds of business opportunities tomorrow.