The tech industry is tripping over itself to promote Apple's maybe-it-is-maybe-it-isn't Tablet computing device, but Microsoft has their number: I can now reveal that Microsoft and its PC maker partners will announce and then deliver their own Tablet PC well before Apple. And I have an exclusive photo of a prototype of this unbelievable, trend-setting, and innovative product ...

... from 2001. The devices shipped in 2002. Almost eight years ago.

And if you’re really in the mood for some time travelling and reality checking, please go back and read my COMDEX Fall 2001 coverage, where I describe Microsoft’s entry into this market.

Gates started with the official name of the Tablet PC OS--Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. He introduced six more companies that will make Tablet PC hardware, bringing the total number of OEMs working on these devices to 13. Tablet PCs will ship in two basic forms--the standard slab design and a cool new convertible laptop that Acer pioneered. The Acer device is a laptop with a flip-around screen that we think will be popular with customers. When the Tablet PC ships next year, Microsoft will release an Office XP update that will add "pen-and-ink" capabilities to the suite, along with other Tablet-specific features.

Wow. So innovative. So ahead of its time. It’s amazing to me that the mainstream press doesn’t realize this all happened almost a decade ago.

If you've fallen for the tech press's free hype train for Apple, well, you're on notice. This is getting stupid.