Where is the Windows Phone Tablet?

The Windows Phone platform currently has hardware specifications that imply a cellular phone device. What is interesting in light of the new WebOS TouchPad, the newly announced Android tablets, the RIM Playbook and the iPad is that this supposed “third horse” of Windows Phone has no hint of present or future presence in the tablet form factor.

That might have something to do with the plans to move Windows to the tablet form factor. Perhaps Microsoft thinks that pocket size devices deserve a separate operating system, platform and ecosystem than portable mobile computers. Perhaps Microsoft plans to have two separate interfaces for these tablets (slates vs. tablets?) Then again, Ballmer held up a Windows Phone and said “This is Windows too.”

It gets confusing.

The bottom line is that without a tablet implementation, Windows Phone developers and content providers will find that the WP ecosystem will have a limited addressable market and will not be suitable for all forms of media or apps. Tablets are currently expected to grow even more rapidly than smartphones did and so there will be significant numerical advantages to those platforms that support multiple screen sizes and form factors.

Now that Nokia has anointed the Windows Phone platform as its exclusive conveyance to the device market, the question in the headline becomes: Where is the Nokia tablet?

  • hahnchen

    Microsoft do not have a tablet platform, because the Windows team are busy fighting the Windows Phone team instead of Microsoft's competitors.

    WP was built for tablets. It's built for touch, and it uses oversized screens! By the time the massively bloated Windows 8 comes out, the Microsoft tablet ecosystem will be dead, and there's no Nokia to bail them out.

    • Steven Noyes

      I think there is lots of truth on what you are saying. WP is actually a very good design and is much like iOS 3.5 years later. It leverages Microsofts core .NET and Silverlight technologies very well and creates a compelling interface for a touch based system. There are some areas where it is lacking like multi-tasking, Cut/Copy/Paste, slow launch times and such, but the iOS eco-system thrived with many of the same issues for several years. I am convinced it is much better to NOT have a feature than to have the feature implemented poorly Case in point: Android's Cut/Copy/Paste.

      But MS has serious issues in that it does not want to "kill" the golden goose called Windows. To that end, they really want the future tablets to run a run a full Windows distro because WP simply does not bring in the licensing fees that a full Windows distro would.

      The problem is, if MS is not willing to cannibalize Windows, there are many competitors that are more than willing to do that.

      • Splashman


        One of Apple's most admirable traits is their willingness to "eat their own young." Time and again, they have replaced a top-selling product with a brand-new design, and have introduced new products without fear of cannibalization (affecting sales of existing products).

        If there is a single word that describes Microsoft's business strategy, it is "fear." Fear of disrupting the flow through their Windows and Office money pipes. Fear of guessing wrong with a new product. Fear of losing an opportunity. The tragedy is that their fears are self-fulfilling.

        Leaders don't fear. They analyze their opportunities, then make proactive (not defensive) decisions, and then put all their efforts behind those decisions. "Damn the torpedos, full steam ahead!"

      • Hamranhansenhansen

        Microsoft lacks leadership, so they talk amongst themselves until the opportunity is lost. If they had leadership, they would have shipped Windows NT Phone in 2005, with easy porting of existing Windows apps to the new handheld form factor.

      • gctwnl

        Not that this is in any way a feasible option in both an UI and technology sense.

  • The Nokia tablet's greatest chance may come from former Nokia engineers and designers who embark on their own project after leaving Nokia. Who knows what powers will be released by this, whether out of necessity or from the mobile muses…

    Sent from my iRunestone

  • Steve

    Is there still a chance that Meego could become a tablet OS?

    • yes there is a chance. but imo nokia doesn't believe that an ecosystem can be developed around Meego. there is very little differentiation potential in tablets and soon to be phones. this is why Nokia has painted the picture as a battle of ecosystems (cloud based services). I predict the first nokia tablet will be based on windows for ARM. rim and HP will be fighting for table scraps in two years.

    • There was until last friday…

      • FalKirk

        @Niilolainen: I smiled and nodded approvingly when I first read your post. But, on further reflection, I don't think there was ever any real chance that Meego could become a successful tablet OS. That's why Nokia has tacitly abandoned it.

      • Nothing to do with the large amount of cash Microsoft have allegedly paid them to abandon it then?

      • Jens

        Have you seen the demos from MWC? Meego is years away from being something that's worth competing with iOS/webOS

      • That is Intel's version, not Nokia. Quite different UI.

      • FalKirk

        Pure speculation on my part, but I think it was the other way round. I think Elop looked at Meego, realized that it would be impossible to build a viable ecosystem with it, and then went looking for suitors. If Meego had been really promising, I don't think Elop would have ever considered overtures from Microsoft, no matter how many billions they offered to throw at him.

      • Hamranhansenhansen

        If Meego had been promising, Elop might not have even been hired.

