Microsoft preps Tablet PC

Just as government officials get accustomed to using their handheld devices in their day-to-day work, along comes another option — Microsoft Corp.'s Tablet PC.

Set for an official Nov. 7 release, the wireless device, formally called the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, is a marriage of the convenience associated with a personal digital assistant and the functionality of a laptop. And it's something that government workers may find enticing, Microsoft representatives said at the Innovative Government Forum this week.

Hansen Information Technologies, along with Microsoft, sponsored the Sacramento, Calif., conference (www.innovativegov.com) for state and local government officials.

The Tablet PC, Microsoft officials said, is designed to offer greater mobility and ease of use, and provide the full power of a regular PC — including a battery life of six to eight hours, although that goal has not been reached yet.

Pete Hayes, vice president of Microsoft's government division, said city building officers conducting inspections can easily record a violation on the Tablet PC, print it out and post a notice on the premises.

At a demonstration session, Ron Gode, a senior technology specialist with Microsoft, said the device would be convenient for "road warriors," the business travelers or the "corridor warriors," who jump from meeting to meeting in an office. They would also be aimed at the government, education and health sectors.

The Windows Journal utility allows Tablet PC users — using a special stylus — to write on what resembles a lined piece of paper. Users also have the ability to erase, insert, highlight text; change the font, color and size of the writing; and to search their files. Users can also send snippets of documents or even Web pages via e-mail.

Gode also demonstrated how a municipal form, such as a citation or permit, could be loaded and converted on the Tablet PC, a process that would take a few hours. Text fields can be inserted where names, addresses, dates, times and other information are needed, and a signature box can also be added. Employees simply write in the information, which can then be transferred back to the office. It maximizes the time the worker has in the field in collecting such data, he said.

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