In the March 27 Mobile & Wireless News & Views (http://www.winnetmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=38462), I reported IDC's finding that total shipments of Tablet PCs have exceeded 72,000 and that vertical-market sales mainly drove these shipments. By the standards of conventional notebook PCs, 72,000 is a tiny number. According to Silicon Strategies Marketing, more than 6.9 million notebook PCs were shipped worldwide in second quarter 2002 alone. However, keep in mind that Tablet PCs were introduced less than 6 months ago. If you assume that most of the devices shipped so far have been evaluation units, these shipments might be the first wave of a respectable market segment.
Last fall, Gartner Dataquest predicted that Tablet PC shipments would account for 1 percent of notebook PC shipments in 2003 (http://www4.gartner.com/5_about/press_releases/2002_11/ pr20021106b.jsp). Gartner's prediction is pretty much in line with IDC's numbers. Gartner also predicted that the devices would first appear in vertical markets and in small-volume batches (1 to 10 units) for evaluation purposes. Gartner went on to predict that Tablet PCs would account for more than one-third of total notebook PC purchases by 2007.
One major vertical market for the Tablet PC is health care, an area that Microsoft has been emphasizing in news releases. Medical and pharmaceutical users include Abington Memorial Hospital, Aventis Pharmaceuticals, and Merck. Vendors such as Eclipsys Technologies, Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, Stentor, Greenway Medical Technologies, and Amicore are developing medical software for Tablet PCs.
Having Tablet PCs take off in the medical market isn't a great surprise. Healthcare providers are among the most mobile of information workers. With Tablet PCs, the healthcare providers have full PC functionality yet can move seamlessly from office to exam room. In addition, healthcare providers can, quite frankly, afford the relatively high cost of today's Tablet PCs.
Still, at a Tablet PC reviewer workshop last year, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said, "Tablet PCs are intended for knowledge workers--not the people on the factory floor." He clearly expected Tablet PCs to be more widely used.
Is your company evaluating Tablet PCs? If so, I'd like to know about it. Send me an email message at [email protected]