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Kids, back in my day, there was a company called “Microsoft”…

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Google landed some big hits against Apple yesterday at their I/O developer conference. Reading through the narrative coverage, you’d think they were the only two companies that matter, which leads me to ask, whatever happened to Microsoft?

Clearly, Google was trying to one-up the iPhone with Froyo and their new music system takes direct aim at iTunes. But aside from having “TV” in the name, Google TV really isn’t analogous to Apple TV. Google TV is a platform, not a device, to let you watch web video and run apps on your TV. Apple TV is a device that primarily lets you watch iTunes content on your TV. Windows Media Center, however, lets you do what Google TV promises, plus record live TV. The more accurate comparison should be clear, yet WMC is barely pulling token mentions.

The situation is strikingly parallel to what’s going on with tablets. With Apple’s release of the iPad, it was almost as if the Tablet PC was struck from historical record. People ooh’d and aah’d at the video of the HP Slate, analyzing its UI elements as if they’d never seen the tablet functionality of Windows 7. People are amazed that Bill Gates was talking tablets in 2007, even though he’s been talking tablets since 2001. Tablet chatter is at an all-time high, yet it seems the Tablet PC is less remembered than ever.

If only the blame for that could be placed squarely on the media. Sadly, Microsoft has failed to help matters with their lackluster support for the tablet and media center experiences. At home, the only PCs I use are a Tablet PC and a media PC. I know how unsavory the out-of-the-box experience is for both. They are powerful but not user-friendly. The field is wide open for simpler solutions to swoop in, which is what the iPad and Google TV are doing.

Despite being ahead of the game on both, Microsoft has let their tablet and media center products fall into near obscurity. This situation can only worsen once Google fields a tablet-version of Android and Apple follows through on anticipated plans to beef up Apple TV with the iPhone OS. They might even fall further down the hole when HP starts using webOS in everything.

Make no mistake, these are not tertiary threats to Microsoft’s PC dominance. The more people interact with data on their phones and tablets and surf the web on their TVs, the less they’ll need standalone PCs. Furthermore, those who need PCs will be more attracted to interfaces similar to what they get on these other devices. Google is gearing up to take advantage of that, while Apple’s ecosystem is built around it. I don’t think Windows will ever get unwedged from the business arena, but if Microsoft doesn’t turn things around, I’ll be explaining their home OS to my grandkids for their history reports.

Alleged Apple fanboi, accused Android apologist, and confirmed Microsoft MVP for touch and tablet Mark Sumimoto a.k.a. Sumocat dabbles in all areas of mobile computing with a focus on Windows-based Tablet PCs and pen input. A mobile computing enthusiast since 2004, he pioneered the field of ink blogging via his personal blog, Sumocat's Scribbles. His current tools include a Fujitsu Lifebook T900, TEGA v2, and iPhone 4. Email: sumocat [at] notebooks.com

23 Comments

  1. Strodtbeck

    05/21/2010 at 7:09 am

    Microsoft can still make and end-around in the mobile area. How many of us would love to be able to run our windows apps on our mobile devices? They just need to the a compatible OS that works for mobile and allows those apps to run. . . without killing the battery, needing a high end processor, and is built for touch. . . etc. . . but they do have time because the software in the mobile area right now is still rather immature.

  2. Quentin Dewolf

    05/21/2010 at 9:25 am

    this leaves those of us with desire to create content out in the cold. Web OS, Android, and Iphone os are all terrible systems for true content creation. What made the pc take off was its multi-use and i think that in this modern age we should be able to put a full laptop experience into a slate or even a cellphone.
    the problem is that hardware manufacturers think all we want to do is web browse and watch HD video but the future is more uses in more places which needs power to make it useful and seamless. when people have workstation performance in small packages suddenly more becomes possible.

    • Etrigan

      05/21/2010 at 10:52 am

      Agreed. The iPad is just a big iPhone that can’t make calls, and completely useless to me for any serious computing work. This writer says the blame is not with the media, but falls into the same herd mentality that drives Microsoft bashing.

