Tablet PCs: Microsoft's golden oldie

Microsoft is still tooting the horn of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, but some IT administrators say the horn sound is a "golden oldie" that's getting another spin on the Redmond turntable.

NEW YORK -- Certainly when it comes to pen and tablet computing, everything old is new again, and again, and again.

Some world-weary IT administrators walking the ever-shrinking floor at TechXNY were unsure what to make of the demonstration of the tablet PC by Jeff Raikes, Microsoft's group vice president of productivity and business services, who had just delivered the keynote speech.

Microsoft is hoping its Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, which ships in early November, will computerize some functions that are conducted on pen and paper today. The tablet PC is a pen-and-touch screen device that lets users write on the screen and download to an application like a word processor or e-mail.

Raikes explained to his audience how the tablet can get more out of a worker's time and intellect. It's unclear how many folks he convinced. Two network execs who left conference sessions early to hear Raikes were nonplused by the software vendor's foray into tablet PC computing. Comments were, "It looks cool, but haven't we seen this before, like, four times?" and "They'll keep it up until they get it right."

Jeff Hirtzel, a network administrator at Alza Corp., a drug maker, declared the form factor "better for a manufacturing operation."

IT administrators insist that tablet PCs work best in enterprises where wireless LANs are popular, like hospitals, for inventory applications or on factory floors. They are not a replacement for functions that are not yet computerized, they said.

Raikes also said Office 11 would be available in mid-2003. He showed off a few changes to Outlook, which included an improved reading area and better search features across folders.

Attendees of Howard Marks' Boot Camp presentation on Active Directory said Marks' designation of three new layers that sit above of the famed 7-layer OSI model were right on the money. Marks designates a layer 8 just for company politics, a layer 9 for geophysics (which refers to implications caused by the WAN), and layer 10 is for geopolitics.

Mobile computing was once again a theme of the expo. Even in Microsoft's partner pavilion, companies such as Synchrologic were featuring applications for connecting mobile devices used by field forces with enterprise applications, like CRM.

Citrix Systems was showing off a wizard-driven access portal, NFuse Elite, which runs on Windows 2000 and also includes some content management features that are similar to Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration software. Launched on June 3, the Citrix product uses technology developed by Sequoia Software Corp., a company Citrix snatched up in May 2001. The portal server is based on an XML messaging architecture. Citrix has created a redesigned product that adds the wizard.

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