Microsoft gave users a glimpse at what it believes will be the next major advance in portable computing at its Professional Developers Conference last week.
Microsoft showed off its Tablet PC running a customised version of Windows XP and introduced its Tablet PC Platform SDK (software development kit).
"This should be viewed as the next evolution of laptop systems that can be used for anything and everything a laptop system can be used for today," said Andrew Dixon, Microsoft's product marketing manager for Tablet PC, in typical mealy mouthed marketing speak.
The new SDK contains detailed design guidelines for user interface, user experience and hardware design. For example, the content includes formulas for calculating optimal dimensional measurements of controls based on display resolution, Microsoft officials said.
The SDK includes a full set of API references for C++ and C# developers. Developers can work in either Visual Studio 6.0 or Visual Studio.NET.
A hardware prototype complete with a Transmeta chip, a 6GB hard drive, a six-hour battery and wireless LAN support was also on display at the conference.
Priced at around £1,400 (converted) and available during the latter half of next year, the system will run a superset of the newly unveiled Windows XP operating system.
Officials also said that users should expect versions based on Intel CPUs (central processing units) and with hard drive capacities greater than 60MB.
Developers and users interested in more information about the SDK and the Tablet PC can go to www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/tabletpc.