Microsoft has no tablets… not counting Tablet PCs and UMPCs

The double hit of news that both Courier and the HP Slate are not on the schedule has led to rampant speculation about where this leaves Microsoft now that they have NO tablet prospects. None, zero, zilch, not a tablet to their name according to the reports. Excuse me while I scream.

&*^#[email protected]!!! Donkey $^%(*!!! Toilet *&$%@#! Ascot-wearing %&*&#$!!! I’ve been breaking my *&%# blogging on and about &*#@^ tablets running Windows for four years! And you guys keep saying Microsoft has no tablets?!?!? %$*&#@$%!!!!

Ah, that’s better. So as I was saying, if I have to read one more mention or hint that Microsoft is without tablets, I am going to hurt someone. Most likely myself, but still someone. What am I talking about? Here’s a snippet from Gizmodo’s Courier cancellation report.

Perhaps the strong launch of Apple’s iPad, currently the only available “mobile tablet” from a major vendor, caused Ballmer to reassess the commitment of Microsoft in a soon-to-be-crowded market.

The iPad is the only “mobile tablet” available from a major vendor? The top five PC vendors as of the 15th are HP, Acer, Dell, Lenovo, and ASUS/Toshiba (tied). Do you know how many of them currently offer a tablet that runs Windows? All of them! We can argue the definition of “mobile tablet” perhaps, but Acer and ASUS both sell convertible netbook tablets that are about one keyboard away from what the HP Slate was supposed to be. Maybe you meant “slate”, but a convertible in slate mode functions like a slate. The iPad is the stand-out, but it doesn’t stand alone.

A worse offender is an article from Business Insider littered with these gems:

Microsoft’s plans to enter tablet computing just took two steps backwards, and now it has no obvious challenger in the race with Apple’s iPad.

This leaves Microsoft with just ASUS, MSI, and a few other PC makers as potential tablet computing partners. (emphasis mine)

By the time it gets its new mobile OS on a phone, Apple will working on the SECOND version of the iPad. Microsoft, meanwhile, will probably not have its FIRST tablet out yet.

You can argue whether any of the current Windows-based tablets can really challenge the iPad, but it is ridiculous to refer to PC makers actually making Windows-based tablets as “potential” tablet partners, as is the claim that Microsoft will probably not have its FIRST tablet out when there have been Windows-based tablets, including slates, for years. You can buy a slate running Windows 7 right now, but if you only read the major tech blogs, you’d think there was only the iPad. And since other news sites also rely on these sources, this misinformation spreads, with one asking, “Will Microsoft be tablet-less?” They aren’t, but unless this misconception gets turned around, they might as well be.

To me, the real question is whether Microsoft will finally take tablet computing seriously and customize an operating system for the form factor. The HP Slate running Windows 7 wasn’t going to cut it. Even with its Touchsmart system, it would have been no different than the UMPCs we’ve seen in the past, running the Origami overlay UI to compensate for the desktop-based OS beneath, and we know how well they did. So media people, please, before I explode, stop saying Microsoft has no tablets and start asking when they’ll have a better one.

18 Comments

  1. djblois

    04/30/2010 at 11:09 am

    I do NOT want a separate OS for tablets. What I would prefer is built into Windows 7 or 8 a Tablet interface. I do not want a Tablet and a Laptop – I prefer to have a convertable tablet which is the best of both worlds. I have it set up pretty good. And it works great for Pen usage but the Tablet interface would also be good for touch usage (which it is currently not ideal). This is the way Microsoft should go!!! That would blow the iPad out the window. Add API’s for touch interfaces that 3rd party vendors can access that the program would switch between mouse mode when in laptop configuration and in Tablet mode when in slate configuration. PLEASE – This would be AWESOME!!!

    Reply

    • Techni

      04/30/2010 at 2:58 pm

      Agreed. I love my Windows using UMPCs. Windows is what makes them so useful to me. I can bring my Windows programs with me, and I mean ‘mine’ literally in that I make my own windows apps.

      Reply

    • Brett Gilbertson

      05/02/2010 at 12:02 am

      We now have 2 completely different approaches to mobile Tablet computing and I say that it is a good thing. In the last 2 weeks I’ve found that the ipad approach is brilliant in its own right, but personally I couldn’t go without the Windows 7 laptop replacement / enhancement approach, so I’m with you on this…

      Let’s not forget that while it can always improve, Windows 7 was a coming of age for Tablets. It has driven a massive increase in Tablet sales for us here in Australia… Keep the Tablet tweaks coming Microsoft!

      And I ahsre your pain Sumocat… Journalists so often suck at research! They should be reporting on unbiassed facts, but too frequently pump out uninformed opinion.

