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Will 2011 be the year of the Windows 7 tablet PC?

For the last edition of the Windows Desktop Report for 2010, Greg Shultz did a little poking around on the Internet to see what I could learn about the new, as well as existing, Windows 7 Tablet PCs.

With the beginning of the New Year right around the corner, I am looking forward to another year of working with Windows 7. It is now running on every one of the main computers in my home. I even have it on my television after following Bill Detwiller's recent article, "Build a Living Room PC with the ZOTAC ZBOX HD-ID11."

I am also excited by the fact that because the Windows 7 operating system is one year old, the way is solidly paved for all sorts of new innovations in the coming year. The one that I am most excited about seeing is the advent of a solid, consumer-oriented tablet PC running Windows 7 that will give the Apple iPad a real run for its money.

Throughout 2010, we have heard about the possibility for great consumer-oriented Windows 7 tablet PCs. For instance, we heard a lot about the Microsoft Courier, but the company unexpectedly cancelled that project. We also heard a lot about the HP Slate until the company acquired Palm. The HP slate did reappear, but not at the level that it was originally hyped up to be.

However, it looks like tablet PCs running Windows 7 are definitely going to abound in 2011. In fact, at the Barclay's Capital Global Technology Conference, Intel announced that more that 35 tablet PCs will be based on its new Atom CPU technologies in 2011.

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As you can see from the conference slide shown in Figure A, at this time eight computer makers are slated to market new tablet PCs running Windows 7. (Keep in mind that this slide is intended to show only tablet PCs that will use the new Intel Atom CPU and that there are sure to be others out there using AMD chips or other existing Intel chips.) Rumors have it that we will see many of these new Windows 7 tablet PCs being introduced at CES 2011 in January.

Figure A

At the Barclay's Capital Global Technology Conference, Intel announced that more that 35 tablet PCs will be based on its new Atom CPU technologies in 2011.

For the last edition of the Windows Desktop Report for 2010, I did a little poking around on the Internet to see what I could learn about the new, as well as existing, Windows 7 tablet PCs.

Motion Computing

Specializing in tablet PCs for use in industries such as health care, government, and construction, Motion Computing already has a device running Windows 7. The Motion J3500, shown in Figure B, is a rugged device designed more for field professionals than for average consumers, but just taking a look at its configuration and features shows off the exciting possibilities that we could soon see in consumer-oriented tablet PCs.

Figure B

The Motion J3500 is a rugged device designed more for field professionals than for average consumers.

For example, the device is optimized to take advantage of the natural gesture navigation features built in to Windows 7 as well as standard digital pen and touch input. It is lightweight at 3.6 pounds, has great battery life, has a built-in 3MP camera, and can be connected to docking station stand and external keyboard for quick conversion to standard PC configuration.

See more images of the J3500 tablet PC in this Motion Computing Photo Gallery.

Samsung

Sites all over the net have been speculating that Samsung is planning to follow up on its successful Galaxy Tab, which runs Android, with a Windows 7 tablet PC called the Gloria, which is rumored be a 10-inch device with slide-out keyboard. Figure C shows a mock-up of the Samsung Gloria Tablet that I found on ZDNet.

Figure C

This is a mock-up of the Samsung Gloria Tablet.

Acer

Back in November 2010, Acer unveiled its plans for an as-of-yet unnamed Windows 7 tablet, as shown in Figure D. CNET attended the Acer press conference and posted pictures and a video.

Figure D

Acer hasn't named its Windows 7 tablet PC.

Lenovo

The current tablet PC offering from Lenovo is a netbook/tablet PC hybrid called the Ideapad S10-3t, which features a swiveling screen that allows it to easily convert into a 10.1-inch touch-screen tablet. This device weighs just 3 pounds and is only 1.5 inches thick, so when converted, it is a perfect-sized tablet.

CNET covered the Ideapad S10-3t in one of its First Look videos, which shows off its features. As you can see, the Ideapad S10-3t is a very neat little device, and if it is any indication of what we will see from Lenovo in the future, then we are in for some interesting tablet PC devices in 2011.