      Microsoft has just announced its most successful financial quarter in history, with record revenues and profits. While tech writers like this pretend as if MS is relegated to history, there are more Windows and Office users worldwide than Google and Apple users combined.

      Apple and Google appeal to tech writers who like to seem aligned with the hot new tech companies. For the other 99% of the human race who want to do serious, intensive computing, Microsoft is the only game in town.

  3. acerbic

    05/21/2010 at 12:49 pm

    The blame can and should indeed be placed squarely on the media. The proper job of the media is to find out, analyze and report facts instead of just repeating verbatim and without critique the claims of whoever howls the loudest.

    The job wasn’t done: every tech pundit has only been squawking incessantly “10 hours is the new standard for battery life”, “Windows was not designed for touch”, blah, blah, blah. Not one has said anything like “Umm… hello? There are still quite a few people who would like a compact device that let’s them do something productive rather than stare at videos or websites for 10 hours”. Not. A. Single. One.

  4. TabletTeacher

    05/21/2010 at 2:19 pm

    Once again, Acerbic, you do nothing but bash Apple. The iPad is not complete. It doesn’t support Flash or Java. That IS a big flaw. SO IS INKING!

    But, for the people that are buying them, it is their choice. The media has merely reported the popularity of the device. The fault of MS is in their own lap. They had something with their Tablet OS, but didn’t do anything with their marketing scheme.

    The UMPC had more media attention than Tablet, but fell short performance-wise. That too, is MS fault…not the media.

    Let people buy what they want if it is going to do what they want. To bash them for doing so, is just ludicrous and immature. Until SOMEONE comes up with a Tablet with the “Productivity Capabilities” then you can compare the two. But, right now, the iPad is beating everyone to the punch. Don’t blame them for having the backing and media coverage since they are the only game putting something into people’s hands. It is not a “fanboy” or “blind following” thing. It is people’s choice.

    I personally wish Motion would have stayed with the LS800 form-factor. I am leaning towards that device since iPad will not support Java…which is what our new Student Info. system is based on.

    Yet, Motion, along with the other MS Tablets are too pricey for the average person to adopt. The slate form factor is a winner, as is the battery life. The iPad OS is lacking. If Apple can cure the limited OS and develop inking, well, then they win again.

    But, don’t rip them for getting the job done now. If anyone steps up, then compare the two and do your bashing.

    • acerbic

      05/21/2010 at 5:09 pm

      Wrong, except for the “Let people buy what they want if it is going to do what they want” part. I agree with that completely, but that’s the exact opposite of what St. Steve’s flying howler monkey squad including all the tech pundits has been screaming about the HP Slate. They have been doing everything they can with their “reviews” to bully HP into canceling it and looks like they may have succeeded, thereby NOT letting people buy what they want.

      It’s curious how when the Slate was talked about and demoed before the iFad was released, when the fanbois were still dreaming of their magical Mac tablet, that they didn’t seem to care much about the Slate. The constant, furious attacks started only when the iFad was revealed to be nothing but a bloated iPod. The cult had chosen their idol and when something better seemed to threaten it in their minds, it had to be banished by whatever means necessary.

      • Sumocat

        05/21/2010 at 6:41 pm

        Kids, back in my day, HP made a slate and it was widely considered the best around. But despite wonderful reviews, they discontinued it and ignored the campaign to bring it back. We called it the TC1100.

        • Brett Gilbertson

          05/22/2010 at 6:04 pm

          Nice point Sumocat. I beleive that the bean counter who presided over that mess is now running for a spot on your government… Carly Fiorina.

      • TabletTeacher

        05/21/2010 at 8:14 pm

        So, it is Apple’s fault they know how to market a product?
        It is their fault people want a simple device that is a “bloated iPod”?

        Is it their fault MS pulled Courier? Is it their fault HP bought Palm and is trying to make a mobile “companion” device? I think the iPad is a neat device, but don’t plan to buy one due to the Java issue, no USB, no ink. But, that is just me. Enough people must want the bloated “iPod”. Oh, yeah, 1,000,000 people are just blind fanboy supporters.

