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Microsoft's Tablet Habit

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) may be once again gearing up to try to popularize the tablet PC concept, but enterprise users are more reluctant than ever to bite.

The boys and girls in Redmond are rumored to be working on a new Tablet PC project codenamed "Origami." You can see video that purports to be advertising for the new device here. [Ed note: Viral marketing? We've heard of it.] The basic concept of a Tablet PC is that it's a device that offers something like the computing power of a laptop but with no keyboard, instead -- using handwriting recognition software -- users write on the large flat screen that dominates the device.

The idea isn't that new, pen computing was a buzzword way back in the early nineties and Microsoft and its partners started shipping modern day tablet PCs in 2003.

Early exposure to these new computing slates, however, appears to have soured enterprise users on the devices as a whole.

"When they were first out we actually got a couple to test," says Gary Goerke, information systems manager at Farmington Hills, Mich.-based real estate investment trust firm Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust. "They weren't adopted very well into the enterprise."

"I think old habits are hard to break. People are used to typing on a keyboard."

The systems manager says he has no plans to look at new tablet PCs: "We're actually finding that we're moving away from even notebooks for our highly mobile workforce and going to smartphones, wireless-enabled PDAs, and Blackberries."

Analyst Jack Gold from J.Gold Associates says that the tablet PCs have always occupied an uneasy niche between PCs and PDAs. "I'm just not sure I really see a market for them," he tells Unstrung. "They are too expensive and the licensing model is confusing."

Gold also wonders if Origami will eventually turn out to be an official model from Microsoft or another concept piece. "Sometimes they just throw stuff out there to see what sticks," the analyst notes.

Microsoft did not return phone calls.

-- Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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