Asus

Like the Lenovo offering, the current Asus tablet PC offering is a netbook/tablet PC hybrid. The device is called the Eee PC T101MT and features a 10.1-inch touch screen display, a great touch-optimized software suite, and a battery life of up to six hours. I found a video on YouTube that does a great job of showing off the features of Eee PC T101MT.

Toshiba

Of all the tablet PC designs, the one that I like the best is the Toshiba Libretto W100, which also runs Windows 7. This one reminds me so much of the Microsoft Courier concept that I seriously wonder if Microsoft was going to OEM this device from Toshiba but gave up the idea. It doesn't matter, because the Libretto appears to be an awesome device.

Its clamshell case opens up to two 7-inch touch screens, which lends itself to all sorts of custom configurations. One screen can be configured as a virtual keyboard, both screens can be configured to work like one big screen, or each screen can be used to run different apps. The device also features an accelerometer, which will allow you to change the display from portrait to landscape by turning the unit.

The Libretto W100 was released in late summer for a limited time. Of course, it is now sold out. However, when and if the device or a revised version makes its reappearance in 2011, this Windows 7 tablet PC will definitely be on my wish list. Be sure and watch the video demonstration of the Libretto for more details.

What's your take?

Are you interested in a Windows 7 tablet PC? Have you heard of any other devices than the ones that I mentioned in this article? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

34 comments
T3CHN0M4NC3R
T3CHN0M4NC3R

It might be it might be not. M$ needs a better Shell, explorer and the manufacturers need to rethink their button designs.

robertoj
robertoj

Wellllll? I could go for the Toshiba Libretto W100 depending on the price and who the carrier is...

jim.lonero
jim.lonero

The Toshiba Libretto W100 is seriously cool. Can they make it into more of a leather binder type case with pockets so that I can more easily carry it and make it more of a portable business unit?

billfly
billfly

I have a 10" Win7 Pro tablet PC. It is a Chinese brand. It is heavy and runs hot, therefore difficult to hold. I use it for travel only. To run Win7 needs so much hardware that it is too heavy to hold. I have now bought an Android-based 7" tablet. It is much lighter and easier to hold.

eng
eng

For me 2010 is the year of the Windows 7 tablet PC. I've had an Archos 9 tablet PC since mid-October. I briefly considered an iPad but decided to stay with something familiar. Currently running Windows 7 Home Premium, it has also been used with Win7 Starter (the original OS) and Ubuntu 10.04 desktop. While not the most powerful machine, it works great as a travel computer and has decent (4+ hours) battery life. The main drawback is the single touch resistive screen. A multi-touch capacitive screen will be excellent on one of these tablets! The Archos has good 1080p video playback and the ability to run most Windows based programs is a plus. I'll bet the new crop of Win7 tablets for 2011 will be great. For me, my next tablet is going to be a 7" Android with 5 point multi-touch, but it won't replace my A9.

dinotech
dinotech

I'm curious about the Libretto; I've always liked the virtual keyboards. I prefer at least 2 to 3GB RAM (105 model has 2GB, 62GB SATA SSD as it should be an SSD. I like what I saw in the video, however, there is an issue with support according to one user on Amazon's site. I've used support only a couple of times to confirm an answer, so that isn't a selling point for me. Overall, it looks like a solid unit (4 stars on Amazon). It's all relative; some people will never use a tablet because there is no purpose. I'll continue to use my traditional laptops until the price is right for me to try a tablet. We used Gateway's tablet with Windows XP at work and it wasn't very smooth; had driver issues among other things. Look forward to the new year and see what happens to the tablet.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

It's not that I'm a fan of some other platform so much as Windows 7, despite its claim of being 'tablet ready' is anything but. Windows 7, just like its predecessors, is still a point-and-click-based OS, not a touch-based one. You also have the issue that 99%+ of all Windows applications are mouse-and-keyboard-based with almost no touch-based applications on the open market. Windows itself has effectively failed in the consumer market for more than ten years for exactly this reason. That said, I think Windows Phone 7 could solidly take up the slack being left by desktop Windows in this market.

kevankeegan
kevankeegan

MS tablets ha e been around for some time. The missing factor has been form - with a few exceptions. IPad is the catalyst to remedy this. It stimulated the general public to take a good look at the tablet idea in general. I think you'll see a huge increase - accross the whole Apple/MS/Android spectrum - in tablet interest and use.

