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Handhelds Microsoft Portables

Microsoft's Risky Tablet Announcement 338

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the lets-table-this-tablet dept.
itwbennett writes "The New York Times describes the tablet announcement that Steve Ballmer is supposed to make in his CES opening keynote tonight as 'one of Steve Ballmer's riskiest trade show moves in years.' And blogger Peter Smith is in complete agreement. Here's why: 'Whether or not this announcement is intended as a direct response to the much-rumored Apple event that may or may not be happening on January 27th, consumers will perceive it as one,' says Smith. And if Microsoft unveils a traditional tablet then 'they'll be up against the (presumably more expensive) iTablet and the cult of Apple.' But if the device is the dual-screen Courier that we heard about back in September then it'll be up against the (presumably less expensive) enTourage eDGe, says Smith."
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Microsoft's Risky Tablet Announcement

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:14PM (#30672566) Journal

    So the last thing Mr. Ballmer wants to hold up is a me-too device.

    Huh, and here I was thinking that was precisely what he wanted to hold up. A "Me-Too" device that is the only authorized Windows Tablet for Windows 7. And it will sync with all your Microsoft crap and even let you carry around your Microsoft DRM'd media. Just like I'm sure Apple's tablet will do the same thing with Apple replaced for Microsoft.

    Meanwhile here I'll sit with my eeePC running some flavor of Linux wondering when I'll get a tablet that provides support for open source.

    Whether or not this announcement is intended as a direct response to the much-rumored Apple event that may or may not be happening on January 27th, consumers will perceive it as one

    Oh no! Then surely consumers will see this as Microsoft entering another market they aren't experts in and not buy the MS Tablet just like how no one bought the original XBox ... oh, wait. Well, surely all those consumers will see through this ruse just like they did when Microsoft released the Zune ... oh, wait, that's still being shoved down our throats and people are still buying it.

    And if Microsoft unveils a traditional tablet then 'they'll be up against the (presumably more expensive) iTablet and the cult of Apple.' But if the device is the dual-screen Courier, that we heard about back in September then it'll be up against the (presumably less expensive) enTourage eDGe

    And the fact of the matter is that it doesn't matter if the market is large enough. Take the PS3 Vs XBox360 vs Wii console war. The XBox360 wasn't as powerful or as expensive as the PS3 yet wasn't as cheap as the Wii. And yet people gobbled them up.

    The sad fact of the matter is that when you're the top dog in a lucrative industry and you're generating epic revenue, you have this peculiar ability to pay people to assess markets and then simply enter them by mirroring your opponents' every move in those markets. And you know what? With a good enough marketing team and a big enough brand name, you can't fail. Two tired adages: 1) You need money to make money. 2) The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. These apply on all scales.

    For how much us tech savvy people will be able to bash Microsoft's tablet, it will turn a profit. Trust me, I don't say that as a fan I say that as a fact.

  • Old Story (Score:1, Insightful)

    by GottMitUns (1012191) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:18PM (#30672614)
    This is Deja Vu all over again. They already had a bunch of pushes for Tablets. Like here:http://www.pencomputing.com/frames/tablet_pc.html [pencomputing.com] Tablet PC is no go. Get over it.
  • by psbrogna (611644) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:21PM (#30672660)
    Garnering majority market share may be a given but making a profit at it is is not and should be considered an independent variable. They spend a metric-butt-ton of money on marketing getting the market share AND they subsidize costs of entry (and even consumer costs; ie. selling a STB below cost) with other parts of the empire (ie. making a profit on titles when they sell a STB cost). While your evidence is compelling, it supports the former case (market lead) and not the latter (profitability).
  • by Vandil X (636030) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:25PM (#30672726)
    Including the ability for me to skin the UI with an LCARS theme without "jailbreaking" or flashing custom firmware.

    I'm serious.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:26PM (#30672750)

    I think the NYT is reading too much into this. First of all, Apple has it's own market. The folks who buy their products and are fans are not going to be swayed too much, if at all, by a cheaper price from MS for a similar gadget. Apple has proven that they can charge what they charge and their market sticks with them: the early adopters will pay the price. And those who won't pay the price will wait because we know that Apple will drop the price in the future.

    The MS market is for those of us that are price conscious, the corporate market that locked themselves into MS solutions, and believe it or not, there are folks who actually like MS and HP products and even prefer them over Apple.

    My point is that Apple is in their own league (and market) and any announcement from MS et al. isn't for their (Apple's or their users) benefit - it's for the MS fans that may want a tablet device. It also shows that MS is "keeping up".

    MS isn't the power house that they once were. They're more like the obese ex-college football star that thinks they're still the big fast hunk they once were - that's another post from the Anonymous Business and Marketing Analyst.