        > there is very little differentiation potential in tablets and soon to be phones.

        This comment disturbs me very, very much. That is the excuse that was made for all PC manufacturers just copying the Mac for many, many years. People were like, there is the command line and the GUI and that is that. It's all been discovered. When they looked forward, they saw 1. GUI, 2. ?, 3. Star Trek. A total failure of imagination, and a total repudiation of design.

        There is actually unlimited differentiation potential in tablets and phones, but only if the manufacturer actually designs something new, including new software, which is 90% of a modern computer, especially a tablet or phone. In other words: if you want differentiation, then make something different. Don't make the same thing and shrug and say "well, there was no differentiation potential." There definitely is. However, since there are almost no designers working in technology other than at Apple, I'm not holding my breath. But we should be clear. It's not some fact of life that all tablets descend from iPad and all phones descend from iPhone. If that is what happens, that will be a failure of everyone outside of Apple. They are tasking their engineers with building from Apple's designs instead of hiring designers and building from their own designs. They're making a choice not to differentiate.

      • FalKirk

        "If Meego had been promising, Elop might not have even been hired."

        Good point.

      • Ted_T

        Wasn't Windows 7 Phone at least a minimal departure from the iPhone? From what I can tell it is the least guilty of copying Apple.

        I think the point of this article and some of the comments isn't that W7P is bad (although it is clearly very, very late and behind in basic features), but that Microsoft refuses to release a W7P tablet version.

        What's worse, if Paul Thurott on Supersite for Windows is to be believed, Microsoft intends to replace Windows 7 Phone with Windows 8 (Phone?) which will be their desktop OS with touch grafted onto it. So even if W7P were to take off, against all odds, MS's Windows group intends to kill it.

      • asymco

        The payments we hear about are something of a red herring. Those payments are marketing and R&D earmarked for new devices. They are funds designated for specific launches or marketing. They are not funds to keep to spend as seen fit. Furthermore, these marketing co-spending plans have always been used by Microsoft to promote everything from Windows ("Designed for Windows") to Windows Mobile.

  • I believe that msft tools are similar on all their platforms. that is if you know how to develop for windows you can develop for WP. The same tools will migrate to Windows for ARM, which is the next MSFT tablet OS.

    The combination of nokia and msft will ensure enough developer support for WP. If nokia can bring some assets to the table that make the ecosystem stronger, then HTC Sammy LG and Dell may stay on the platform and make it even more of an attractive target for developers.

    Microsoft and Nokia have succeeded, in my mind, in establishing WP as the the third ecosystem. As for tablets, msft has missed a "cycle", just like they did with phones. Their plan is to use the next version of windows designed for ARM as their tablet OS. While late, I believe it will be a viable platform and will get shelf space and mind share as third option behind Apple and Android. The question is where does this leave rim and HP?

    • Steve

      I thought the third ecosystem was RIM. Or was it WebOS?

    • asymco

      You mean where does "a plan" leave companies with shipping products? I'd say exactly where they are now.

    • Hamranhansenhansen

      It's not about knowing how to develop apps, it's about actually developing, shipping, and selling apps. The "third ecosystem" has not been "established". It will be established when there are millions of users buying billions of copies of hundreds of thousands of apps.

      Yes, Windows or Xbox developers have an advantage over other developers when they move to Windows Phone 7, but that is way overstated. The same is true for Mac developers moving to iOS, but iOS developers are not just Mac developers, they are all kinds of developers. A lot of coders bought their first Macs in 2008 and ported their app from another platform to iOS. They learned iOS from scratch because there were users there to develop for and money to be made.

      And a key thing is that Mac OS, iOS, Windows, Xbox, PlayStation, Unix are all C language. A C developer will move over very quickly to whichever one of those platforms they are interested in developing for. Especially if there is a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow. The Objective-C language you write iOS and Mac OS apps in is 90% C, plus 10% object-oriented extensions. Every C developer already knows 90% of the language he or she needs to write an iOS app. If they have done any object-oriented development, then the other 10% is not that hard. Now, they just need to learn the Cocoa frameworks, which do a ton of work for the developer that other platforms don't do. Learning Cocoa is like meeting your new assistant.

      So in short: Microsoft's NT and Xbox developers are not sitting around waiting for a third mobile ecosystem to emerge so they can do mobile development … they are making iOS apps. Apple's developer program exploded in size over the last 4 years … the developers had to come from somewhere. I would bet you that the majority of iOS developers previously made a Windows app.

      As usual, it's shipping that matters, not talking.

    • CndnRschr

      There is an argument that Nokia moving to WP7 will result in the current WP7 licensees to re-evaluate their commitment. Clearly, Microsoft sees their partnership with Nokia as "special" and this must rile the other licensees. Since the other licensees of WP7 all have hedged their bets with Android (using very similar hardware), their stickiness to WP7 is highly dependent on how well the revenue streams do on each platform. Nokia is, in that sense, a competitive threat.