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

I have been waiting for a good mobile device, well, forever. I have never purchased a laptop or a smart phone. Call me old fashioned but I like the desktop platform. A nice multi-touch Win7 tablet could win me over... But it would have to have magical powers and shoot lasers.

mkottman
mkottman

None of these appear to be ready to give the iPad a "real run for its money". They may be fine machines in their own way, but if you like the iPad then I don't see anything here that you would seriously consider. Of course if you don't like the iPad to begin with, then just about anything else might be your cup of tea.

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

I really like the table concept, and have on/off used an older HP tc4200 running Windows 7 and really like the tablet functionality. My major issue with it is speed, which gives me concern with the Atom based offerings. I know the Atom chip has been making great strides in usability, in fact I just purchased a Zotac mini box for my home MCE system, but for my daily needs (development) the Atom is just too slow. Motion Computing has the right idea for me, a full PC when docked, just pick up your screen when you want to go. They even have a nifty looking portable keyboard (although I not sure I fully understand how it works). But they are sooo expensive - entry level 12.1? screen with i5 processor and 2Gb of RAM is $1,999, Then you have to buy the docking station ($299). You can step up to an i7 for $2,613. At that price range I can get a monster desktop system and a tablet, or at half that I can get an i7 6Gb laptop. I guess I?ll just have to wait for the perfect system a little longer?.

jswhigham
jswhigham

Is there a reason the Dell Inspiron Duo was not mentioned?

jvandemerwe
jvandemerwe

What I do know for sure is that 2010 was definetely the year of the Apple IPAD. We are now heading for 2011 and I don't care about what could be's in 2011, as long as 2010 showed that all of the "others" were too late. So assuming that a non existing product could be the hit for 2011. I think there is room in 2011 for a better product, but I think that Windows 7 was not made for mobile initially, otherwise Microsoft would also have thought about the hardware, which they didn't.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Are you interested in one of the Windows 7-based Tablet PCs?

dinotech
dinotech

into better categories other than Starter Home, Home Premium. Starter might seem a good fit for tablets and netbooks, but I would like to see them create an OS specifically just for netbooks and tablets (note Win7 might have a tablet edition but it's still win 7. I'm saying don't make an edition; make the whole OS work only on a tablet (cg Android) ) Yes? No?

dinotech
dinotech

...however the only available unit is being sold for a whopping $2500! The word is that they will be sold out for a while. Hopefully, the next generation will be available.

dinotech
dinotech

I've read Win7 could work on computers 6 years old! I haven't seen it yet, but I'm not sold that Win7 needs all the hardware to work. If you want to run the Aero-based UI elements, sure you need a graphics accelerator. Otherwise, you could use Win7 in Basic mode. I've used Acer's Aspire 6930 with Intel GMA 4500HD and it work's just fine. The GMA series of accelerator's are not bad for your common 2D and some 3D applications. It's all based on what you want to accomplish. The Android OS is very functional for tablets. I have a Pandigital Novel with the Android and it works just fine. The Novel is about the size of a netbook, so I'm dealing with the issue of keeping it or taking it back to save for a netbook with free e-reader software (Nook, Adobe Digital Editions, etc). However, the idea that Win7 needs extra hardware is not true. I've seen it work on a 1GB Acer One without any issues.

jdb
jdb

Although I did get an iPad, I would love a Windows 7 touchpad device. And, my wife has been drooling over the iPad so I know where it is going. It needs to be under $1000 (under $700 would be better) and able to run all office applications. Battery life does not need to be as good as the iPad, but it has to work for 6 hours of continious use. I have a good deal of media (music, books and podcasts) in iTunes and Windows 7 solves that.

johnmckay
johnmckay

The ipad is a great viewer but limited in creation. You're not seriously telling me that the Win 7 Tablets (Proper tablets; like they existed before the iPad stole the banner)have no benefit over an ipad. That's a very blinkered approach if you dont mind me saying. Something that runs Photoshop, Fireworks, Video editing software, Multimedia apps and has a decent mechanism for getting the data in and out easily and quickly. If you can do all you want with an ipad then get one. For others that need more then surely these are a great temptation. A laptop with touchscreen input basically. Me... One might just replace my HP4200 proper tablet.