  • by Rikiji7 (1182159) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:27PM (#30672758) Homepage
    Windows tablet pc edition is already in the wild, and nobody cares about it. This is just a poor-marketing-dept reply to apple's itablet/hugeiphone.
  • Yeah! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:29PM (#30672776)

    This is going to be WAY cooler than Windows XP Tablet Edition running on the Compaq Tablet that it was introduced with. Or Vista with built in Tablet Extensions that MS demoed a while back. Yay!!!! Windows 7 Tablet!!! it will be great where the two previous attempted failed miserably because it's new!

  • Re:Old Story (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:29PM (#30672778)

    I beg to differ.

    There's nothing that equals the experience of using a Tablet PC, whether you are browsing the internet, drawing, playing stupid multitouch games, or taking notes in class.
    The only thing Microsoft got wrong with it is that they've never made the mere existence of the platform known to the normal people. I've lost the count of the times I took my tablet out to take notes and the people next to me dropped their jaws when i converted it to slate mode and started writing on it.

    The Tablet PC is one of the few things I admire Microsoft for, even though saying I'm hostile to them is an euphemism on may occasions.

  • by protosage (752297) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:34PM (#30672850)
    The NYT article is ridiculous. Granted Apple will probably release a tablet like device or at least announce it in the next month or so. However how can MS/HP announce a me-too device without there being a device to emulate? What's unfortunate is that as usual the Mac boosters in the media who believe that the Mac is the be all for all users are going to pass judgement on this device by comparing it to the mythical Apple tablet. It's like comparing a good race horse to a unicorn sure that horse is fast, but it's not a magical and can't fly. (Granted Apple may deliver a unicorn, but the point is it just doesn't exist yet however cool it may be)
  • by digitalgiblet (530309) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:34PM (#30672856) Homepage Journal

    My favorite part is the statement in the NYT about MS releasing a "Me-Too" device.

    A "Me-Too" device that is one of a long line of such devices that have run their OS.

    A "Me-Too" device that is announced before the Apple device.

    A "Me-Too" device that is announced before the SUPPOSED Apple device that has not been confirmed by Apple.

    Enough of the silly repetition. It is getting repetitive.

    I can't say whether the MS device will be worth a spit. I can't say whether the Apple device will be worth a spit. I just like saying spit.

    Can't really say if suddenly tablets are going to be cool and people will start buying them. Bill Gates thought so back in the early '90s. Hasn't happened yet. Steve Jobs killed tablet projects like he was playing whack-a-mole for years. Who knows?

  • Year of the tablet (Score:2, Insightful)

    by joerdie (816174) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:41PM (#30672958) Homepage
    2009 was the year of the netbook, 2010 will be the year of the tablet. The problem is, tablets are so niche... and the normal consumer doesn't know.
  • by jpmorgan (517966) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:41PM (#30672968) Homepage

    You know why people buy the XBox 360, and why the ZuneHD is surprisingly popular? Because they're good products. And if the Courier is as good as some of the leaks suggest, people will buy it too.

    You can sit there with your eeePC, ranting about stupid consumers and your holy war against the Microsoft empire. The rest of us will carry on not caring.

  • by maxume (22995) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:45PM (#30673022)

    Microsoft isn't jealous of Apple's profitability, they are just looking for ways to increase their gross revenues.

    They are currently a nice bit more profitable than Apple:

    http://finance.yahoo.com/q/ks?s=MSFT [yahoo.com]
    http://finance.yahoo.com/q/ks?s=AAPL [yahoo.com]

  • by wickerprints (1094741) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:46PM (#30673036)

    So what makes Microsoft think that they can make a decent tablet?

    Seriously, think about it for a minute. Forget about all the hype, forget about Apple's tablet (which hasn't even been announced). Forget about prototypes and mockups. Look at what we already know for a fact. Look at the state of Windows Mobile. How much attention has Microsoft given it? Now consider what they did to Danger, and the whole Pink debacle spearheaded by Roz Ho. And look at what they're doing with Bing, trying to compete with Google. Finally, what happened with the Tablet PC? Remember those? I ask you in all honesty: do you think that Microsoft is actually capable of launching a touchscreen tablet device that is going to provide an elegant, rich, and relatively bug-free user experience? Do you think that they will put their weight behind a putative MS tablet?

    The problem here is that I have serious reservations about Microsoft's competence as well as their sincerity in developing and supporting such a device. I look at their track record with past initiatives and all I see are half-baked attempts. This rumor, if true, totally reeks of desperation, and I would not go near this one with a ten-foot pole. Such a device would not only have to be freaking amazing, it would have to be available by next month AND it would need to be bug-free, and cheap. In other words, it would have to be perfect now. Not in five years. Otherwise, it'll be a joke.