        If there was a device that had full features, yes–long battery life, inking, etc., and was at or around the $500 …bring it on. Apparently HP didn’t have that with their Win7 slate. There must be some reason no MS based slates are making a go of it. But, oh yeah, that is Apple’s fault, right?

        Wow.

        Come up with some real evidence of how the media has detoured the Slate. Come up with something other than Fanboys or cult following to back your claims. You bash everyone but the real offenders. Maybe ask HP why they made their changes. Maybe talk to someone at MS about Courier. But, hey, that would be too easy…just blame it on Apple. They are the root of all evil.

        1,000,000 sold in a month. They must be doing something right for a certain niche. If UMPC had done this, you’d be squealing like a school girl that these devices are on top of the world.

        Just a curious question…are you still in high school? You do a lot of ranting and raving, but never back it up. That surely sounds like a prepubescent behavior you have going for yourself.

        Many of your comments could be taken seriously if you’d back them up with facts, rather than use terms like “iFad” or “iFart”, etc. That shows how ignorant you are.

        “Stupidity can be cured…but ignorance is forever.” Maybe if you can figure this quote out, you can take a rational approach to your argument against Apple or anyone with a differing point-of-view.

        • acerbic

          05/22/2010 at 10:12 am

          If you approve of and admire Apple’s marketing strategy of using flying monkeys to harass competitors into not even releasing competing products, it would be consistent and intellectually honest of you not to pretend that you’re for letting people buy what they want. Too much to ask, I know…

          • TabletTeacher

            05/22/2010 at 8:59 pm

            Acerbic,

            Maybe I’m out of the loop. But, give us some examples and links to your “Flying Monkey” deal. You have yet, to justify your comments about why the Courier is no more, and HP being forced out of the game by Apple.

            Talk in circles all you want, but until you have legitimate proof (not conspiracy theory) no one will take your comments at a serious level.

          • acerbic

            05/23/2010 at 2:57 am

            Anybody can go to Google news and search e.g. “hp slate” “battery life” and see with their own eyes the near universal condemnation of “only” 5 hour battery life regardless of usability plus repeated claims that it was slow and buggy, claims based on nothing but claims by somebody else who had never even seen the device for themselves. A sample from a ZDNET flying howler monkey:

            http://www.zdnet.com/blog/perlow/hps-slate-was-an-ugly-baby-with-windows-7/12820

            Then again, anybody can just pretend not to see all that and keep babbling about “conspiracy theories”…

          • Sumocat

            05/23/2010 at 5:36 am

            Kids, back in my day, I was once called a “conspiracy theorist”, so on my own blog, to the guy who made the claim, I showed him a conspiracy and I did it with a lot more than one link and rhetoric.

          • TabletTeacher

            05/23/2010 at 6:52 am

            Good one Sumocat.

            My reference to Acerbic was the constant banter about Apple and those who buy iPads being the reason for MS Courier being canceled, and HP Slate being reworked.

            Acerbic has offered no legitimate proof that Apple has done anything to specifically target HP or MS Courier.

            Again, I see flaws with the Apple iPad, but they seem closer to the ideal tablet experience and media consumption device. While they cannot ink now, and lack USB ports, etc…..imagine what version 2 may have. Should they add those missing items, it is easily perceived that no one will be able to catch the iPad.

          • acerbic

            05/23/2010 at 9:58 am

            I gave an example of a search that produces multiple links and a sample link from the results of the search. So if I don’t list each and every one of the search results, they don’t exist? Really?

          • Sumocat

            05/23/2010 at 11:12 am

            If I could step out of my indirect commentator position for a moment, Acerbic, the problem with your response is the article you linked to doesn’t support your point. It was supportive of HP’s purchase of Palm and their then-rumored decision to switch the Slate from Windows 7 to webOS, which they did. It comes after all the “howler monkey” reports you claim took down the HP Slate and it’s so pro-HP, the author actually points out he works for a competitor.

            Acerbic, I want to like you, which is why I cut you so much slack, but conspiracy theories should be backed with more certitude. It’s not necessary to embrace it as I would, but you need to connect the dots. Not necessary if you’re just goofing around, but I feel like you’re trying to make an effort. A bit more substance next time would be appreciated.

