After several years of “novelty item” status, tablet PCs are finding their market, fueled by the launch of Microsoft’s latest, more user-friendly Tablet PC operating system, improved voice recognition technology, and a broader range of devices among which to choose. Unlike the increasingly cutthroat PC market, tablet PCs are able to command premium pricing—ranging from about $1,000 to $2,300—and are now sold by a number of major PC makers, including Hewlett-Packard, Acer, Toshiba, NEC, Fujitsu and Gateway. “We’re in the very early stages of what effectively is nascent demand in the tablet market,” says IDC analyst Alan Promisel. “Looking forward, I think the demand potential for tablets is pretty high.” Adding to the buzz is the proliferation of Wi-Fi hotspots within corporations, on university campuses and in cafes such as Starbucks—perfect for tablet PC computing. And while the demand for tablet PCs among students and consumers is expected to expand, the real push will come from corporate clients such as doctors’ offices and real estate operations, says Promisel: “The technology is there, but the main stumbling block is the lack of applications.” However, the new Windows XP system for tablet PCs should change all that, says Promisel. “It really does add a whole new layer. It allows you to take digital notes and hand-write e-mails.” IDC predicts worldwide sales of 500,000 tablet PCs this year—about 1% of the total portable PC market. 28 Sep 2003