  • AlleyGator

    Nokia should stay out of the tablet business. They already have plenty of crappy products, the last thing they need to do is try and build a tablet.

    As for Microsoft's tablets: Ballmer lacks focus. You know that in the back of his mind, he's planning to create Windows Tablet 7, but what he's actually delivering is Windows 7 and a stylus. So Microsoft won't have tablets.

    Maybe next year.

    • If they don't get in the Tablet biz then they will suffer in the smartphone biz via failure to attract developers. As Horace points out very well.

      • It is no longer Nokia's job to attract developers. They utterly ditched their own set. Fortunately, Microsoft is good at attracting them.

      • Microsoft are not going to attract Nokia's developers, oh no.

        Nokia's devs have spent the last year or so moving to Qt which runs on Symbian, MeeGo, Maemo, Android, iOS, WebOS, Blackberry Playbook even but not Windows Phone.

    • FalKirk

      "Nokia should stay out of the tablet business."-AlleyGator

      If you're going to stay out of the tablet business, you might just as well stay out of the mobile business. People are not going to own just a phone or just a tablet or just a computer. They're going to own all three. And once they buy one device, they're probably going to buy other devices that run the same operating system as that device does.

      If you're not going to compete in the phone AND the tablet AND the notebook markets, you might as well go home.

      • Jens

        Absolutely. I've already noticed how this is affecting my buying pattern. I prefer apps that sync between Mac, iPhone and iPad. It's worth a premium even! Pity those that don't compete on desktop, phone and pad (Tablet); and that's both OS and app developers.

  • Micrsoft probably has them in the labs, but is afraid to release them out of fear of uprooting Windows, their biggest moneymaker. The Windows division wants to shoehorn Windows 7 onto a tablet, while the WP7 division wants to use their OS on it. 

    As CEO, it’s ultimatley Ballmer’s job to choose which one to use. But it seems he’s chosen the wrong strategy. I’d wager he’s chosen the Windows 7 strategy for one of two reasons:

    1. He really doesn’t get it. 
    2. He doesn’t want to upset the people in the Windows division. 

    For Microsoft’s sake I hope it’s the latter, since that can be overcome. But with Ballmer I’m really not too sure. 

    • Yowsers

      I think their expectation and intention is that the OEMs, enterprise IT depts and users will want thier current PC system extended onto a new tablet form factor. Much of the anti-iPad punditry's reviews seem to hold similar expectations as well ("It doesn't run Flash!"; "It's for consumption only!"; "You can't do production work on it!" and so on).

      That's rather obvious, but I think if forms a huge part of their thinking here. They can't quite shake it, either, which is why it overlaps with the "they don't get it" reason.

      As for not upsetting people in the Windows division — he may have gotten over that given the number of heads that have been lopped off recently. It is an entrenched division, though, so they'll always carry a considerable weight in the product design and decision process.

    • Iosweeky

      Microsoft already sells windows for tablets – it's must so crappy no one buys it. Remember the wonderful HP slate? Windows "tablets" have been shipping for years, it's basically just windows with a touch screen though, and the iPad has redefined what a tablet computer is to the point where windows versions are unrecognizable as being in the same space (which they aren't)

  • WP7 seems to be a natural fit on a tablet form factor. The Metro UI feels like it was built for a tablet (due to all the horizontal swiping), but shoehorned onto phones, for now.

    So why is MS so reticent to make that a reality? Is it because MS tried so hard to place the full Windows on a tablet for 10 years, and failed to create that marketplace? Does running Windows on a tablet still make sense, given today's emphasis on small, simple, joyful mobile applications?

    How much longer can this hubris last?

  • This confusion has it's genesis in the mind of Steve Ballmer. He has never had a clear understanding of his own company nor its products. He has no strategy or vision but only surveys the world under the broad rubric of "computers" and, wherever he sees money being made, he orders his minions to duplicate and destroy. One year he sees Playstation and Nintendo and decides Microsoft must dominate games. Another year he sees Netscape and decides Microsoft must be all about browsers. iPod leads him to Zune. it goes on and on, leaving Microsoft constantly behind in the development cycle for everything and requiring huge truckloads of cash to be spent trying to catch up.

    It must be exhausting to be Steve Ballmer and worse to work for him.

  • MS has an *existing* OS that would be *great* for tablets, but it won't make one. Why? Because it's waiting for an OS that does *not exist* and would be *bad* for tablets.

    Oy veh.

  • HTG

    Balmer was famous for screeching 'Developers, Developers, Developers!!!!!' But that now seems to have passed MSFT by… wonder what he is screeching now… 'Where is my f*****g tablet, er slate, er pad???!!!!!'

    The mind boggleth…

  • OpenMind

    Balmer is John Sculley of Apple. Good luck to you, Microsoft. Revenge is sweet, Apple.