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

Agreed. I feel like the iPad is not really a computer at all. So it doesn't seem fair to compare it to systems that have full capabilities. The iPad appeals to people who wouldn't use the full functionality of a computer anyway. It would be better to compare the new Chrome OS systems to the iPad because most Mac users don't do much outside of a browser window anyway.

artlife
artlife

Products covered were those featuring Intel's Atom chip. So this is a very incomplete- or rather- mistitled article.

steve6375
steve6375

The current Win 7 does not work well with fingers. The interface has been designed for a mouse. To fix this some manufacturers have used a finger friendly shell (blue-dolphin, etc.) but this just gets in the way and also eats up valuable CPU cycles which you cannot afford to do on Atom based tablets. The second area is Apps. Wintel need to get a decent app centre targetted as Win 7 Tablets (not Intel App Up which is too clunky and bloated) and a free development IDE which is easy to use and slick. They also need to make it easier to publish apps and get revenue from it. This is an area where Google/Chromium could overtake everyone if they got it right! Lastly, the form factor is just not right. You cannot use a 10" tablet on your lap or at the desk - it is just not ergonomic (unlike a netbook). So I think the future is in a tablet + flip-over keyboard which can sit on your lap/desk or convert to a hand-held tablet without needing to carry around any extra accessories. The screen has multi-touch and is finger friendly, it is light lasts all day on batteries. It has 1000's of apps (a lot free) which are as good as Apple's apps and can integrate with other Windows PCs and appliances. MS need to encourage the market with a low cost Win 7 OS (Starter) with the opportunity to upgrade to a more functional SKU of OS but NOT place a limitation on the screen size or CPU power - just limit the Starter OS and keep the price down. This will encourage people to buy more Windows based appliances so they will gain in the end. If Wintel get this wrong or don't react fast enough, others will quickly fill the gap. What do you think?

mpayton
mpayton

There already is a Windows 7 Tablet PC in my life and definitely more in the future. Tablets without pen input are just e-readers and not worth the money.

Off the threadmill
Off the threadmill

I am using the Dell Lattitude XT2 running Windows 7. I have a few problems with N-Trig everytime the OS is updated but runs well otherwise

phil
phil

Nothing against Windows 7 but it does seem to place too high a load on underpowered hardware and adds considerably to costs. I would like to see what the future brings for Meego: its unlikely to break into full consumer popularity: which is another thing which makes me like it.

michael
michael

While the iPad is a significant device, it does not solve everyone's problems. I am currently waiting for the delivery of my HP Slate 500 because it best fits the media consumption I will need to complete as I finish my dissertation. Just as Windows Phone 7 does not try an enter the shark filled "red" ocean where the iPhone swims, Windows 7 tablets should find the blue waters away from the iPad. There is plenty of opportunity.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

For the same reason there isn't an iPad in my past: no perceived use for one, either professionally or personally.

dinotech
dinotech

VT technology. That's got my attention since I like to use virtualization. My M1530 is hosting Win2k8 with Hyper-V right now. I guess I'll have to review a few tablet! I still like the Toshiba Libretto concept.

jerry
jerry

I almost bought the Asus Eee after borrowing my daughter's Dell Mini before the holidays. I thought, WoW!, this would be great if had a touch screen when on the road or just a quick email check (if it had 3G). The present "pads" don't impress me because I need more than what they offer. I just am tired of carrying around a notebook with all the extra stuff which makes the case fell like 50 lbs. after a while. I decided to wait for the "new" ones to see what's out there.