      Reply

  2. Feralboy

    04/30/2010 at 11:29 am

    I agree 100% with djblois on not wanting a separate OS. Yeah, for a cheap, netbook-priced tablet, Windows 7 might not fit the bill, but for a fully functioning notebook, that also has tablet functionality, it rocks! Better touch implementation? Sure, that would be great, but the pen works fantastially well and touch, as an adjunct, works equally well. The pen is just a pop away when I need to do detailed work or ink. What I find really interesting though is the work Microsoft is doing with combining touch with the pen. In current tablets, you get some of that, but more would be better, certainly. I got my first multi-touch / pen-based TPC about a month ago, and while I originally thought touch would be a fun novelty, I find I use it a lot more than I initially thought I would. Microsoft’s recent release of Surface controls for Window 7 and all the NUI research being done seems to confirm a commitment to the future of touch/pen computing. At least, I hope that’s what I’m seeing (:

    Reply

  3. Steve S

    04/30/2010 at 11:46 am

    <>

    …The fact that the media portrays Microsoft as being tabletless (tablet-challenged…???) isn’t the fault of the media. It’s Microsoft’s fault!

    What’s the difference between Microsoft and Apple? A major factor is that Apple has mounted a PERSISTENT and appealing multi-media ad campaign to focus on the iPad exclusively… and they’ve done this, in part, because they have a stake in both the software AND the hardware.

    By contrast, Microsoft probably doesn’t see why they should spend Microsoft dollars to promote HP’s or Lenovo’s or Dell’s products… except that, just like tax reductions, there’s that pesky “trickle down” effect; every HP or Lenovo or Dell sold also sells a copy of Windows. It’s too bad that Microsoft’s marketing vision doesn’t effectively incorporate a bigger campaign about PC versus Mac (and now, tabletPC versus iPad).

    In retrospect, I suspect that 2010 will not be seen as the year of the tablet (slate, whatever…). It will be seen as the year of the iPad…

    Reply

    • Sumocat

      04/30/2010 at 12:27 pm

      No disagreement on where the initial fault lies, but at some point, the media needs to do their research. This kind of stuff has been going on for months, even as new netbook tablets running Windows 7 are being released.

      Reply

    • Techni

      04/30/2010 at 3:01 pm

      “It’s Microsoft’s fault! ”

      I disagree. The same sites saying MS doesnt have a tablet are the same sites that have shown MS tablets.

      MS HEAVILY pushed the origami platform, and has been advertising tablets for years. I have a Tablet version of XP!

      Reply

    • osiris

      04/30/2010 at 5:30 pm

      I 100% agree with Steve S

      Microsoft does better promotions for its future research videos and reports than it does Tablets and Windows Mobile. You can argue that marketing and promotion is the realm of the manufactuers but they shouldbe working in tangent, the promotion of one helps the other.

      Fact of this is what mass consumers think:
      Q What was the first touch screen phone?
      A probably the iphone

      Q What was the first tablet?
      A iPad

      Reply

  4. ctitanic

    04/30/2010 at 12:28 pm

    Sumocat, excellent article. The best I have read this year!

    Reply

    • Sumocat

      04/30/2010 at 12:35 pm

      Thank you. As long as you haven’t been in a coma since January, I accept your high praise. It was “Ascot-wearing %&*&#$!!!” that pushed it over the top, right? Was worried that was too high class, but I think it works.

      Reply

  5. acerbic

    04/30/2010 at 12:36 pm

    Excellent rant, but that piece of $#[email protected] Eee is probably not the best visual for the cause…

    Reply

    • Sumocat

      04/30/2010 at 12:42 pm

      I had debated that issue, but I ultimately chose it because it represents the tablets currently being released and, as you should agree, supports my closing point.

      Reply

  6. Nameless

    04/30/2010 at 2:49 pm

    *reads some comments on the whole “HP Slate discontinued” news*

    I’m getting this impression too…it’s like those people don’t know about the TC1100 (nevermind that it’s a refined Compaq product) or all those convertible Tablet PCs they’ve made for several years now.

    If you want to go even farther back, there’s the GRID Systems stuff, PenPoint, Windows for Pen Computing…

    Then again, I suppose Microsoft has no tablets per se-Fujitsu, IBM (later Lenovo), Toshiba, HP, Acer, Gateway, etc. have tablets that just happen to run Microsoft’s OS.

    As for the point about having a separate tablet OS, there are some times when I don’t really need all that functionality on the go-especially if most of the apps still want a keyboard and mouse anyway. I just need something compact, light, with an excellent screen, a Wacom pen, and software to match. (After a hands-on with the iPad, it’s very close save for the obvious lack of pen, which makes it all the more grating.) Of course, I say this because I already HAVE a Tablet PC running Windows-that being a Gateway E-295C with a 14″ screen (a cheap TN one, at that) and over six pounds of weight. Not exactly ideal for tablet use, which results in me using it in laptop mode the vast majority of the time. I want a companion device that sits between that and my iPAQ hx4700 (or possibly instead of it if I find it compact enough).

