TECH NOUS Overheated Reflections

My first trial of Toshiba’s new Tablet PC got off to shaky start. After few minutes of sampling its innovative features whilst seated at the dining table, I was suddenly served up screen message warning that the notebook was running hot and would I mind shutting down immediately to avoid any damage – or words to that effect.

Unbelievable, I thought – this can’t be happening.

After re-booting the PC, I was soon faced with the same message. This is crazy, I thought. Toshiba’s state-of-the-art technology doesn’t behave this way. Why is this machine overheating?

I could understand that with all its processing power (1.33GHz Pentium III), some very sophisticated cooling technology was required, but I’m sure the technicians and designers had sorted that out long ago.

Then, when I sat down to dinner later that night, the answer to the problem revealed itself.

As I watched hot serving dishes being placed on our heat-resistant dining table cover, I realised why the Tablet PC kept going into pre-meltdown mode. The heat from the PC was being reflected straight back from the table cover! Placed on normal desktop surface, the Tablet performed as expected – which was, of course, as cool as cucumber.

Now, with the drama over, I re-introduced myself properly to Toshiba’s Tablet PC.

It didn’t take long to realise that the Tablet PC is very flexible device, designed for mobile workers who’ve been juggling with separate notebook PCs, planners, and handheld computers. It essentially combines all these functions.

The Tablet is Toshiba Portege laptop PC running Microsoft’s Windows XP Tablet PC Edition operating system, which enables Windows-based applications to take advantage of various input modes, including keyboard, mouse, pen and voice. Open up the screen, swivel it around and then lie it down on top of the keyboard, and you have an extremely thin and lightweight Tablet style PC designed for touch-screen pen input. The screen automatically converts from landscape to portrait mode.

The Tablet edition of Windows XP offers few extra enhancements over the standard program – one of these is Microsoft Journal, which allows you to write in your own handwriting and offers variety of tools including highlighters and erasers.

The handwriting option makes personalised emails easy. Simply write your message in longhand using Journal, then copy and paste it into the email program and send. It arrives exactly the way you wrote it.

In Word there is also the ability to convert handwriting to text – although it took me while to learn to write neatly with the pen. It simply couldn’t convert my normal scribble.

Toshiba calls its wireless capable Tablet PC “the single most powerful tool for productivity”. After week’s trial I can see how it could significantly boost mobile executives’ output, once they get used to the idea of treating the computer screen like notepad.

Reluctantly, I packed up the Tablet PC to send back to Toshiba, wondering if notebook like this is the way to go, given the current electricity shortages. As I write this column there is talk of looming random power outages to consumers. Not good if you earn living working from home.

A notebook that can provide two or three hours of battery-powered backup time is undoubtedly far better proposition than desktop PC that provides none.

Glenn Baker is regular contributor to Management. Email: [email protected]

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