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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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  • Courier (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @01:10PM (#30672512) Journal

    The huge borders of enTourage eDGe really put me off. It looks like something from the 80's and only the other screen is LCD, other one is e-ink. While you can probably get more battery power only using the e-ink one for reading, a lot of other possibilities are lost for Courier's 2x LCD screens. And I dont really need that long battery power, as I'm mostly looking for something to use on sofa or bed. I don't think Microsoft has anything to worry about enTourage eDGe.

    I really hope the announcement is Courier. It looks kickass, and it would be immediate choice over iTablet or other traditional tablets. Holding a tablet that is book like while laying on sofa makes just a lot more sense and is a lot more comfortable. And when you're done, you can just close it like a book. If it's Courier, Microsoft is up for a good battle with Apple. If it's a normal tablet, meh.

  • Who cares? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @01:19PM (#30672630)

    I think even Apple cultists will agree that tablets are currently a niche market at best. iMac, iPod, and iPhone all serve well-defined markets that were established before these specific products were available. People have tried to push tablets over the years and, to put it mildly, have not met with much success. What is the iSlate (or whatever) bringing to the table that will have it succeed where others have failed? I've read all the rumors have have not been particularly impressed; I guess we'll have to wait and see.

  • by magsol (1406749) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @01:33PM (#30672838) Journal

    ...why Microsoft seems to think it's in competition with Apple. Microsoft built itself on being a software company and has only recently - within the last decade - ventured significantly into the hardware market (Xbox, Zune, now the tablet, etc).

    Apple, meanwhile, has traditionally been the opposite - a hardware company that occasionally ventures into the software industry (arguably the only software they make is variations of OS X for all their hardware devices).

    I am ready and willing to accept naivete as a reason for my above question, but on the off-chance it's not...why does Microsoft care what Apple does? I should think they'd be better off worrying more about what Google does in response to this tablet than Apple.

  • Software (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kehren77 (814078) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @01:35PM (#30672864)

    But what about software for it. I think part of the anticipation of the Apple tablet is that it will be a larger iPod Touch with added functionality. If the Apple tablet can run iPhone apps it already has a huge advantage over the Microsoft tablet, more so if it can also run OS X apps.

    What software would the Microsoft tablet run? Windows 7? It will have all the speed of a netbook. Windows Mobile? It will be DOA if it runs Windows Mobile.

    As a side note, how much do you want to bet that Microsoft somehow tries to connect their tablet to Xbox Live?

  • Re:Courier (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @01:36PM (#30672876) Homepage

    I would like to point out that the OP posted using their account, while you posted as a coward.

    Just saying...

  • by brxndxn (461473) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @01:38PM (#30672920)

    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..

    So right now, while electronics shops cope with el-cheapo lcd screens being placed in every product, why the hell aren't these big dumb companies seeing that the el-cheapo lcd photoframes are just a few steps away from being the tablets we need? To truly remove the need for paper, we do not need speed or the latest in 3d multimedia. We need el-cheapo tablets that can be passed around while the personal information is contained in removable cards (SD? miniSD? microSD? who cares). Let me write on the screen. Convert my text to type. Let me play a video - but not necessarily a video game. Let me browse the net. Let me read an ebook. Let me write up my notes at a meeting and toss them on my boss's desk. Put this with a slow-ass cheap processor, minimum OS (fuck you Microsoft, but still XP is small enough), minimum other parts, and a touch-screen. Also, make it easily replaceable.. If I lose my tablet, lemme buy another for $200. Let the data automatically sync to my desktop computer when I bring the tablet near it. Waterproof the tablet.. should be easy, right? just one rubber compartment around the storage cards and ports.. let it borrow internet access from my nearby cell phone or my wifi..

    The tablet does not need to do the following:
    - charge me a monthly fee of any kind - so it should not have cell phone shit in it
    - play 3d games
    - rival my desktop in performance
    - weigh more than 1.2 lbs
    - be more than 3/8" thick
    - download automatic updates
    - use front surface area for anything other than a screen
    - cost more than $200 ($300 in 2011, $500 in 2012 to account for inflation)

    This is the future of tablet computing that I remember.

