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Ray Ozzie: Tablet PCs are Truly Niche



Wow. It didn’t take long for Bill Gates to leave the building for Microsoft’s top brass to declare Tablet PC technology as “truly niche”. Here is Ray Ozzie talking with TechFlash about how touch will be a big deal in Windows 7 vs how Tablet PC was:

I think that the positive thing that will draw people in, in many cases, is the touch work. I won’t go so far as to say it’s the next mouse, meaning it will be on everything and you have to use it. But it’s not going to be like the Tablet PC, where it was truly niche. I think it will go broader and broader.

I agree with Loren Heiny – this is not a good thing to see Microsoft put a ceiling on their own products, talking down their own products. Such talk concerns me. Instead, I’d like to hear Ozzie talking about why Tablet PC has not spread further than it already has and work to go about changing it – could it be Microsoft’s own failed marketing, keeping tablet features in premium SKUs, high manufacturing costs, Microsoft not implementing tablet technology in their own products, including Ozzie’s Live initiative – that’s right, where is the ink love in all the Live products? I hope Ozzie’s comments don’t paint the future of Live and their hopeful embrace of Tablet technology. As we move to the cloud, let’s don’t leave tablet technology behind.



  1. orcmid

    11/02/2008 at 1:48 pm

    I think providing as part of Windows Vista Home Premium (the sweet spot) is hardly marginalizing for Tablet PCs. Since Windows 7 will also support Tablet PC out of the box, I am hoping that it is a comparable SKU there too.

  2. davidm

    11/02/2008 at 7:08 pm

    Making it part of a “premium” rather than mainstream product makes it a niche product. I think some people like it that way, they like feeling exclusive rather than understanding that spreading it to more people will make it richer and we can move on to the next great things… there’s a long way to go.

    Tablet PC has always the forgotten step child, with a few legitimate uses (medical, stock, etc), and a core of enthusiasts, but I agree it can be intrinsically useful, if it becomes part of the core product where developers can assume it’s there. But it seems maybe Microsoft doesn’t have the ability to push anything new through, unlike *ahem* other companies.

  3. bristolview

    11/03/2008 at 7:14 am

    Tablet technology in Windows is really great actually. I rarely use a keyboard of mouse, and that is for writing documents, emails, even doing technical editing of 100+ page documents. When people see what I’m doing, all without either mouse or keyboard, they generally drop their jaws on the floor. The MS tablet technology is quite good, regardless of other critisms of Windows.

    People are largely to blame, in addition to Microsoft’s lack of marketing of the features. People try tablet, and scribble a few circles in OneNote, think that’s cute and head back to the keyboard. A few try the tip to write a few search terms into google, then head back to the keyboard. For me, I had a reason to stick with the TIP, I lost the use of my right hand, and can no longer touch type. This forced me to continue to use the TIP, learn to use it and now I wouldn’t go back, even with my hand back. Give it a try, stick with it, and don’t go running back to the keyboard, for a week… or a month.

    That said, MS really needed to work the tablet support into the OS, so applications could just use it, instead of writing support for it. That was a mistake, and thus why many apps are not tablet friendly, even MS’s. The applications should not need to be written to be tablet friendly, they should just run on a tablet friendly platform. The TIP partially addresses that, but not quite far enough. Also, when looking at some of the Ink aware programs like OneNote, and others…. they’re nice, and useful for those who want to ink like that. I use the Pen 100% of the time, and I find little use myself for those apps. I use the standard tools, communicating with users who use the standard tools. That means that my pen work is converted to standard text that any keyboard outputs. That’s inking to me, using a pen to replace keyboard and mouse for standard work. The Tablet technology in Windows is fairly good at that, all things considered.

  4. JimAtLaw

    11/03/2008 at 10:29 am

    I agree with bristolview about one major idea – MS’s requiring that developers make significant efforts to make their apps pen-aware dooms the pen to marginal status.

    The pen needs to just work where keyboard input would otherwise be expected – anything less is enough of a pain in the rear to cause market problems. I can’t even get the Firefox or Opera browser to reliably (if at all) take pen input into the address field without opening up the fixed location input box, which takes up a huge percentage of the screen – this is the kind of “tried it at the store and walked away” experience that ensures that the average user will not adopt.

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