Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dell's XT Tablet PC Is Here – Trouble Is Yet to Come

Dell has unveiled today their newest product, the Dell Latitude XT Tablet PC. The product not only is the first Tablet PC to be manufactured by Dell, but at the same time, it is industry's first convertible tablet to weigh under two kilograms.

"We are listening and aim to exceed customers’ expectations", said Margaret Franco, director, Dell Product Group. "Until now, customers have been forced to make tradeoffs in tablet functionality to have usable systems. With capacitive touch technology, the Latitude XT will revolutionize the way customers interact with their systems, allow customers to take full advantage of tablet technology and enable customers to get more done with greater speed and precision."

The producer has taken another approach to the touch screen technology. Most of the tablet PCs on the market use resistive technology that requires the application of force for the system to recognize user interaction, which is not completely reliable and, moreover, would eventually lead to the screen prematurely wearing off.

Dell's touch-screen technology uses capacitive sensing (digitizer technology, as the company refers to it) to recognize user input. Moreover, the touch-screen can make the difference between the human finger and the special pen shipped with the notebook. The capacitive technology also rejects palm input when the pen is already present on the screen, so that inadvertent contact or hand grip won't disrupt the input.

The touch screen is not only the strongest point in the tablet, it is also subject to a legal dispute between Dell and Motion computing on one side and touch-screen producer Typhoon Touch Technologies on the other. The later claims that Dell is abusing a company patent and filed a complaint to seek an unspecified amount of damages, as well as a permanent injunction enjoining Dell and Motion Computing from the continued alleged infringement. That might translate into Dell's being unable to sell the newly unveiled Tablet PC.

Typhoon's complaint alleges that Motion Computing and Dell are abusing two of their registered patents, called "Portable Computer with Touch Screen and Computer System Employing Same." One was filed in 1995 and the other was filed in 1997.

"As alleged in our complaint, we believe that both Dell and Motion Computing are using and profiting from our patented technologies", said James Shepard, CEO and president of Typhoon Touch Technologies, in a statement. "It is our responsibility to ask the court to enjoin Dell and Motion Computing from the continued violation of our patents and seek recovery of lost profits."

Motion Computing vice-president Michael Stinson confirmed that their legal department is reviewing the complaint: "We had no idea it was coming. As far as I know, we haven't had any contact with them", said Stinson. "We're taking it very seriously but we haven't had a chance to evaluate it... We don't believe our products infringe on any valid claims in the alleged patents."