Just a touch away, the elusive tablet PC

The high-tech industry has been working itself into paroxysms of excitement lately over an idea that is not exactly new, reports the New York Times: tablet computers. Quietly, several high-tech companies are lining up to deliver versions of these keyboard-free, touch-screen portable machines in the next few months. Industry watchers have their eye on Apple in particular to sell such a device by early next year. Tablets have been around in various forms for two decades, thus far delivering little other than memorable failure. Nonetheless, the new batch of devices has gripped the imagination of tech executives, bloggers, and gadget hounds, who are projecting their wildest dreams onto these literal blank slates. There were basic problems with these early tablets: They cost too much and did not do enough. "Software engineers got ahead of the hardware capabilities," said Paul Jackson, a consumer product analyst at Forrester Research. "But we may be finally getting to the point where the dreams and aspirations of those designers are actually meeting capable and reasonably priced technology."

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