Microsoft: Getting tablet PCs wrong since 2002

Q: You chose to put Windows inside the Tablet instead of a different operating system designed specifically for the Tablet. Why?
You can’t come up with a new OS. It’s just gospel here [that it has to be run on Windows].

Microsoft fans (or Apple critics) like to credit Bill Gates as a visionary for tablet PCs, claiming they’ve been around nearly a decade, and in general minimizing any credit to Apple for the iPad. Um, no…

First, there’s the fact that tablet-like devices using pen (stylus)-based input and handwriting recognition had been envisioned (and in some cases produced, like Apple’s own Newton) long before Gates’ “vision”.

Second, the tablet PCs Gates envisioned have two flaws: They run a desktop OS and use traditional PC hardware. The second flaw is an extension of the first, Microsoft’s insistence on Windows dictated the hardware. These flaws have haunted every tablet PC this century; they’re simply not practical. As I’ve said before, you don’t build the new paradigm from the old paradigm’s thinking.

Finally, Apple questioned all the old thinking about tablets. With the iPad they created a device that not only avoids a desktop OS and hardware, but also bucks conventional wisdom about what a tablet must do. Specifically:

  • A stylus is out (most people hate them), touch is in.
  • Handwriting recognition makes no sense to a generation raised on keyboard input.
  • A new platform needs new apps specific to its capabilities.

The result is the first and only practical tablet computer (the iPad won’t have competition until copycats arrive in a few months). Apple rightly deserves credit for building what makes sense now, and not chasing failed “visions” from yesterday.

4 thoughts on “Microsoft: Getting tablet PCs wrong since 2002

  1. Yes but Apple still fails to realize that in the business world things like USB ports, build in camera function, and the ability to install normal programs (not apps) is key, let alone use flash. The reason my company has not purchased any for use. Oh sure you can buy over priced adapters but your still limited and thats just Apple nickel and dimming us. With apple products you get an over priced product that exceeds at what it wants you to be able to do, but punishes you for trying to expand what it can do.

  2. Don,Not really. It’s the OS X kernel, but it was otherwise a new OS with touch at its core. It is NOT simply a touch-optimized Mac OS X. The whole “optimized for touch desktop OS” is what’s killing Microsoft-based tablets. They don’t translate well to touch even when “optimized”, and of course after the shell you still have the apps which, because there’s no touch API to write to, are even worse than the OS since they received little or no “optimization” at all.

  3. Actually, the OS on the iPad (as well as on the iPhone and iPod Touch) IS the core of the Mac desktop OS modified to function well on the iPad (or iPhone or Touch). The problem was not MS’ OS per se, but rather their insistence that it function the same way as Windows functions on the desktop. The problem is the UI to the OS, not the OS itself.

  4. And don’t forget, Microsoft strategy is always built on a business-oriented perspective. They reach out to developers and hardware mfg long before, if ever, considering the consumer.This is a fundamental difference from Apple which sees the consumer problem, then builds the solution…completely. Even when Apple allowed 3rd-party apps, they opened it up to then entire public… a stroke of genius that has altered the entire development model, created a vast catalog in a short time and reduced the software prices naturally./

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