The uphill battle that tablet computing continues to face in winning favour with consumers hasn't dampened Bill Gates' enthusiasm for the technology. Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect said today that someday tablet PCs will replace textbooks for all students.
"We do see, over time, that the ink input for the tablet and speech input will become as important as the keyboard, not replacing it but equally important," Gates said at a news conference in Tokyo.
"In fact, we see a day where every student, instead of their textbooks, will simply have their tablet computer connected up to the wireless internet. And so the teacher can customise the material, they can quiz the student. That student can have that tablet with them wherever they go and it's actually lighter than the textbooks and more flexible, richer in terms of what it can offer."
Tablet computing has long been a technology in which Gates has believed.
After some early trials of the technology Microsoft gave it a major push in 2001 when at the Comdex trade show Gates launched the tablet PC platform. "It's a PC that is virtually without limits and within five years I predict it will be the most popular form of PC sold in America," he said.
The first tablet PCs came on the market in 2002. However, the original dream of Microsoft and hardware makers to push the technology into the mainstream never came true. Today, tablet PCs remain in several vertical markets but have yet to break out to the average consumer.
Now the technology is about to get another chance.
The most recent iteration of the technology is Microsoft's Origami platform, which is based around a tablet version of Windows XP. The software is used in UMPCs (Ultra Mobile PCs), a small form-factor computer platform developed by Microsoft and Intel that is intended to sit between a laptop computer and PDA.
Samsung, which will begin selling its Q1 UMPC on 1 May, expects to sell about 400,000 of the computers in its first 12 months on the market.