Microsoft introduced Windows 8 for developers today, with a specific focus on their take on the tablet. Now some are fawning over this, but they clearly don’t recall a summer day in 2005 when Microsoft showed off Vista for the first time. I was there. It was, in a word awesome. The early demos of Vista blew us all away, it was as if we were at the Windows 95 launch all over again. Then Windows Vista came out, it was *nothing* like the demos, the train blew through the station, and the company’s been in a bit of a quagmire ever since, losing market share as well as credibility and prestige in virtually every category (other than Xbox).
So today, when they show us a decently cool looking version of a tablet that isn’t going to ship for another year, after series of missteps, I’m sorry if I don’t really get particularly excited. Particularly when I see it’s got a fan inside. This entire move, yet again, makes me wonder: who on Earth are they building this for? What is the real market opportunity here? Even if the Windows 8 tablet *is* as good as the current generation iPad 2, that’s chasing a product that’s already 6 months old, and will be 18 months old by the time they are in the market. Didn’t these guys watch the movie called “HP and the Wacky Adventures of the TouchPad”? We’ve seen how it ends!
There really is a great market for non-iPad tablet devices, there are a few in fact. And Microsoft is perfectly poised to build a really great tablet. But I don’t think that perfect Microsoft tablet is about consumers, nor is it about Windows. These markets are, at present and for the foreseeable future, mostly closed to Microsoft, and they’ll have little luck there. So empty your heads, don’t think of anything – they’ve only got one shot at this. Microsoft needs to focus on the other key product they have, the one software package Apple can’t really touch, the one where they make a boatload of cash. Yup, it’s Office.
I can write another 1000 or words on the topic, but I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. There is unquestionably a great business opportunity in a tablet device with a great Office productivity software suite. If the iPad is a consumption/entertainment device, then for jebus’ sake, Microsoft, learn how to cross-program, and offer a completely different thing. And do it really well, with no big committees, and nobody who’s worked for the company for more than say 4 years. And then go let Dell build it. Oh, and don’t standardize (read: compromise) – make one product that works one way, no drivers, fragmentation, or anything else.
And please, don’t tell me about it until it’s ready to ship.