Microsoft's history with the Tablet PC (redux)

Microsoft Slate PC demonstration is just one in long line of tablet device tries

Industry interest in a potential iPad competitor from Microsoft didn't stop the company from scrapping development and production of its prototype project Courier. And reports say HP plans to kill its project with Microsoft to develop a tablet form factor running Windows 7, dubbed Slate. Gadget gurus celebrated Courier's potential in videos as Microsoft declined to speak specifics, but executives indicated in corporate blogs that the company might be moving in another direction.

In January we took a look at Microsoft's history with the tablet: the ups and downs, the wins and losses – and those products that didn't make it out of development into customer hands. Here we have updated our look at the evolution of Microsoft's Tablet offerings.

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The first prototype

The first prototype

In 2000, Microsoft showed off this prototype and said the first Tablet PCs would come to market in 2002.

In 2001, Compaq had a Tablet PC prototype with a Windows OS that it showed at Comdex. Microsoft chief software architect Bill Gates said in his keynote: "The Tablet is 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."

Windows XP Tablet PC Edition

Windows XP Tablet PC Edition

In February 2003 Microsoft officially released Windows XP Tablet PC Edition , which was only available to OEMs, and manufacturers including HP, Toshiba, ViewSonic and Xplore responded with machines that featured the new OS. At the unveiling of the OS in November 2002, Bill Gates held a Tablet PC on which he had written "Tablet PC is Super Cool!" The 2005 version of the OS was released in August 2004. Mainstream support for both editions ended in April 2009. Tablet PC functionality was built into the core OS starting with Vista.

Rugged tablet

Rugged tablet

The Xplore Rugged Tablet PC was one of the machines that featured the new Windows XP Tablet PC Edition operating system.

The 2005 version of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition featured enhancements that made the stylus pen a mainstream input device, integration with Office 2003 and Office OneNote 2003, and new capabilities for developers.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer shows off the new ThinkPad X41 Tablet from Lenovo at Microsoft's TechEd Conference in 2005. The machine featured Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005.

Evolution of the machine

In 2006, Fujitsu announced the ultra-light 12.1-inch screen LifeBook T4215 tablet PC with Windows.

Ballmer\'s revelation at CES 2010

Slate scrapped?

CEO Steve Ballmer announced at CES 2010 in January that Microsoft would work with HP to create the Slate tablet PC running Windows 7, but reports surfaced in late April 2010 that HP was underwhelmed with Windows 7 as a tablet operating system and planned to terminate its tablet project.


Courier killed

Microsoft officials confirmed that their work on the Courier Tablet PC would go no further. While excitement grew over the dual-screen device, the company indicated its initial work on Courier has come to an end.

"It's in Microsoft's DNA to continually develop and incubate new technologies to foster productivity and creativity," said Frank Shaw, corporate vice president of communications at Microsoft, in a statement . "The 'Courier' project is an example of this type of effort and its technologies will be evaluated for use in future Microsoft offerings."

The future

In late 2008, Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer, began showing off the next step in the future of the Tablet PC. This video shows how the device may evolve.

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.