If 2009 was the year of the netbook, the tablet PC should rise in 2010. Where netbooks offered super-portable, affordable connectivity, tablet PCs promise to let us interact with our computers in new ways. The classic tablet resembles a laptop that swivels so that the keyboard is hidden under the screen. The touch screen interface allows for jotting notes, editing text and generally eschewing the mouse. Among techies, rumors have run rampant about a forthcoming Mac tablet (latest rumored release date is January 2010), with Steve Jobs' disciples salivating at the thought of something like a laptop-sized iPhone. And in September photos leaked of a sleek folding Microsoft tablet. The "Courier" looks like a touch screen laptop with a second screen where the keyboard would be--a leather portfolio, stuffed to the gills, for the 21st century.
With that in mind, I was excited when I heard about the Convert to Touch Duo, which promises to transform any computer into a tablet for $120. After a standard CD-ROM software installation, hardware installation was a cinch--you stick a magnetic "reader" on the top of your screen, which senses the location of the pen. After a five-second calibration, the Duo was good to go. I was pleasantly surprised at its accuracy in reading the pen's position. Used with Windows Vista's included tablet software, it does an impressive job at handwriting recognition, even with careless scrawls.