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A Former Tablet PC Team Member Speaks Out On Microsoft and Tablet PC Marketing



Hilton Locke, a former Microsoft Tablet PC team member, posted a very interesting response to Craig’s Microsoft Tablet PC Marketing article. He offers some unique observations, especially from someone who used to work on the team.

Here is what Hilton has to say regarding Microsoft, Tablet PC, and marketing:

I don’t have any inside info on Windows marketing, but here are some of my observations.

1) The SKU shift to Tablet would be net positive, because Tablet features are only available on the higher-priced SKUs, but the volumes of machines sold is small. So marketing here might not be a good return on investment. Classic chicken-or-egg.

2) Volume growth has been in consumer/entry level systems and that area is terribly price-sensitive. The extra $50-$100 bill of materials costs tends to remove opportunities here. Business and professional users love Tablet (insurance adjusters and healthcare for example) but it’s hard to convince the ISVs to Tablet-enable their apps. Without custom app support, the $50-100 cost difference for Tablets is an unnecessary expense. So the most common usage in business is still notebook with pen as “super-mouse”. Not terribly compelling.

3) Tablet is part of the larger Windows organization. As such, it’s limited in what it can do for marketing, since every message must be vetted at (large number) different levels, and must add to the overall Windows strategy. For an innovation group like Tablet, this is the kiss of death.

4) Microsoft is not the leader in defining pen and touch input interface standards. Pen and touch digitizers have been around for a lot longer than Tablet, so the digitizer technology is relatively mature. A variety of niche solutions in this space has yet to be molded together into a larger standard. Standards again cost a little more in the beginning, as existing drivers and software are rewritten to the standard. Why isn’t MS investing here?

As you know, I blogged about Tablet marketing in Dec07 and took a lot of heat. It’s also widely known thanks to the “Vista Capable” fiasco, that no marketing decision made inside of Windows is done in isolation.

IMHO, Tablet is likely to die a slow and ignominious death within Windows as it is absorbed into a larger “Natural input” movement. Note how touch, speech and visual recognition are the new darlings. Touch input is the only Windows-team-owned “darling”. Microsoft’s big challenge will be to figure out how to get Windows developers excited about NI as a whole.

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