  • by musicalmicah (1532521) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:49PM (#30673074)
    Hasn't Microsoft only lost money on the X-Box AND the Zune? I don't see how comparing the new tablet to either of these ventures can lead to the argument that it will be successful. Sure, it'll sell, but will it profit?
  • Re:Courier (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @03:03PM (#30673270)

    The huge borders of enTourage eDGe really put me off.

    For me, it is the egregious use of funky capitalizations.

  • Re:Courier (Score:3, Insightful)

    by artemis67 (93453) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @03:06PM (#30673294)

    On the contrary, I don't really see a second screen as adding that much more value, particularly when the expanded size looks to be roughly the same as the rumored iTablet -- plus, you have the dead space of the hinge dividing the screens.

    I'm sure that there will be covers for the iTablet that will fold over the screen, just like there are for the Kindle. So the only real advantage of the Courier would be that it folds into half the length of the iTablet (while doubling the height).

  • by peter303 (12292) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @03:10PM (#30673344)
    This is got to be the longest-running MicroSoft joke: announcing vaporware as soon as a competitor does. Windows is the classic example: announced in 1984 when the Mac graphical interface was delivered. But not an usuable version until 3.1 six years later.
  • by artemis67 (93453) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @03:12PM (#30673384)

    After being stomped by Apple in the MP3 market, the digital content delivery market, and the current-gen smartphone market, I have no problem believing that Microsoft is taking their Apple rumors VERY seriously these days.

    Apple DOES try to make a profit -- that's why they typically have among the highest profit margins in the industry for their hardware.

  • by Kelz (611260) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @03:17PM (#30673468)
    Half the meaningful web is in flash, ajax, and a bunch of other stuff that doesn't run smoothly on a 400mhz small-profile CPU, especially on XP. A version of 7 should be modular enough to scale with the processing power. PROPER touch-sceens, resistive or capacitive, especially in a high enough resolution to be called a tablet don't come as cheap as you'd like to think, and if the performance is crap it won't catch on. We're just coming to the point where we can stick enough juice into a screen big enough to call it a tablet. Give them SOME credit.
  • Re:The Zune? Nope. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @03:17PM (#30673470) Homepage

    Keep in mind that Clay Aiken's holiday album sold over one million copies in SIX WEEKS.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merry_Christmas_with_Love [wikipedia.org]

    Popularity doesn't equal quality. You can keep your filthy locked down device. I'll stay with my Zen, thank you very much.

  • by Locutus (9039) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @03:19PM (#30673482)
    Microsoft wishes they could create something which makes a profit but they don't really have to, they've been running on the Windows OS and MS Office gravy trains for over 2 decades. Zune+Xbox+WindowsCE=billions in losses but that's ok, it keeps the perception Microsoft and Windows are important and valuable so Windows keeps racking in the dough. IMO

    LoB
  • Re:Courier (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dangitman (862676) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @03:20PM (#30673496)

    It looks kickass, and it would be immediate choice over iTablet or other traditional tablets.

    Seeing as the "iTablet" has not even been announced, I don't know how you could assume that.

  • by whisper_jeff (680366) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @03:22PM (#30673520)

    Well, surely all those consumers will see through this ruse just like they did when Microsoft released the Zune ... oh, wait, that's still being shoved down our throats and people are still buying it.

    Really? A vast majority of my friends have an iPod (hell, my mother has one and she's a techno-neanderthal) but I don't know a single person who has a Zune. Not one. Nobody. Now, I'm sure some people are buying them but I'd wager it's not making waves and deserves to be overlooked when talking about Microsoft managing to successfully sell a product in a market in which they are considered novices.

    And I'll be kind and let the XBox one go because it has sold in considerable numbers despite the fact that it seems to have a 100%+ failure rate (over 100% because people have had multiple failures with a single XBox...).

  • by Locutus (9039) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @03:24PM (#30673536)
    I know that people are not talking about Windows Mobile anymore and many are talking about Android as opposed to iPhone. And you would be surprised at how many people who've used Microsoft for a long time are talking about getting an Apple computer instead of a Windows based box. The price hits them the most and the financially stable ones are getting Apples while the others fall back on the WinTel bandwagon because of price. The iPod opened up peoples minds to something other than Microsoft, the iPhone blew the doors open along with a compelling OSX operating system and nice looking hardware.

    Microsoft can't afford to look like they are losing anything because when that switch is thrown, the house of cards falls and falls fast. People are funny that way.

    LoB
  • Re:Courier (Score:2, Insightful)

    by flahwho (1243110) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @03:30PM (#30673618)
    you must be one of those Linux, PS3, Bloatware, Logitech, Courier Fanboys!

