IBM is clearly right to be cautious about releasing a Tablet PC - the latest figures from market watcher Canalys suggests that the platform has not proved a success.
And Microsoft only has itself to blame.
According to the company's data, fewer than 92,000 Tablet PCs shipped in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) from the platform's 7 November 2002 launch to the end of September 2003.
That's fewer machines than the number of PDAs sold in Q3 by HP alone - some 179,000 units, according to recent figures from IDC. Q3 was the second successive quarter of negative sequential growth for Tablet PCs, Canalys said today, with shipments falling 20 per cent over Q2's total.
During the 11-month period since the platform's launch, Tablet PCs have managed to take less the one per cent of the notebook market.
The cause of the problem - beyond buyer apathy, of course - is Microsoft, suggest Canalys. Quite simply, it's charging too much for the operating system.
"Microsoft still isn't doing enough to help Tablet PC vendors - particularly in Europe," said Canalys director and senior analyst Chris Jones. "Rather than pricing the Tablet PC OS at a premium, adding to the vendors' costs and the end-user price, it should be doing the opposite: subsidising the vendors to help them get the market up and running."
In EMEA, the key vendors are HP, Acer, Toshiba and Fujitsu Siemens, who together account for fractionally less than 80 per cent of the Tablet PCs shipped. Missing from the list are IBM, Sony and Dell - all of whom need to back the platform if it is to be widely adopted, Canalys implies. That one per cent mobile market share won't be much help to anyone trying to persuade those three vendors to enter the market.
Ditto software developers, not only vertical but mainstream. Without the involvement of the latter, primarily by adding pen functionality to existing applications, the Tablet PC will be "perceived as serving the needs of only very specific occupational groups", said Jones. While that remains the case, the platform "will be subject to long evaluation/sales cycles and low shipment levels". ®