On Tuesday, speaking at the London School of Economics, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that there would be a "slate" computer running Windows by Christmas. If he succeeds in delivering a tablet that can rival the iPad, it will be the biggest Christmas miracle since the one on 34th Street.
If Microsoft does deliver a tablet by Christmas, it will hardly be their first one. I was at the now defunct Comdex computer show in Las Vegas in 2000 when Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates showed off a prototype of the first Windows tablet running Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. And since then there have been many iterations of the product from various WIndows PC makers including Hewlett Packard, Lenovo, Toshiba and others.
At this past Consumer Electronics Show in January, Ballmer showed off a prototype of a Hewlett Packard Slate PC. HP has confirmed that it will build a Windows slate for its enterprise customers but in April, HP acquired Palm and now appears to be developing slate computers for consumers based on Palm's Web OS operating system which -- like the operating system used on the iPad -- was originally designed for smart phones. In the mean time, Samsung and several other companies are developing tablet PC running Google's Android operating system which was also designed for smart phones. And recently, smart phone maker Research in Motion announced its own tablet which is using a new operating system that is unencumbered with legacy support of keyboards and mice.
Windows, on the other hand, was designed for desktop and laptop PCs that have keyboards, a pointing device, lots of storage, room for big batteries and a customer-based that is accustomed to waiting a minute or two every time they start up their machine.
The genius of the iPad is that it was built on a platform that was designed from the ground up to be held in one hand and manipulated with two fingers. It was also designed to take advantage of relatively low-powered hardware capable of starting up instantly.
10 Things the Microsoft Tablet Has to Be to Compete with Apple
To seriously compete with the iPad, the Microsoft tablet must:
1. Start up and shut down instantly
2. Run for 10 hours or more on a charge
3. Feel great in your hand
5. Run applications that can be easily manipulated with two fingers
6. Not crash
7. Start at under $500
8. Switch between portrait and landscape mode instantly and automatically
9. Run programs people want to run on a tablet (as opposed to PC software)
10. Be fun to use
Good luck Steve. I hope you succeed.
(Update): My list was based on just being even with iPad but several people wrote in (see comments) that there are things Microsoft could do to make theirs even better including:
Rear and front facing cameras