  • Good discussion. My humble two bobs worth: ‘Unleashing the Killer App’ published late 90’s got it right:- “canabilise yourself before you get eaten” as did ‘Lovemarks’ published early 2000 – “it’s about the heart not the head” Consumers ‘love’ Apple, but now – so does the enterprise as the ‘head’ also ‘gets’ the new ‘shift from hi tech to hi touch’ No more silo riddled and costly IT eco system thinking. So it’s – Goodbye Microsoft, Rim, Nokia hello Collaboration, Cloud, Apple, Google.

    • FalKirk

      "it's about the heart not the head"

      I like that. It's probably why Apple is so misunderstood. While others focus on physical things like specs, Apple focuses on psychological things like how a computer "feels". Other try to make our computers better. Apple tries to make our lives better. It's all about the heart.

      • Yep, I was thanking Apple this afternoon when I found that in their quest to make the Mac more like iOS, they'd removed batch rotate in iPhoto.

        I "loved" doing 104 pictures manually.

  • charlesarthur

    I did ask Stephen Elop directly about a tablet strategy, and he said that Nokia can, and it would be built on Microsoft's tablet strategy, which is on Windows, not Windows Phone.

    At some point I'll get around to the transcription…

    From Microsoft's point of view, a Windows Phone licence gets about $15; a Windows licence, about $40. So *obviously* it's better to sell Windows licences. The only flaw in this logic being that selling any number greater than zero of WP licences is a better revenue earner than selling zero Windows licences.

    • They could produce a dual-boot tablet with WP7/8 (pretty lightweight, fast to boot up) and Win 8. It would be a huge seller and solve the licensing dilemma you point out.

      But it's not an option until Windows can run on ARM. Hence the one thousand Microsoft engineers toiling night and day on Windows for ARM (I'm picturing the underground miners working for Sauron in Lord of the Rings).

      • Other option is Intel finally get an Atom chipset (Medfield might be it) that competes at about the same power usage as ARM chips typical in tablets.

        Dual boot is silly though – that's two licences to pay for and two lots of everything.

      • Hamranhansenhansen

        Dual-boot would expose the fact that Windows PC 7 and Windows Phone 7 are not both the same operating system. Ballmer has already flat out told us that they are the same.

        Dual-boot has lots of other problems, though. It ruins the simplicity of Windows Phone 7 (it's one and only redeeming feature) and also manages the almost unthinkable feat of making Windows PC 7 more complicated.

    • asymco

      This is what is reasonable to expect. A dual mobile OS strategy: one for tablets and notebooks and one for pocket-sized devices. I'm sure it's very logically laid out as a strategy for both companies. It's also wrong.

  • FalKirk

    Let’s take a step back and see how this all developed.

    In 2006, Microsoft’s operating system had a desktop and notebook monopoly. They were also one of the leading smartphone makers – the favorite to dominate that category for the next decade.

    In 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone. I would argue that the iPhone was really a small tablet that happened to make phone calls. With the beneftif of hindsight, we now know that this did (at least) two things to Microsoft.

    First, it made Microsoft’s mobile phone offereings obsolete. There was no amount of money or effort that could make the existing Microsoft phones competitive with the iPhone. The entire line had to be abandoned.

    Second, Apple introduced an operating system (iOS) to compete with Microsoft’s Windows. More on this later.

    In 2010, Apple introduced the iPad. Microsoft had just spent an entire decade trying, and failing, to create the tablet category. Apple created that new category in less than three months. Why did Apple succeed where Microsoft had so utterly failed?

    Bill Gates was so very close to getting it right. He forsaw the coming of tablets long, long before others did. But he thought of tablets as a way to make desktop operating systems more mobile. If you want to move a mouse-driven desktop operating system to a tablet, the only way to do it is with a stylus. A stylus is required to provide the pixel specific input that a mouse driven operating system demands.

    There are (at least) three reasons why the Apple’s tablet succeeded: a) instant on; b) all day battery life; and c) a Touch (finger) Operating System. Of those three, I would contend that the Touch Operating system was the most important, by far. Apple realized that a new form factor required a new input solution. and they realized that a new input solution required a wholly new Operating System.

    This is the one great lesson of the iPad: A tablet requires a touch operating system built specifically for the form factor. In the Spring of 2010 you could be forgiven for not seeing this. Few people did. I remember many an Apple supporter who bemoaned the fact that Apple had choosen to go with iOS rather that a “real” operating system like OS X on Apple’s upcoming tablet.

    You could be forgiven for not seeing this one great truth in the Spring of 2011. But it would be utter folly not to see it today. And yet, that appears to be exactly what Ballmer is doing. He continues to maintian that the world is flat even as his competition circumnavigates the globe. He continues to maintain that a tablet requires a desktop Operating System optimized for the form factor rather than acknowledging that a tablet requires an Operating System that is uniquely its own.