            (BTW, TabletTeacher, in the unlikely event you feel left out, I already like you. :))

          • acerbic

            05/23/2010 at 2:24 pm

            Sumocat, don’t you really understand that my point is about the treatment the HP Slate PC WITH WINDOWS 7 has received, or are you actually claiming that an “article” titled “HP’s Slate was an Ugly Baby with Windows 7″ doesn’t support it?

            Of course St. Steve’s flying monkeys are now praising HP for going with the webOS version which probably really will be just a lame imitation of their iFad idol, why wouldn’t they…

          • Sumocat

            05/23/2010 at 3:30 pm

            “Was,” past tense, after the project changed. You think the flying monkeys at ZDNet harrassed HP into dropping Windows AFTER they already decided to drop Windows? You’re all over the place with this conspiracy.

            More importantly, it’s not like running Windows on a slate is a novel idea. I’ve owned a Windows slate for five years. Our friend Hugo Ortega has his Tega tablet on the way. TabletKiosk, Electrovaya, Archos, and others offer slates right now, including pen + touch models. HP would be selling a slate today if they didn’t ignore the campaign not to discontinue the TC1100, widely acclaimed as the best slate ever (even to this day). HP seems to kill slates regardless of praise or criticism. Would seem to indicate a lack of causality.

          • acerbic

            05/23/2010 at 4:05 pm

            A-ha, because this latest example is AFTER, it doesn’t count as giving scathing negative review to a thing the pundit has never seen. Just asking beforehand: if I provide links to the same kind of thing BEFORE they dropped Windows and went with webOS, where are you going to move the goalposts then? How many do there need to be and on what dates?

            But seriously: of course I can’t be certain that internet yapping got HP to change their plans but it’s just nice to have a clear target for the anger, and it sure wasn’t for lack of trying if the yappers didn’t do it.

          • Sumocat

            05/23/2010 at 4:27 pm

            Moved the goalpost? You made the accusations of the HP Slate being “bullied” into submission. Hard to do that after the submission. You set the goalpost, not me. And backing down from the conspiracy theory? Disappointing.

          • acerbic

            05/24/2010 at 12:05 pm

            Jan 7, 2010: Why the Microsoft-HP Tablet Is a Big Disappointment
            http://www.pcworld.com/article/186172/why_the_microsofthp_tablet_is_a_big_disappointment.html

            January 26, 2010: HP shows off its slate computer while revealing a key disappointing detail (Windows)
            http://www.crunchgear.com/2010/01/26/hp-shows-off-its-slate-computer-while-revealing-a-key-disappointing-detail-windows/

            etc. etc… From what I’ve seen, it’s very NORMAL for religious fanatics to protest against and attack anything they perceive as blasphemy or threats to their idols. When Apple cultists react to a small, light tablet running Windows the same way as fanatic Christians to a pig on a cross or Muslims to drawings of Muhammed, why on earth would it have to be a “conspiracy” instead of simply what cultists do, huh?

            P.S. Ok, I’m exaggerating just a bit.

          • Sumocat

            05/24/2010 at 2:02 pm

            Better, but their criticisms are nothing new to Tablet PCs, so I would not attribute them to some “flying monkey” cult or conspiracy. PC World even cites that part of the disappointment was that it wasn’t Courier, which really would have blown the doors off the place. I personally would take issue with how TechCrunch turned an article supposedly about the HP Slate into one about the then-mythic iPad. Your point, I think, would be stronger were you not trying to force these rather moderate and old-hat commentaries to fit an extremist mold.

  5. AP

    05/21/2010 at 2:59 pm

    If microsoft (i.e Windows) was to disappear at this moment imagine the havoc it would create. Almost everything we do is run by computers and most of them run windows. It will certainly bring the world to a halt.

    If apple or Google was to disappear at this moment sure we will be sad but wouldn’t bring world to a halt.

    Not saying one OS is better than other but just a fact of life.

    Can Google exist without Microsoft (i.e. Windows)? How would they make money? In fact fight between Google and Apple ultimately benefits microsoft.

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