Predictions have been made by tech pundits and analysts about the death of Microsoft for its lack of vision in Tablet space. People have often criticized Microsoft for not having come up with a good usable tablet device. Microsoft in fact was one of the first companies which actually experimented with the tablet for factor. Many things went against Microsoft in the first half of the decade when it was tried with the tablet form factor.
1. Mobility & Internet: Those were the days when broadband still trying to catch up to the dial up, forget having 3G and other highly mobile and fast internet speeds. Most of the applications and programs we use in tablets today would have been totally useless if it weren’t for these high speed internet connectivity on them.
2. Hardware: Those were the days when low powered x86 processors were not around, most of the chip making companies focused on packing more power as opposed to making power efficient designs. Heck, the first Atom processor came to market in 2008. Hardware is one of the main culprit, tablets simply didn’t have the power to run for decently long time on windows. Even capacitative touch was also quite expensive for main stream market then.
3. The Price: The price of Tablets running Windows XP ran in 1500 $, the price for value proposition was very low. Imagine a consumer buying a premium priced product for half the utility of an actual device.
4. Computer Penetration: In early part the decade, Desktops served pretty well for people’s computing needs. (This was time when laptops/notebook/netbook penetration was not so high). It would have been extremely difficult for the consumer to choose tablet ahead of a laptop if one had to choose a between the two (cause of the obvious disadvantages tablets have)
5. GUI: Early tablets were optimized for stylus and not finger touch, hence MS didn’t feel the need to re-work the UI for touch. More over Microsoft always looked at tablets as being productivity devices, as opposed to being a media consumption device. Sales of Apple’s iPad & Android’s Samsung Galaxy tab indicate that tablets as consumption devices are good enough for general public.
It wouldn’t have taken much time for Microsoft to slap Windows Phone 7 OS onto a tablet. Microsoft is still reluctant to deliver a stripped down version of its regular windows or a windows CE OS and push it tablet market. Part of reason being that, Microsoft believes tablets should be fully powered devices, capable of doing everything a laptop or a desktop could. As more and more people start using tablets, they might feel the need to a have more powerful and functional tablets so that they can replace their laptops/notebooks altogether. This is where MS is holding their aces much ahead of all its competitors in tablet space. Microsoft has done more research on Tablets than other company (like the Courier project). If it can incorporate and execute some design learning from the Courier project into Windows 8, we might have a great UI for Windows 8 for tablets. While this is happening, Microsoft is completely missing a whole cycle of tablet sales (just like the phone). This is a risky proposition cause competition likely will rake in billions of dollars before Microsoft comes up with a tablet optimized for touch, which will likely be Windows 8 device on ARM.