    Reply

  7. Zeuxidamas

    04/30/2010 at 3:18 pm

    I’ll likely get flame-sprayed for this one, but my thoughts will be in-line with definitions I have held to in the past. If any of my understandings are mistaken, pls correct them.

    TabletPC is a spec. The HW/SW environment is supposed to meet certain parameters in order for the device to be defined as such.

    UMPC is a spec. The HW/SW environment is supposed to meet certain parameters in order for the device to be defined as such.

    And I am not saying all manufacturers hold true to the specs at every level of detail. But the specs do exist.

    Tablet is not a spec. And, I guess, unfortunately, maybe this has left a lot open to controversy, as much of the media, the geek-elite, and then the common consumer likely all have their own definition of what a Tablet is in their head.

    If we are going to call TabletPCs and UMPCs specs that exist under the common design concept of a Tablet, then I can understand being PO’d at people claiming that MS has no Tablets.

    I don’t. The HP Slate meets the spec for either a TabletPC or a UMPC (depending on where you draw the line on screen-size between the two; I have seen multiple interpretations of screen size ranges for each spec). I perceive Tablets as being a discrete slice of the mobile device product field, and differentiated from TabletPCs and UMPCs. Mainly in my view that they must run a light OS (I know, an inexact term) and have instant-on capability in their core OS (not the sideload hotboot into a LINUX environment a lot of laptops come with these days). For MS to have a device in this category, given no entirely new development of an OS, for me they (or rather a partner) would have to deploy something built on the WinCE kernel.

    Without these differences, the only thing separating “tablets” from TabletPCs and UMPCs would be screen-size. Does taking a slate-style TabletPC and (finally for the love of Pete) making it affordable to the common consumer constitute the Tablet experience most of the market is looking for? My own assessment is no.

    I LOVE TabletPCs and UMPCs. I still have a place in my mobile inventory for one of each, and in fact require a TabletPC in my inventory at all times for work. But I have a separate space that a Tablet would fill. And I think when the common person is asked about a Tablet, their expectations are for something other than a TabletPC or UMPC.

    All this is my own speculation, and I am not saying that I am right and anyone else is wrong. Just offering my own opinion for the dialogue.
    – Vr/Zeuxidamas..>>

    Reply

  8. Dave-in-Mi

    04/30/2010 at 3:55 pm

    I’ve always viewed the term “Tablet” as a parent category that included several devices, including TabletPC’s, Slates, some UMPC’s, and possibly e-Readers. Basically: any portable multimedia/data device, larger than a smartphone/PDA, that incorporates a direct-through-screen (via pen and/or touch) interface. The iPad is expanding a new subcategory of Tablet that in previous comments I’ve referred to as a Personal Media Manager — basically expanding the capabilities of digital picture frames to include video, e-books, and web. The public simply needs to be made aware of the variety & versatility of the Tablet family of devices.

    Reply

    • Zeuxidamas

      04/30/2010 at 4:12 pm

      Under this definition, I could understand aggravation with the perception that MS has no tablets. I probably actually adhere to this definition myself in actual application, as I can see the use for having a TabletPC, a UMPC, and a Tablet. I would use each differently. The problem we might have is I think the general public can only afford one of these devices, and the expense of a TabletPC, or the reduced experience of a cheaper Tablet that equals Win7 + Atom Proc, is not an option they are willing to entertain. But I do see the sense in applying Tablet as a broad term that encompasses TabletPCs, UMPCs, and MIDs.
      – Vr/Zeuxidamas..>>

      Reply

  9. GoodThings2Life

    04/30/2010 at 5:59 pm

    I love Windows 7. I love Microsoft. I love HP. But either the HP Slate or the HP 2740p are going to make me happy, and I don’t care which I end up with. I want a full-blown OS, and a full experience, and I’m not so uptight that I need to go hours, days, or even weeks without plugging in to charge… I just need 5-8 hours and I’ll charge over my lunch break if I need it. Even as a life-long, professional technologist, I’m not married to a single device.

    Reply

  10. Dan

    05/01/2010 at 9:11 am

    I would like to diverge a bit.

    Courier was ‘sent bade to the drawing board’ last week. Nobody knows why but it is not likely to be iPad related. I was wondering about the ‘dual screen’ Toshiba coming out that was running windows 7. The Courier was going to be a Phone 7 OS. I think that was the part that sent it to the shelf.

    On the HP Slate, I will speculate that you will see the Android version in the fall. The Windows 7 version is likely in limbo due to HP buying Palm.

    If you want to know why that would have anything to do with the release of the Slate all you have to do is spend some time over at groklaw.net to get an idea of the business practices that go on in this industry.

    As far as anger at the lack of respect by media for anything other than ‘Apple’, well, now you can understand the IBM Thinkpad video that came outright after the media claims that “Apple invented the tablet.”

    Dan

    Reply

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