Dataquest: Early Tablet PC sales expected to be slow

Despite Microsoft Corp.’s high hopes for its Tablet PC, set to be formally launched on Thursday, the device will not be flying off of the shelves any time soon, according to a forecast Wednesday by research company Dataquest Inc., a division of Gartner Inc.

Tablet PC shipments are projected to reach 425,000 units, representing 1.2 per cent of worldwide notebook shipments in 2003, Dataquest said in a statement promoting it research paper entitled Tablet PC Is Coming, But Slowly.

Microsoft has put considerable muscle behind the Tablet PC device and the pen-based operating system, Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, that will power the new device. Microsoft chairman, Bill Gates has predicted that the Tablet PC will account for the majority of PC sales within five years.

In terms of early adoption, the high price of devices, expected to be around US$2,000, coupled with a lack of application support and clumsy hardware designs will keep all but the most bleeding edge technology users from flocking to the Tablet PC, Dataquest said.

Though the Tablet PC will appeal to businesses in vertical industries that already use applications with pen-based tablets, even those most interested in the device will choose to evaluate one to 10 Tablet PCs for between six to nine months before deciding to make any volume purchases, Dataquest said.

Microsoft can take heart: Interest will slowly begin to turn into Tablet PC sales and by 2007, at least 35 per cent of all notebooks sold will have screen digitizers with a convertible or separable keyboard design, the research company said.