    So now it’s 2011 and from Microsoft’s perspective, what do you have? The first thing you have is the loss of your monopoly. Windows Operating System – both your Golden Goose and your impregnable fortress that could not be breached – has been flanked. Apple didn’t attack Windows – they simply bypassed it by creating an alternative Operating System. I’ll bet that if you went back to 2006 you wouldn’t have found 100 people who would have said that it was possible to create a brand spanking new Operating System that could successfully compete with Windows. And I’ll further bet that half of those people who said that it could be done, worked for Apple.

    The second thing you have is a competing Operating System that is so different from your own that any software that runs on it must be built anew from the ground up. And that means that your other Golden Goose, the Windows Office Suite, is no longer the de facto standard. How can it be when it does not – and more importantly CAN NOT – run on iOS or ANY Operating System suitable for a tablet?

    So wither Microsoft? They can try to catch up – a herculean task that they seem unsuited for – or they can go in a different direction. So long as Ballmer heads Microsoft, I think that Microsoft will stay the course and try to catch up. And that is why I don’t think Ballmer will be heading Microsoft for very much longer.

    • First, I think that Win 8 will be retooled for multi-touch friendliness, taking cues from what Apple showed in OS X Lion (as Jobs used to say, 'Redmond, start your photocopiers!). This will make Win 8 tolerable on a tablet.

      Second, Apple has not yet killed the cash cow. A tablet is still a second or third device for any office worker (after a desktop and a notebook; or just a notebook), so it barely rattles Microsoft's enterprise gravy train. For consumers it's a very different story of course.

      I think a dual-boot WP8 and Win8 tablet could be huge. It's a ahem… 'real PC' for when you need one and a slick touch tablet using Windows Phone most of the time.

      • FalKirk

        @rurikbradbury, I understand your position. I respect your position. I think you speak eloquently for a lot of very savvy tech people. However I think you've got it completely wrong. If it's any comfort, you're in good company. A whole lot of people, presumably including Ballmer, agree with you.

        "I think that Win 8 will be retooled for multi-touch friendliness"

        This is exactly the problem, not the solution. Microsoft is going to retool Windows instead of creating a true tablet operating system. A true touch operating system, integrated to every aspect of the tablet, is THE KEY to explaining the massive success of the iPad.

        "A tablet is still a second or third device for any office worker"

        Nokia still sells far more feature phones today than anybody else ever will. Should that be any comfort to them? No. Because feature phones are diminishing in importance and smartphones are taking their place.

        There will be 40 to 60 million tablets sold this year. In the very near future there will be more tablets sold than desktop computers. In the not so distant future, there will be 2 tablets sold for every desktop sold. Long before then, the hierarchy of devices used by the office worker will have inverted to become phone, tablet, notebook/desktop. Microsoft and its' two cash cows are stranded on notebooks and desktops. And with the notebook and desktop base ever diminishing compared to mobile devices, those cash cows will likewise diminish or perhaps even fade away.

      • chano

        Wrong I think. A pad of some kind will become the sole computing tool for most office staff. Only those who really really need a DT or LT will get one imo. I give it 5 years to see 50% penetration of tablets.
        Also, iWork is more than good enough for 85% of office workers and the licensing arrangements Apple provides are a revelation in fairness. Check the pricing of the unlimited version of OSX Server, for example.

      • Perhaps you should try sitting down in front of an iPad on a desk and attempt to do serious work for an entire day before you predict that.

        I have a number for a chiropractor when you're done.

      • unhinged

        It appears you have no experience of docking stations. Connect a keyboard to the iPad and you can have it fixed in position like the screen of a desktop. When you need the touch interface it is for brief moments so you don't have to pick up the device (for those times when you need the touch interface frequently and regularly, you would of course pick it up so you're not having to extend your arm and keep it raised).

        I would also point out that sitting down in front of a desktop PC (and especially a laptop that has not been suitably mounted) for an entire day is pretty stressful already. The joy of an iPad is that for a lot of tasks if you need to change your posture or your location you can just pick up the device and keep going.

      • Dual-boot sounds great in theory, but in practice probably means a compromise of a product.
        Mobile computing is a disruptive innovation, i.e. it is competing on different metrics vs. PC – performance is less defined by horsepower / features and more by mobility and battery life. It's exactly why ARM is undermining Intel.
        To compete against such disruptive innovation, you can't have compromises

      • Hamranhansenhansen

        > I think a dual-boot WP8 and Win8 tablet could be huge.

        I don't think there has ever been a dual-boot device that has even been moderately successful, let alone huge. That is double the complexity, and less complexity is what always succeeds. Further, although an iPad is great on its own, it's also great when you use it in concert with a notebook. For example, last night I was writing Web code on a MacBook Air and using an iPad right next to it to read an HTML5 reference book and test my work in the browser. So iPad is a smart second screen next to a notebook. I don't want to boot up Mac OS on the iPad and lose the use of the iPad.

