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Mobius 2002

Last Updated Tue Oct 15, 2002 - 12:23 AM EDT - By James Hromadka

Smart Displays & Tablet PCs

If there was one product that I was dissapointed with, it was the Smart Display, which is essentially an LC monitor that creates an RDP connection to a Windows XP Pro computer over 802.11. Say you have a computer upstairs but want to do something on it while downstairs. Take the Smart Display with you and remotely log onto your machine upstairs. Currently, you cannot use the upstairs computer while using the Smart Display, so it is worthless for those wanting a second computer.

Smart Displays are for people wanting to extend the reach of their computer, but with a 15" Smart Display costing several hundred more than a 15" monitor, I don't see people replacing CRTs with these things anytime soon, not to mention the wireless network and Windows XP Pro requirements.

What would make a really "smart" display would be one that was platform agnostic. Put VNCClient on a chip on the device and it will be able to connect to any device, be it Windows XP Pro, Mac, Unix, etc. That would be much more valuable. Right now the Smart Display is too limiting.

The Tablet PC, on the other hand, is a very interesting product. This is a full-blown PC, with an extended version of Windows XP Pro running on it. There are two types of Tablet PCs: a convertible whose screen rotates between tablet and traditional laptop modes, and a slate version that is a tablet only. What I found surprising about the Tablet PC is that its handwriting recognition system is non-learning; Microsoft has instead gathered hundreds of thousands of writing samples to use to guess what you are typing. The Tablet PC was generally close, but I did have to correct a few words here and there.

One unique feature of the Tablet PC is that it can keep data in ink format but still let the data be sorted alphabetically and be searched. I think the Tablet PC will do well in vertical markets that require handwriting data collection, but anyone that has taken a typing course will find handwriting too slow for normal input when on the go and will prefer a laptop. Still, it is an interesting device, and I give it a much better chance of succeeding than Smart Display.

Being who I am, I also asked about official Mac support. Right now Microsoft is happy to let third party developers bring the Pocket PC to the Mac, and it looks like it will be that way for a very long time.

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