If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then Microsoft needs a straitjacket.
How many times has Microsoft tried a tablet? At least four, over the past eleven years. How many times have they failed? Four. Today the New York Times is reporting that Microsoft is taking aim at the iPad and will introduce several tablet PCs at CES next month.
People familiar with this device said it will run the Windows 7 operating system when in landscape mode, but will also have a layered interface that will appear when the keyboard is hidden and the device is held in a portrait mode.
The applications will not be sold in an app store, as with the Apple iTunes model, but Microsoft will encourage software partners to host the applications on their own Web sites, which will then be highlighted in a search interface on the slate computers. It is unclear if these applications will be ready for C.E.S. as most are still in production.
Making hardware is not that hard. Almost anyone can build a tablet computer these days. Making a great tablet is very hard. I’d even wager that the team behind the iPad looks at their product and all they can see is future improvements. That said, it is clearly the best tablet we’ve got so far. It is hard to replicate the iPad’s usability. It is hard to capture intuitive and repeatable gestures. It is hard to capture Apple’s mindshare and market position.
It seems these days that Microsoft is reacting instead of leading. Their fundamental approach is “iPad is not that good and doesn’t meet the needs of business professionals.” And that plan just isn’t working out for them.
What happened to the Microsoft that invented Windows? Remember Start Me Up? What happened to the company that built Office and the Xbox? I want to root for Windows and Microsoft. I want Microsoft to deliver simple, beautiful technologies to people.
And just like I have for the past few years, I’ll be skipping Ballmer’s CES demo. Not that I don’t want to be there. It is that I feel like I have been there before. I will hope for something amazing. I would love to discover that I missed the best keynote ever. But instead, if it even mentions Microsoft one note, someone should have a straitjacket on hand just in case.