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Microsoft's Tablet PCs: How Bad Will They Be?

It's a terrible reaction, isn't it? We just can't help but have it, though. Every time Microsoft comes out with something aimed at tackling an Apple consumer blockbuster, we just cringe. The Zune still looms large in our consciousness here at RCPU.

And so we wait impatiently for Microsoft's slate computers, which Steve Ballmer says that we will see -- in some form or another; he didn't specify how -- by Christmas. We're impatient not because we want to run out and buy one but because we can't wait to start making fun of them.

Oh, come on. There's precedent here. The Zune. The Kin. Anything in the mobile space, for that matter. Outside of the Xbox, which still isn't a moneymaker in Redmond, Microsoft just isn't good at making "cool" technologies. Apple is -- witness the (apparently unprecedented) rapidity with which consumers have adopted the iPad.

So, we're pretty sure that Microsoft's Windows tablet -- or slate, or whatever -- will be embarrassingly lame and way behind the efforts of its competition, kind of the way Windows Phone 7 will be when it debuts next week. And we wonder again: Does Microsoft really need to do this? Is there anything wrong with being an enterprise-technology company first and foremost?

After all, iPad sales aren't really hurting PC sales at all. People don't just buy an iPad. They buy an iPad, a laptop, a smart phone, maybe even an iPod -- all sorts of things to use at the same time. Look around your house or your office. Have you consolidated all of your computing -- recreational and professional -- onto one machine?

We here at RCPU sure haven't. And next time we buy a smartphone or a music player (the notion of a tablet has no appeal to us), we likely won't buy a Windows device. But your editor's year-old netbook runs XP, and the next laptop that enters this house will almost assuredly be a Windows machine, as will the next PC that your editor's company doles out to him (if that ever happens again).

Microsoft, with some smart management, could thrive as an enterprise-focused company and leave the low-hanging consumer fruit to competitors. We've been banging this drum for a while now, and we're going to keep banging it -- particularly this holiday season, when Microsoft's tablet is sure to have the appeal of stale fruitcake.

Would you buy a Windows tablet? What would persuade you to purchase one? Sound off at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on October 06, 2010 at 11:56 AM