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Says that his company is about to step up their efforts

It's no secret that Microsoft's tablet efforts are somewhat of a mess right now. After scrapping its much anticipated Courier concept, Bill Gates assured Microsoft's fans that his company hadn't given up on tablets -- but that didn't stop several key players from the tablet team from jumping ship.

Now Microsoft is left staring at Apple's fiscal third quarter, which featured sales of 3.27 million iPads.  Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer commented on a recent call to analysts [DOCX], "Apple has done an interesting job of putting together a synthesis and putting a product out, and in which they've -- they sold certainly more than I'd like them to sell, let me just be clear about that. We think about that. We think about that in competitive sense."

Ballmer made it clear that his company is not interested in pursuing a separate OS for tablets like Apple (the iPad uses a variant of the same tweaked and stripped down version of OS X found in the iPad).  He states, "We’re coming.  We’re coming full guns. The operating system is called Windows."

Windows tablets will soon get a boost from Intel's upcoming
Oak Trail low power CPU that's perfect for mobile applications, according to Ballmer.  Oak Trail is Intel's name for its upcoming successor to the Atom series of processors which will launch in early 2011.  Among other things it features full 1080p video and HDMI support, all while reportedly cutting power consumption 50 percent.

Ballmer insists that Windows tablets are just around the river bend, stating, "Some of you will say, well, when? When? And I say, As soon as they're ready. They'll be shipping as soon as they are ready. And it is job one urgency around here."

The real question, though, might be -- who?  ASUS has already ditched Windows CE for Linux in its smaller upcoming tablet (the larger 12.1" still presumably uses Windows 7) and HP is using webOS from recently acquired Palm instead of Windows 7.  That leaves a handful of other players -- MSI, Lenovo, Acer, and Dell (among others).  However, some of those -- like Dell -- are considering instead jumping ship to Google's Android OS.

At this point it's anybody's game to step up and challenge Apple.  Windows 7, webOS, and Android seem the top contenders.  The first Android tablet (or Mobile Internet Device, if you prefer), the Dell Streak, will reportedly hit before the end of the month in the U.S.  A 5-inch model will come first, followed by others.

With Android being the first to hit the market, Microsoft may be left vying for third place in the tabletsphere.  And that's something that's bound to get Ballmer real worked up.

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The Touch Revolution
By Tony Swash on 7/31/2010 12:16:40 PM , Rating: 2
The move from the desktop/mouse interface to the couch/mobile/touch interface is as big as the transformation of PC's by the GUI 25 years ago. That revolution was pioneered by Apple as well.

The touch revolution started by Apple has been rolled out in a pitch perfect development cycle.

First Apple spent a long time developing a very robust and extendible software foundations for their touch products - i.e. MacOSX.

Then they thought a long time about the interface issues which go much deeper than skin deep and are actually about an entirely new computing metaphor and interface. Apple are very good at this.

Then they launched nothing until it was truly market ready, they could have pitched a half finished iPhone into the market two years earlier but chose not too.

iPhone V1 was a crucial step as it demonstrated the viability of the touch interface but even more importantly is began to educate and acclimatise people to the new interface of touch. Later when the iPad came out there were millions of people who knew how to use it immediately.

The iPod Touch added hugely to the touch user baser by bringing it to all all those people who didn't want to commit to a phone. Plus it was a lot cheaper.

Then once they had a self evident success in the iPhone V1 and had thus created a new market for developers they rolled out the App Store and Xcode for touch devices. This created a huge developer community almost over night, and added huge value to their product. Still no one has caught Apple in terms of the size of their developer community or number of Apps.

Rather than rushing out lots of confusing and probably inferior touch products Apple concentrated for two years on honing the iOS version of MacOSX, improving the hardware, and building the now global community of touch users.

Then they launched the affordable iPad. Criticised as being just a big iPod Touch (which was like saying a swimming pool is just a big bath tub) the iPad showed the true potential of the new touch computing and quickly became the most successful tech launch of all time. Touch had finally arrived big time.

Apple have learned the bitter lessons of relative failure after they launched the GUI revolution in 1984 when they let competitors catch them and then push them into almost obscurity. This time it is clear that Apple has a very comprehensive and long term strategic road map and that Steve Jobs does not intend to be caught again. By the time that Android or Microsoft match iPad version 1 Apple will be onto iPad V2 or 3

It is also likely that they have have further surprises awaiting us.

Apple are going to be almost impossible to catch during the acceleration phase of the touch revolution.

What exciting times these are. I am old enough to remember the GUI revolution and this feels just as much fun.

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation

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