Mobile commerce can expect a boost from the tablet PC, launched by Microsoft and hardware partners this month.
According to Microsoft New Zealand head Ross Peat the device is “galvanising” the industry. Aside from the half-dozen hardware makers that have already released tablets, Microsoft is claiming strong software vendor support.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates is expecting tablets to dominate PC sales in five years. But market researcher IDC is a little less bullish. Auckland analyst Darian Bird says it’s unclear whether Gates was talking in value or volume terms, but IDC expects desktops to continue to be the most common PC platform five years from now.
Bird says it’s also unclear how quickly developers will begin writing for the tablet PC.
“It could almost be a chicken and egg situation. Developers aren’t going to want to create applications until there are customers, and customers may not want to buy tablets until there is good application support.”
But he says the platform does have the advantage of being able to run Microsoft’s Office suite and other built-in applications.
Microsoft’s tablet runs Windows XP Tablet PC edition, but isn’t the only act in town in that form factor.
Auckland developer Peter Harrison is writing applications for the Aqua Pad, a Linux-based equivalent, although he’s not capitalising on its handwriting recognition capability, a heavily touted feature of the Microsoft tablet.
Harrison is working on forms transfer software over the GPRS and CDMA cellular networks, using XML.
“These devices are popular with people on the move — couriers, for example — and business people wanting access to office systems while mobile.”