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Microsoft's Mundie unsure on tablets, admits slow to act

updated 04:15 pm EDT, Wed March 30, 2011

Microsoft CRO Mundie doubts tablets will last

Microsoft's research and strategy chief Craig Mundie at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia event cast doubt on the long-term viability of tablets. He wasn't sure the iPad or its kind would "remain with us or not" and instead repeated Microsoft's existing strategy of Windows notebooks and Windows Phone handsets. A notebook would be a "portable desk," he said, while the smartphone would be "your most personal computer."

He admitted at the same time that Microsoft hadn't properly distinguished between the categories it was targeting. He saw tablets occupying an intermediary area and that it wasn't clear if this was a third way or simply a temporary distinction.

"I think there's an important distinction -- and frankly one we didn't jump on at Microsoft fast enough -- between mobile and portable," the Sydney Morning Herald heard. "These are going to bump into one another a little bit and so today you can see tablets and pads and other things that are starting to live in the space in between. Personally I don't know whether that space will be a persistent one or not."

He did believe the future could blur the distinctions in technology. Microsoft Research had technology that would pipe rays of light from a phone to a user's retina, overcoming the usual screen limits of a handheld. Desktops in the future might also be replaced by whole-room environments; he implied that touch surfaces and voice commands in the room would replace an obvious, dedicated machine. Kinect was an example of where it might go, he said.

The statements on tablets reinforce the uncertainty that has dictated Microsoft's strategy in the area and saw the iPad outsell every Windows Tablet PC ever made within nine months. Microsoft was first to tablet computers when Tablet PC arrived in 2002, but the technology never caught on beyond niche markets such as pen-dependent artists, doctors and warehouse workers. Bill Gates' personal obsession with pen computing and the company's insistence on using a largely unoptimized Windows interface led to relatively limited appeal and frequent price premiums over regular notebooks that gave customers little incentive to buy in.

Microsoft is hoping to turn around its philosophy with Windows 8, which will have more finger-ready interface elements and support ARM processors that last much longer on battery than Intel chips. Without a release expected until late 2012, however, company executives like Mundie have an incentive to downplay tablets without their own option in stores.

Craig Mundie (note: Microsoft Research file photo)

by MacNN Staff



  1. blshaw

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Yet another Microsoft visionary

    How in the world does a company as large as Microsoft manage to have no one - I mean NO ONE - in its entire ranks that possesses any vision? Balmer, for example, is as dumb as they come when it relates to assessing the marketplace. Simply amazing that guy - or this one - still have jobs.

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969



    oh I am sure there are plenty of people at MS with vision

    they just aren't in charge of anything significant enough to make a difference

    remember, you're not dumb if you work at MS. However, you probably work for people who also are not dumb, but lack vision. You just do as your told, take your fat paycheck and options and go home each day...

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I once knew

    a woman who worked at a software company... brilliant woman, foresaw the importance of the internet well before her bosses did and eventually got the F out of there after she tired of trying to impress upon them how important it was to have an internet strategy only to be completely dismissed and ignored.

    so, there's people there who get it... unfortunately, at most major corporations the title and pay often bear little correspondence to ability or forward-thinking...

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    speaking of vision...

    Bill Gates infamously said that the internet was a passing fad. And just in case anyone thinks that was a single isolated instance of having his head up his rear, much more recently he said that he couldn't conceive of a tablet without a stylus.

    Microsoft is a stellar example of being trapped by your own successful paradigm.

  1. Herod

    Joined: Dec 1969


    nothing new

    they have been unsure since 1985.

  1. nat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    who needs vision?

    they readily admit they were "late" to all kinds of things. then they throw obscene fortunes at those things until they become relevant. when you have that much money you don't need no stinkin vision. just sit back and wait until something gets hot then throw money at it.

  1. garmonbosia

    Joined: Dec 1969



    "Microsoft was first to tablet computers when Tablet PC arrived in 2002"

    Really? Could have sworn I was using my Newton 3 years before Bill Gates had his epiphany on pen computing.

  1. boris_cleto

    Joined: Dec 1969


    640K ought to be enough for anybody

    After all, it's 10x what you have with CP/M.

  1. ferdchet

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Yeah? Unsure? Really?

    I'm not surprised. He really can't go up there and say "Uh, yeah. We completely missed the boat. We were trying to push the tablet industry into laptops that folded over and required a pen." The shareholders and upper mgmt wouldn't sit for actual truth-telling. I worked for MSFT when that stuff was huge. Everyone had one of those laptop-type tablets, and none of them worked well.

    They do have tons of smart people, but most are linear thinkers. They've got one project and no need or incentive to innovate. Plus, management is quick to shoot anything down that's really original, unless you're somewhere like MSR. Even then, most of the MSR projects don't get productized.

    iPod, iPhone, iPad. Three things that have changed their industries over the last 10 years, and MSFT still doesn't get them or their industries. Lord help MSFT if Apple ever decides to get into the video game console business.

  1. Paul Huang

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Artists were using WACOM, not Microsoft junk

    No reputable artist would be caught dead with MSFT tablets. They have been using wacom tablets for decades and will continue to do so.

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