  • by Rand310 (264407) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @01:45PM (#30673024)
    I guarantee that there will be a 'Apple vs MS vs etc' column that will be posted shortly after each device's debut. Not only do MS and Apple want to be on that list, but a whole host of other companies are releasing products right now just so that they too can be on that list. It would be quite possible to suck up a decent amount of free market space by riding off of Apple's announcement. Apple released this device with these features at this price point, while CompanyA released a similar device with these features at this price point. CompanyA automatically gets free news, a shot at a market and possibly even sales all while riding Apple's momentum.
  • Re:Software (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Archangel Michael (180766) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @01:47PM (#30673050) Journal

    BINGO

    We have a winner. Not only does the MS pre-announce announcemnt sounds too much like the typical "me too" we get from Microsoft. Not only this, Microsoft has already tried "tablet" (and even tabletop) gadgets, and yet somehow nobody wants or cares about them. XP Tablet version is nasty bad and Windows doesn't work very well in "Tablet Mode" (which also requires a stylus yuck). (Just don't remind me of Newton)

    I actually think that Apple's Tablet will be exactly this, iPod Touch on roids! The biggest drawback on the iPodTouch is the screen size, and having to "switch" applications back n forth to do stuff, but with a larger screen you might have four or six apps in their own section of the screen all at the same time, while also allowing larger screen sizes for other applications.

    But that is just my $.02

  • by tibman (623933) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @01:56PM (#30673164) Homepage

    I've got a Hitachi Visionplate for.. well, practically free. It's several years old though. 512MB CF card with Puppy linux on it. 600mhz proc. Hitachi must have made the visionplates even before netbooks took off. It's like a nice big wireless touchscreen LCD that you can carry around the house. Super cool.. not sure why nobody likes these things. You can find them cheap on ebay sometimes.

    Check it out: http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y104/tibman/VisionPlate/DSCN0921.jpg [photobucket.com]

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Guspaz (556486) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @01:57PM (#30673178)

    Microsoft's earlier attempts to push out a tablet PC had a few differences:

    1) It relied on a stylus
    2) It used a traditional UI (standard windows with some extra apps)

    To address the two points:

    1) Apple, presumably Microsoft, and various toher companies working on "modern" tablets are clearly going for touchscreen. Just like the stylus has been largely abandoned in the smartphone market, moving to touchscreens for tablets could make them a heck of a lot more accessible; styluses are another layer removing the user from the content, they don't work as well with gestures (flick-to-scroll feels a lot less natural), they don't have any equivalent to multi-touch, etc.

    2) Tablet PC was just Windows with some handwriting recognition stuff tossed in. Apple (and I presume Microsoft and others) are going, this time, with completely different UIs. Apple is using the iPhone interface scaled up, which is a touch-screen interface to begin with. I assume Microsoft will also have something similar, although hopefully not based on Windows Mobile (or it will bomb).

    I see a few uses for a touch-based tablet:

    1) eBook reader. They don't have the power advantage of eInk here, but they do get the advantage of colour. Useless in novels, useful for textbooks, magazines, etc. Apple has tried to pull this off on the iPhone, but it's a decidedly sub-standard experience due to the tiny screen.

    2) PMP. A 10" screen at arms length is a lot bigger than the 3.5" screens you get in most PMPs or smartphones.

    3) Browser. Browsing on smartphones has made incredible leaps forward in the past few years, starting with Opera's work and continuing with mobile Safari. Smartphone browsing is pretty close to desktop browsing, except for the tiny screens. Scale that up to a high res 10" screen and suddenly you've got something that can dispay websites at full size without having to zoom.

    It seems that the current approach to tablets is more about taking the smartphone experience and removing the limitations of screen size, rather than the previous approach which was to take the laptop PC experience and switch the input and form factor. I think that this new approach will be much more successful.

    The price point is important too. The latest leaks from Apple have them considering a $1000 pricepoint, which I believe is lower than what most Tablet PCs sold for.

  • by fermion (181285) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:17PM (#30673462) Homepage Journal
    Apple is arguably the last consumer GPC systems manufacturer. MS provide commodity software for commodity hardware, and has traditionally left integration issue to others. Therefore, Apple has some experience with getting components to work together, while MS only has limited experience on the Software side. I say limited because up to five years ago it did little work to make standards based software.