        > A tablet is still a second or third device for any office worker
        > (after a desktop and a notebook; or just a notebook)

        I don't think the tablet is a secondary device. I'm as much of a Mac person as can possibly be. I carried a Mac with me everywhere for years, but iPad became my primary computer right away, and my Macs are now just for work only. I need to read the Web 24/7, but I only need to make Web pages 8 hours per day, 5 days per week. The notebook becomes a secondary machine. The iPad is like a briefcase you carry everywhere, and a notebook is like a typewriter you use at the office.

        You can see with phones, a lot of people had mobile phones as a secondary phone to their desktop phone, but then the mobile became their main phone. I think the mobile PC does the same thing.

    • Jens

      <And that is why I don’t think Ballmer will be heading Microsoft for very much longer.>

      Not going to happen for a while. a) Micosoft is still insanely profitable b) Ballmer is a large shareholder himself and has Gates backing. The Board is not going to fire him unless one or both of those is no longer the case. And that is going to take a while.

      • FalKirk

        You may well be right. The fact that Ballmer is cleaning house (a half-empty house, admittedly) seems to indicate that he's in firm control. I know little to nothing of Microsoft's in-house politics. Logic may dictate that he should go. But there are many things in this world that are far more powerful than logic.

    • Hamranhansenhansen

      > In 2006, Microsoft’s operating system had a desktop and notebook monopoly.

      Microsoft had and still does have a monopoly in third party PC operating systems, but never a monopoly in desktops and notebook PC's. iPhone was not the first threat. 2006 is the Intel Mac, which took 90% of the high-end PC market, pushing Microsoft PC's downmarket and taking the money out of Microsoft's user base. This was a key reason Vista failed. By the time it shipped in 2007, there were no high-end PC's to run its high-end features. It was made for $1000 PC's but all of Microsoft's hardware makers were selling $500 PC's.

      > Bill Gates was so very close to getting it right. He forsaw the coming of tablets
      > long, long before others did.

      No, he did not. There were non-Microsoft tablets in the 1980's that nobody wanted, and then there were non-Microsoft tablets in the early 1990's that nobody wanted, and then there were Microsoft tablets in the late 1990's and early 2000's that nobody wanted. Apple shipped the Newton in early 1993, and Microsoft shipped their first tablet product "Windows for Pen Computing" in late 1993, which was Newtony features bolted onto Windows 3.1.

      The Newton was a touchscreen handheld with ARM architecture, flash storage, and modem that featured a custom built OS and apps for calendaring, contacts, Web, email, and others, and that synced with your Mac or PC. You can draw a straight line from Newton to iPod to iPhone to iPad, without going anywhere near TabletPC or anything Microsoft did. Apple even co-developed the ARM chip. All the ARM devices descend from Newton.

      > This is the one great lesson of the iPad: A tablet requires a touch operating
      > system built specifically for the form factor. In the Spring of 2010 you could
      > be forgiven for not seeing this.

      No way. The iPhone already schooled the world in this subject in 2007. The lack of little windows and menus was revolutionary. The main interface feature on iPhone is *buttons* instead of windows and menus. Of course this is relevant to any touch device, no matter what size. So no, no excuse for not getting it with tablets after iPhone.

      What happened is that Microsoft did a ton of work to steal the Mac interface, and they didn't want to give it up so easily. Apple was more willing to give it up because having created it, they knew they could create something else.

      > I’ll bet that if you went back to 2006 you wouldn’t have found 100 people
      > who would have said that it was possible to create a brand spanking new
      > Operating System that could successfully compete with Windows.

      iOS is not brand spanking new, it's just a new user interface and application interface on OS X, which had already been competing successfully with Windows for 5 years in 2006, and it was not brand spanking new in 2001, either … its parent operating systems (Mac, NeXT) had been competing with Windows since the 1980's.

      > The second thing you have is a competing Operating System that is so
      > different from your own that any software that runs on it must be built
      > anew from the ground up.

      No, a key feature of iOS is it runs native C apps. You can port a Windows app fairly easily. You don't have to rewrite it, you don't have to build it anew from the ground up. That is a stark contrast to all the other mobiles that run Java and so you have to create apps from the ground up. Hence, very few apps.

      > And that means that your other Golden Goose, the Windows Office Suite,
      > is no longer the de facto standard.

      This is totally in Microsoft's hands. They could have made an iOS version of Microsoft Office in 2008. In fact, Microsoft Office is a Mac application, it has been running on the Mac since 1985, well before there was even a Windows to run it, and it has been running on OS X for about 10 years now. They could have ported it from Mac OS to iOS and it would still in both cases be on OS X. The fact that there is no iOS version of Microsoft Office is just continued mismanagement from Microsoft.

