I recently found an old RM Tablet PC from my days working as a Solution Architect at RM Education. After powering it up (it still worked), I decided it was time to write a back dated review of the device (which was powered by Windows XP Tablet PC Edition) that in my opinion, introduced and innovated the touch and Tablet centric world we are now so familiar with.
Education First XP Tablet Edition
In 2002, under the leadership of CEO Tim Pearson, RM Education became the education launch partner for not only a new class of device that we now just take for granted. These devices ignited and innovated not just the education sector, but future waves of tablet and touch devices across, not just Windows based devices, but through to Apple, Amazon and Google.
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition was an edition of Windows XP built exclusively for this new era of Tablet PC computers with pen-sensitive screens, which was released on 7 November 2002. More on this later.
Windows XP Tablet Edition was full a windows XPs but also included various tools and accessories that could be used with a pen and included apps such as Windows Journal, InkBall, Sticky Notes, Office XP and Tablet PC Input Panel.
Microsoft also released an major update to the OS, Version 2005 (codenamed Lonestar)a couple of years later in August 2004 and both an OEM version and as a service pack update for the original Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.
Who was it for?
The RM Tablet PC saw three iterations – the original (pictured above) and an updated version a couple of years later and then the RM discovery tablet after that. These marked an evolution and true innovation in mobile computing world at the time – providing an entirely new interface and method of working that was natural, flexible and highly effective.
The innovative ‘slate’ design (totally unique at the time) focussed on leveraging the full power of a PC (Intel Celeron or Pentium M processors) into an ultra-portable device. There was no need for a keyboard and mouse – (though it of course supported it) and controlling the desktop was achieved through a pen used directly onto the screen, which incorporates the convenient and intuitive aspects of pen and paper into a radical new technology, along with new paper like apps like Microsoft Journal and the debut of Microsoft OneNote.
RM Tablet was build for educators and learners
In 2002 (wow.. that’s twenty one years ago) were the education launch partner for Windows XP Tablet and had built a tough, education focussed touch device that fitted well into the classroom (along with charging trollies to let teachers hand them out to students on a one to one ratio).
The RM tablets took mobile tablet computing way beyond standard laptops and current pen computing devices of their time, such as PDAs, by delivering a full Microsoft Windows XP Professional powered device that could be used either on or off the network (with 802.11b wireless) just like a notebook or standard PC. In fact, the RM Tablet PC exceeded existing PC hardware by utilising Microsoft’s most advanced operating system (at the time) with a version of XP enhanced specifically for touch and pen. RM also bundled their whole class teaching tools like Easy Teach worked a treat as teachers were already familiar with the software.
This was a real differentiator to just another laptop (RM Education used to manufacturer their own devices here in the UK in Abingdon, Oxford). Windows XP Tablet PC Edition included all the tools needed to effectively use the pen and touch through the OS, as well as many additional functions, including the added ability to annotate directly onto documents and text using ‘Digital Ink’. This is not to underestimated in terms of its innovation and revelance today. Digital Ink was the cornerstone of this now daily use technology, but at the time was a revolutionary new approach used across tablets, phones and covertable devices like Surface Pro.
This brought huge advantages to the classroom, and in my time working with Schools and Colleges back then, I witnessed 2005 some of the enormous impact it could bring, such as enabling students to use pen and ink in a digitial canvas with all the other benefits of word processing etc not taken away. Teachers used it for notes, printed onto whiteboards, removing the need for clunky overhead projectors that used to dominate classrooms.
IMO, there is no doubt that the RM Tablet PC opened up many possibilities for teaching and learning in ways that simply didn’t previously currently exist.
Life after Windows XP Tablet Edition
In many ways, as Microsoft often do, Windows XP Tablet Edition, set the groundwork and lot a fire for much of the next 10 years or so of innovation in touch and Tablet development which Apple, Google and Microsoft now dominate in their own ways.
With the release of Windows Vista in 2006, all Tablet PC components were then natively included with the OS itself without the need of a separate edition. This marked the start of the Tablet PC era from Microsoft which aimed to bring the best of touch and pen to traditional Windows devices without the need for a separate OS or dedicated apps.
Winding forward to today, 2023, tablet devices and 2-in1s dominate the workplace, front line workers, our personal lives, education and more. Apple have gone the route of dedicated tablets (with keyboards in some cases), whereas Microsoft have stuck by the original ethos that XP Tablet Edition started with touch and ink now firmly dynamically embedded within the Windows OS.
Did you know? : Windows Vista (which was seen as a failure in the eyes of many following the success of XP and the early teething and stability issues of Vista) was the seventh operating system in the Windows NT operating system lineup and was the version succeeding Windows XP and preceding Windows 7. It was the only version of Windows to later support upgrade paths from Windows XP and to Windows 7