News has broken that Microsoft will announce a large set of new slate computers to compete with Apple’s iPad and the river of launched and forthcoming Android tablets next month at CES.
Judging from what the rumors have said, the tablets are already more or less doomed, and they are going to fail for the exact same reasons that every other Microsoft tablet concept has failed before. It’s almost frustrating. This is what Microsoft is likely to announce at CES :
The people familiar with this device said it will run the Windows 7 operating system when in landscape mode, but will also have a layered interface that will appear when the keyboard is hidden and the device is held in a portrait mode.
Oh lord. I’ve already written about why this is a bad idea, so let’s just go back in time to what we talked about in June:
While Windows 7 is in my opinion the best operating system for normal computers, and even netbooks I presume, for a tablet computer it is unusable. Windows is suitable for a netbook computing as it employs the same input mechanisms as its more powerful counterparts. Windows was an easy port.
Tablets utilize different methods of input, which renders Windows 7 a scurvy mess. Trust me, I know. I have Windows 7 Professional on a convertible tablet/laptop. The touch abilities are only useful for scrolling through Word documents. They have no other use.
The sources in Nick Bilton’s article go on to say that the devices are designed to let an executive enjoy a tablet device for consumption, and then use it in the next breath for serious work (Office, etc). How feasible is that? Look at it this way, we all bought iPads, we all love them, and we all use them, and yet despite Apple busting their tail to get us a real office solution on the devices, they are nearly unusable for creation.
Can Microsoft change that?
And so if Microsoft does launch what it seems set to, the devices are going to flounder for the exact same reason that every other Microsoft tablet has pretty gone the way of the Newton: a full Windows install is hard to use on a tiny screen with fat fingers. Remember the UMPC Project?
Oh, and there is to be no application store for the devices, just the browser, which like on the current generation of slates in the market is going to be a bit clunky. Can’t the teams who built Windows 7, Office 2010, Windows Phone 7, Bing, and the other excellent Microsoft projects go save the tablet guys from themselves?