      > So wither Microsoft? They can try to catch up – a herculean task that they seem unsuited for

      That is all they have ever done. Copy and catch up. However, the world used to move a lot slower, and they could do illegal things to kill competitors and make their own low quality products viable. Now, by the time they build a copy of something, the world has already forgotten about the original thing. Look at Zune, always offering you whatever generation of iPod had just gone out of style.

      • FalKirk

        "This is the one great lesson of the iPad: A tablet requires a touch operating system built specifically for the form factor. In the Spring of 2010 you could be forgiven for not seeing this."-FalKirk

        "No way. The iPhone already schooled the world in this subject in 2007…So no, no excuse for not getting it with tablets after iPhone."-Hamranhansenhansen

        Well, maybe we SHOULD have gotten it after the iPhone. But I know a whole lot of very smart people – Apple fans included, who most assuredly did not get it, at leas not until well after the iPad debuted.

        "What happened is that Microsoft did a ton of work to steal the Mac interface, and they didn't want to give it up so easily. Apple was more willing to give it up because having created it, they knew they could create something else."-Hamranhansenhansen

        I loved that comment. Great stuff.

      • John

        Yes, tablets existed before Bill Gates made his famous prediction about tablets, but the point is that no one else saw (or said in such a prominent way) the rise of tablets to be a major force in computing, even replacing "real" computers. Give him a little credit (and trust me, I loathe Bill Gates).

        And no, iOS is not a "new" operating system, but it has a completely reinvented UI. Close enough for this discussion.

        And no, unless your code is very well-written and unless your application has far fewer features than most, it's not trivial to port a C-based application to iOS. How would you port Microsoft Word to the iPad without dropping 90% of its features?

    • Great comment but not factually accurate. There were lots of comments like this "I remember many an Apple supporter who bemoaned the fact that Apple had choosen to go with iOS rather that a “real” operating system like OS X on Apple’s upcoming tablet" in the press when the iPad came out but they were not fact ether.
      iOS is a fork in the OSX tree, they are the same with only two differences,
      One if currently complied for intel X86 and the other is complied for ARM
      And the libraries (most of which are the same) – iOS has less and adds touch, phone and touch
      There is not reason that the Mac OS can not add these soon.

      And MSFT / Bill Gates did not foresee anything he was paranoid of people like grid and the newton, and copied or stole from the early pen computer developers. They never got the idea of the touch interface just like it took them 3 to 5 years to get the idea of the mouse interface, they saw windows not the mouse as the key to the Alto/Mac interface, jut as they see the tablet form factor not the touch interface as they key to iOS.

    • Late 1960s Alan Kay of Xerox PARC proposed a notebook using pen input called Dynabook: however device is never constructed.

      1989 The first commercially available tablet-type portable computer was the GRiDPad[26] from GRiD Systems, released in September. Its operating system was based on MS-DOS.

      1991 GO Corp announced a dedicated operating system, called PenPoint OS, featuring control of the operating system desktop via handwritten gesture shapes. Gestures included "flick" gestures in different directions, check-marks, cross-outs, pig-tails, and circular shapes, among others.

      1991 The Apple Newton entered development; although it ultimately became a PDA, its original concept (which called for a larger screen and greater sketching capabilities) resembled that of a tablet PC.

      1992 GO Corp shipped PenPoint
      Microsoft releases Windows for Pen Computing as a response to the PenPoint OS.

      1993 Apple Computer announces the Newton PDA, also known as the Apple MessagePad, which includes handwriting recognition with a stylus.

      2001 Bill Gates of Microsoft demonstrates first public prototype of a Tablet PC

      2003 Fingerworks develops the touch technology and touch gestures later used in the Apple IPhone.

  • Paul Russo

    > Apple didn’t attack Windows – they simply bypassed
    > it by creating an alternative Operating System

    Yes. Disruption.

    It's like the Maginot Line, which seemed impenetrable in 1939. In 1940 the Germans went around it.

    A Windows killer, an iPod killer, or an iPhone killer are unlikely to be successful because they attack an opponent where it's strong. Better to attack an opponent where it's weak.

    Remember that the iPhone and the iPad were both jokes when they first came out. They filled a market space that nobody thought existed. Then employees brought them through the back door, bypassing IT. Each became huge later, but by then it was too late.

    I'm sure that The Art of War has a lot to say about all this.

    • FalKirk

      "It's like the Maginot Line, which seemed impenetrable in 1939. In 1940 the Germans went around it."

      One of my favorite analogies. And yes, if Steve Jobs hasn't read the Sun Tzu and the Art of War, he's certainly master many of its principles.