    What MS did for most of it's life is produce good enough software for a good price. MS products were cheap enough, or could be acquired cheaply enough, so that more expensive systems made no economic sense for many common applications. What MS is doing now is trying to upscale the product. The software now costs more than the hardware, something that to many people seem unreasonable. Like IBM, MS now makes little sense for small groups. Once can buy a 3 macs for $5000, and keep them operating through 2 upgrade cycles for less than $1000, including iWork upgrades. The same three PCs of similar quantity might cost $2500, but each upgrade cycle is going to cost another $1500, assuming you don't buy the crippled OS, and don't upgrade the MS Office applications.

    MS is trying to be the upscale systems manufacturer because that is where the money is. The problem is that if they compete on pice, then they alienate their hardware partners. So they have to compete on quality which means they are competing on product quality. In cell phones they have failed as the Nokia phones are just too good. In console they succeeded because they are better in many ways than the Wii, and the sony stuff is very expensive. In the tablet market we are back in the realm of alienating hardware partners and jeopardizing the MS Windows cash cow, so they are likely to be competing with Apple and Kindle, rather than the more commodity products.

  • Re:Courier (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:19PM (#30673486) Journal

    Just liking some of the products and ideas doesn't make one a fanboy. In fact, I think Linux owns in server environments, and IIS is shit. I like PS3 more than 360. I do think Windows is better in desktop environment than Linux (partly because I play games too). I do think paid-for software model is better than selling your soul to advertisers (a la Google). I wouldn't ever touch MS's keyboards or mouses - I like my Logitech ones. I do like the Courier concept, because frankly it suits my needs better (laying on sofa conveniently using it like a book).

    Merely liking some of the companies products or thinking the same way about how the software development is financed (paid-for software or subsidized with advertisement and lost privacy) doesn't make one a fanboy, even less so if you have critical thinking and can see past the "but everything must be open source by principle", or "no other than Apple for me!" thinking.

  • by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:21PM (#30673512)
    Just to attempt to quantify what a "metric-butt-ton" is: According to wikipedia [wikipedia.org], MS had lost about $4 billion on the xboxes by the end of 2005 and about $1 billion to replace bricked xbox 360s. Their most recent quarterly report from Q1 2010 [betanews.com] (Oct. 23rd) showed that their entire entertainment division posted a $312 million profit. I have no idea what the total take is, but just to recoup the $5 billion we know they lost would take over four years of quarters like Q1 2010. If every quarter has been like Q1 2010, that would mean they would be breaking even just about now, except the entertainment division at MS never posted a profit until 2008! So it's a good bet that MS has even now not yet recouped the losses from developing the xbox. They're rich though, they can afford to wait for years and years to recoup an investment.
  • by whisper_jeff (680366) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:24PM (#30673552)
    I'd wager it's because they've seen the writing on the wall and know that their days as the dominant force in the software market are numbered and their only hope of longterm viability is to diversify. With well-funded, experienced, intelligent, and innovative companies (Google, first and foremost among them) directly attacking Microsoft's core business, it's only a matter of time before one of them succeeds. Microsoft probably wants to make sure their house of cards doesn't completely collapse if/when that happens.
  • by design1066 (1081505) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:31PM (#30673628)
    As a professional who has used multiple tablet PCs for many years in the engineering and construction fields, most of microsofts OS offerings in this arena are quite easy to use and very functional. No I am not a Microsoft fan boy just stating the facts. As a home linux user what I would like to see is a functioning tabletPC running Linux. All I hear in my linux user group is Linux can do that but I have yet to see it. So from experience I can tell you their tablet PC OS works well. Weather Microslop can actually build decent hardware has yet to be seen. Oh wait, what was that really great piece of hardware they sell?? The Xbox. Microsoft bashing aside they have a decent chance.
  • by zarmanto (884704) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @02:34PM (#30673666) Journal
    Huh. I guess we can now see a slightly clearer picture of Apple's motivations for "leaking" a few choice details about their new tablet, weeks in advance of the official announcement: They must have caught wind of Microsoft's own development efforts and of this impending announcement, and they just wanted to make sure everyone understood that Ballmer is really the "me too" parrot, rather than allowing people to develop the mistaken impression that Jobs is the parrot.

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