Ballmer Talks Up Tablets, Says Windows 7 Slate on Its Way
It’s deja vu all over again: As ZDNet’s Mary-Jo Foley is reporting, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer talked up Windows 7 “slate PCs” during his keynote at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington DC:
Microsoft and its existing PC partners, including Asus, Dell, Samsung, Toshiba and Sony, will all be fielding Windows 7 slates in the coming months, Ballmer said. These slates will be available at a variety of price points and in a variety of form factors — with keyboards, touch only, dockable, able to handle digital ink, etc.
It sounds eerily similar to Ballmer’s CES keynote back in January, during which he… talked up slate PCs, from a different set of manufacturers. The centerpiece of that keynote was HP’s slate, which subsequently went into limbo. All evidence suggests it’s been canned–as Mary-Jo notes, HP’s name was strikingly absent from Ballmer’s new list of slate backers.
HP’s Phil McKinney is speaking at the MobileBeat conference in San Francisco on HP’s “vision for next-generation connected devices. It’s his first conference appearance since HP’s acquisition of Palm was finalized, and perhaps he’ll use the occasion to officially acknowledge that HP is working on a tablet device that runs WebOS, not Windows.
Ballmer’s new comments about devices with keyboards and digital ink suggest that at least some of the slates may resemble Tablet PCs more than they do the iPad. In some ways that’s logical: The more a Windows 7 slate looks like a PC, the more likely it is that it’ll be able to provide a decent experience. (I still don’t see how you can make typical Windows apps such as Microsoft Word or Photoshop Elements work well on a gadget if the only available input devices are your fingertips.)
Except…Microsoft tried to get the world interested in Tablet PCs. For years. It didn’t work.
One other gigantic question: Does Microsoft plan to do any further customization to Windows 7 to make it slate-friendly, or does it expect hardware makers to create their own touch interfaces, as HP has done with its TouchSmart PCs? Repurposing Windows for a slate sounds a bit like using the engine from a family sedan in a sports car; it might work, but it’s hard to imagine it working without a lot of tweaks…