      • asymco

        Not to be pedantic, but there is a myth around the flanking of the Maginot line. The French were not fools. The line ended where it did because there were continuing lines of fortification built by the Belgians. The key to the defense was the Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium. It was defeated through an airborne attack with glider-based troops landing on its roof. The fortifications of Maginot line fell because of a new technology, not because of foolish planning. See:

      • FalKirk

        True. (I love this stuff. I could talk about it all day). Sometimes the analogy is more important than the reality. The lesson taken from the Maginot line was about fixed fortifications. Once one part of the line was breached, the remainder of the line was useless. The guns literally pointed the wrong way.

        Similarly, Window's lines of defense were so magnificent that it lead to a sense of complacency. Their "guns" were pointed directly toward desktops OS' like OS X. Once iOS – a mobile OS – got on their flank and rear, their fixed defensive positions became more of a hinderance than a help.

        Carrying the analogy to the next level, if France had not built the Maginot line, they probably would have been forced to have poured resources into the development of mobile tanks. Similarly, if Microsoft hadn't felt so safe behind their seemingly impregnable Windows monopoly, they probably would have been forced to have poured resources into the development of the mobile platforms.

    • Hamranhansenhansen

      All warfare is based on deception.

      Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable;
      when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we
      are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away;
      when far away, we must make him believe we are near.


      An army may march great distances without distress, if it marches through country where the enemy is not.


      At first, then, exhibit the coyness of a maiden, until the enemy gives you an opening; afterwards emulate the rapidity of a running hare, and it will be too late for the enemy to oppose you.


      If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.

  • PeterScott

    There was clearly a decision point in 2010 to abandon WinCE tablet OS, and go with a full desktop windows as their tablet solution.

    In June they were previewing WinEC7 tablets with ASUS. In fact the ASUS transformer was supposed to be a WinEC tablet.

    But at some point it was canned and Asus went Android and Microsoft when back to Windows (NT kernel) everywhere.

    This was further solidified at CES when they showed Win8 SoC. This is their tablet solution. Win8 (NT kernel) on lighter weight hardware (maybe even ARM), to save power/battery life.

  • The technically correct answer would be that Nokia's tablet has been available for years just not in the form that Apple have redefined as a tablet.

    I would bet that the sole MeeGo device Nokia are saying they'll ship this year will be more iPad like and less N900 like. Rumour had it that it didn't have a keyboard for instance, which is a pity really as I hate virtual keyboards.

    • Charel

      But you can attach a bluetooth keyboard to the iPad if that is a problem for you.

      • What's the point ? May as well carry a MacBook Air instead.

        The N900 is an infinitely capable little computer that is not limited by what it's parent company says it can do. The iPad is a big iPod Touch managed by a control freak. Therein lies the problem for me. I was looking forward to the next N900, not the next iPad copy.

        But, I'm the sort of person where being able to type Ctrl-X in nano is important, not wether it has Facebook on it or not.

    • Hamranhansenhansen

      Bluetooth keyboards are a dime a dozen.

    • I'm reading this (and typing this reply) on an iPad witih an Apple wireless keyboard. I leave the keyboard in the car and just bring it in someplace when I know I plan to be writing a lot. It's just not an issue.

  • I seems to me that Windows for ARM will compete against the likes of what comes from Apple after Lion, Chrome OS, webOS … Just as Intel (with Atom) and ARM (with A15) are converging on their ways, respectively down and up, so seem to be Desktop and Mobile OSes. It will probably take 3-5 years to get a clear picture.

  • ¿How is the new personal computing landscape (from TV and desktop to phone) to be articulated? That's the question! Everything seems to flow: hardware architectures, OS es, storage (from HDDs to SSDs and the cloud) …

  • Paradise Pete

    It’s amazing that in less than a single year we’ve gone from “Tablets will flop” to “Where is their tablet?”

    • John

      Actually, we're pretty much at the intersection: where is their tablet that we're sure will flop?

      • Iosweeky

        Wasn't that the HP Slate?

  • F-Tim

    MS serves business community, & Apple has captured the heart of the consumer market. Why does that matter? Because how many people work in the field and already use (or could use) an ultra mobile "tablet" -type solution? A LOT. My former employer would probably purchase 5000 ultra mobile devices that could make calls, had wi-fi, AND ran windows. The reason is b/c companies all over the planet have teams of IT geeks using Visual Studio to crank out robust apps. Training those employees to develop for a new O/S, whether it's WP7 or a brand new tablet O/S is expensive. Let me just say that I think Balmer has done a terrible job as CEO, but I think he realizes there's a whole big corporate market out there that wants a windows-based tablet solution, and he'll probably deliver. We'll think it's stupid and we'll never buy one for our home. MS won't care b/c companies will pay 3X as much as you or I would for that tablet PC simply b/c it's mobile, can makes calls, and most importantly, it runs Windows. MS knows where it gets it's revenue, and it's not from the consumer market. Xbox is huge, but it still only generates about 6-7% of their total revenue.