    -- Now that's a sig.
  • by bradt (682447) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @03:33PM (#30673650) Homepage
    Sounds to me like what you want is a modern-day Newton [wikipedia.org] priced like the iPod Touch!
  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @03:54PM (#30673912) Journal

    Apple will release a horse, but it will have sparkly dust on it and the unicorn they glue to the forehead will be very lifelike and you won't be able to see the glue at all. It will be trained so that a 6 year old can ride it. It will run slower, cost more, and never be seen in an actual race or ridden by a professional jockey, except in marketing literature. But, oh, it will polished.

    That's not to say that MS won't show up with a mule and a paper cone taped to it's forehead with duct tape. They probably will. MS has an amazing ability to fuck things up, or start with a good idea and then abandon it (can you say Media Center or WinMobile?). I think a tablet is more likely to be a limited use device, and MS just sucks wind at such things. That's a shame, too, since I'm not fond of Apple's lack of extensibility on anything they make.

  • Re:Yeah! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ianare (1132971) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @03:58PM (#30673972)

    To be fair, Windows didn't get usable until version 3.1

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @04:13PM (#30674218)

    but the future is cheap 'netbook' tablets like in Star Trek TNG.

    They only seemed cheap because TNG had one of those fantasy moneyless economies. Somewhere offscreen were legions of young, green slave girls working in the tablet sweatshops on Memory Alpha before they are "promoted" to being sexual escorts for the Starfleet brass and Federation bigwigs.

  • I'm definitely not an apple fanboy, owning no apple products, but you're spot on.
     
    Apple pretty much has the tablet foundation in place with the iPod Touch and iPhone. They have fantastic touch sensitivity, all the software already written, a solid underlying OS, the media codecs, browsers, etc.
     
    How the HELL does MS think they can compete with that? What do they possibly have under wraps which comes within 20% of what Apple already has?
     
    I hear "Apple Tablet", and think, "2.5x the size of the iPhone, stylus, handwriting recognition, yeah, it'd be pretty sweet". I hear "Microsoft Tablet" and think...... OS? Not any I can think of would be good for a tablet. Good touch screen? None that I can think of. Good mobile software? None that I can think of.
     
    If MS is seriously considering competing with Apple on a tablet, the only way I can see it happening is if they buy Palm, pump a ton of money into R&D, keep their hands off, and slap their name on it when it's done. Trying to pump out some original hardware and software on a short time-frame is stupid to begin with. "Not in five years" indeed. Trying to do so in less time than that, as a response to a pretty mature line of handhelds which are already approaching tablet functionality is just plain stupid. They'll get eaten alive.

  • by SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @05:06PM (#30674842)

    If you're a Linux user and work in the engineering field, chances are you have a different idea of counts as easy to use from most people. Just like how many people thought smartphones were easy to use before the iPhone came along.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @05:12PM (#30674948)

    Apple will release a horse, but it will have sparkly dust on it and the unicorn they glue to the forehead will be very lifelike and you won't be able to see the glue at all. It will be trained so that a 6 year old can ride it. It will run slower, cost more, and never be seen in an actual race or ridden by a professional jockey, except in marketing literature. But, oh, it will polished.

    That's not to say that MS won't show up with a mule and a paper cone taped to it's forehead with duct tape. They probably will. MS has an amazing ability to fuck things up, or start with a good idea and then abandon it (can you say Media Center or WinMobile?). I think a tablet is more likely to be a limited use device, and MS just sucks wind at such things. That's a shame, too, since I'm not fond of Apple's lack of extensibility on anything they make.

    You forgot to mention the Microsoft horse will need a geek to train it properly and even after it's configured right it will at times fall on it's face whether walking, running or even standing still. It will be cheaper but will several times a year require an upgrade suppository the size a watermellon to be applied rectally with a sledge hammer. The horse may buck a bit during upgrades and may not walk properly afterward.

  • by SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @05:29PM (#30675178)

    If Apple do release a tablet, then tablets will become about as niche as smartphones and MP3 players.

  • by joh (27088) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @07:10PM (#30676436)

    I swear that sometimes the future is stupidly obvious and these big dumb corporations adamantly try to refuse it.. A $1000 tablet may be a temporary success... but the future is cheap 'netbook' tablets like in Star Trek TNG. The point of a tablet PC is to offer a computing platform that removes the need for paper. Paper is cheap. A dual-screen tablet is the stupidest of the stupid moronic stupid things Microsoft would do..

    Excuse me, but you don't get it. People don't want a "computing platform". People care a shit for "computing". People want apps and games and music and movies and newspapers and magazines. As long as you have to call it a computer, it will fail. Believe me, people are sick of computers. They love what they can *do* with them and this is not computing. It's the net (and this means: connecting to other people) and content and fun they're after. The best hard- and software is useless without easy and one-tap access to things and people.

    As long as you think hardware and software is important, you're wrong. It's important as air and water, but once they can breath and drink, people don't want better and faster air and water, they want other things. Then they care for the air and water only if it smells and has the wrong color.

    Well, maybe you meant exactly this. Sorry then.

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