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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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By robinthakur on 8/2/2010 7:50:59 AM , Rating: 2
I agree with most of your points, but do not dislike MS particularly, they are a victim of a lack of leadership and innovation which seems hard to believe with all those incredibly gifted people working for them. For all their success with Windows 7 and their server products, they have dropped the ball spectacularly on their other products like the Zune, Windows Live, Xbox, WiMo, Kin and Vista. This has not gone unnoticed by other people within the tech industry, business or those merely reporting on it. No company is immune to spectacular failures however (even Apple with the iPhone 4 fiasco, and that was a relatively minor defect aside from the TAC hysteria and their poor PR) so it is also to do with people's expectations, and the expectation with MS currently is that for anything more consumer entertainment-centric, that you should avoid it, in general.

The Xbox is a funny one. The first Xbox was dropped unceremoniously (I owned one) as soon as the 360 went on sale due to the cost of manufacture, and the 360 suffered the RROD issue which was a PR fiasco costing MS upwards of $1 billion to make amends (note not 'put right') I also own a 360.

The Xbox might be making profit now on a yearly basis, but in comparison to the investment that's been sunk into it I can't imagine its going to be in the black anytime soon even with people buying things through Micro-transactions etc. which has got to annoy the shareholders. All you need is for Nintendo to come out with a new version of the Wii, and both Xbox and Sony will have to revision their hardware to stay fresh which costs billions in R&D and might lead to one or both of them leaving the sector. Sony are making a profit now on the PS3 hardware incidentally. The whole strategy of the oft mentioned box in the living room concept was that MS devices are used with it i.e. you own an xbox, Zune, WiMo phone and run a Vista/W7 pc and you generate a profit on that user environment. With most people in the real world using Apple kit for the things which generate the real revenue streams, MS is losing out.

The public will not have confidence in MS consumer electronics again (which sadly includes Windows Phone 7 -already looking like a poorly thought out and planned also-ran OS developed within a vacuum, and its not even launched) until they put forward a comprehensive strategy and stick to it, and stop cancelling products once they have already hit the market, which frightens consumers. Whether you like Apple or not, when you buy an iPhone you know that they will support it with OS upgrades for years easily and reliably through iTunes. MS also need to dip their hands into their pockets and come up with a decent marketing campaign which doesn't alienate potential clients. They also need to replace Balmer; as has been proved many times, he no longer inspires confidence he only articulates their weakness, and his name is synonymous with certain catastrophes of the past MS would prefer to forget about.

I wouldn't say it makes me happy that MS are fumbling around in the dust to regain the ground lost to Google and Apple in certain major areas, competition is only a good thing unless MS, significantly, stops trying to compete in those areas and just concentrates on growing the areas of its core business which are proven to be profitable.

"We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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