I have a lot of sympathy for people who steal their technology from the hearse, just as its driving through the gates of the great technology knackers' yard. While it is obligatory to be savoir faire with the latest in design and innovation, when it comes to my personal spending I'm right there with the laggards, on the extreme …
Lack of imagination
Lack of imagination was the problem. It seems that people in charge at Microsoft are not forward thinkers, they don't seem to have any imagination when it comes creating something new. They are happy to clone other ideas and put their own spin on it once the competition has made a move.
When the tablet PC was being worked on there wasn't anything else to compare it with. So when key people (head of MS Office for example) at Microsoft were asked to adapt software to work with the new tablet input method they refused. It's almost like they can't see the merit of doing something unless someone else is bringing in cash for a similar product.
But this time there is a product they can refer to, they can made things happen as there's plenty of alternatives that are raking in cash.
Microsoft "invented" tablets - right
Sorry - I was working on a GridPad in 1990. Nice machine and fun to watch people stare as I worked on it on the plane.
Talked about an idea way ahead of the hardware.
Wish I kept one.
... and the Windows tablet is still not really ready.
My local primary school tries to avoid laptops, and other kit like that, as the batteries are always flat, so they need plugged into the mains all the time. So the batteries get trashed in a few months. Even that nice Lenovo x220 would be soon useless.
iPads, however, last all day. The can be charged overnight, ready for tomorrow. And they're relatively drool-proof, so the problems of keys gummed down with various sticky things that happen round children isn't an issue too. Expect to see more of them in schools soon, even though they are overpriced toys.
That's not quite correct
MS did get it wrong and it's demonstrable they had a lack of vision. I don't believe the "before their time" argument can be said to wash. MS launched tablets earlier than Apple and is still making them. So "their time" has traversed the time-frame during which another company has proven how an appealing product can be made. They should have had a learning advantage. So MS have, as the article points out, ended up on tram rails and manifestly failed on the vision front.
Also it's not correct to say Apple scaled up iOS from phone to tablet. The iphone actually came from an Apple tablet project. Apple were researching multi-touch UI's for years and always kept an R&D line open for NG UI's and interaction (I think I read somewhere this even goes as far back as to the days of the Newton). along the way Steve Jobs publicly noted on a couple of occassions how bad phone UI's were and evidently decided to adapt what they had for tablets to phones. I suspect that as the tablet R&D continued to progress he was quite amazed how the incumbent handset companies failed to rise to the chellenge of providing a good UI and decided to go for it.
One big factor determining the order of release of the products was that large capacitative displays were expensive (and difficult to manufacture), so it ended up being easier to deliver a smaller phone device first before the planned tablet. Also Apple were sure the user experience had to have capacitative touch technology to really work (Another failure on Microsoft's part was the failure of their R&D to reach the same conclusion). Clearly they were right. You have to admire the extent to which they refused to compromise. They knew what the market demanded and refused to launch into the space until they had exactly the combination of features they thought were required.
Apple also did a lot of research around the form factor. The 10" display came out as the clear preferential size (a conclusion that is now fully backed up with recent publicly available market research) and they waited to launch a capacitative display tablet until they could implement the ideal. RIM choosing 7 inches was really about cost and supply chain issues ( though they claim otherwise, but they would seeing as Apple grabbed the available lines of supply for 10 inch capacitative displays at iPad launch).
At the time of the iPad launch, others scoffed at Job's claim the iPad was cheap at the price. But Apple had done their research and prepared the supply chain logistics well. Others have only been able to match the price by shrinking margins to nothing just to get a toe-hold in this new market. This will change of course as display manufacture volume ramps up and Android makes gains, but for now Apple rules the roost.
there were windows tablets long before that
I deployed a good number of IBM tablets running windows 3.1 in the early 90's as in car mobile terminals. They were much thicker than today's tablets and I seem to recall they required a stylus but they still had more functionality than anything Apple or Google have to offer today. With a stripped down OS you get stripped down functionality.
Today's tablets aren't yet worth they asking price given how little they can do.
You have to compromise somewhere
The iPad may be limited, but what it can do it does very good and it is very light and portable.
The best Windows Tablet I have seen so far is the Asus EP121, it can do what one expects from a Windows Computer and it has brilliant Wacom input technology on top. But it's rather limited in battery life time and a bit on the heavy side, for most Windows apps you'll want a keyboard and a bigger screen and then a nice 15" notebook at the same price would do just fine or better.
You've missed the point
Microsoft provided the idea, a tweaked OS and a hardware reference for OEM's. The key part there is that they set the ball rolling for OEM's, as Microsoft do not make hardware devices.
Apple DO make hardware (sort of), and therefore all your point on hardware are moot. Microsoft came up with the idea and passed it onto the OEM's - which is it's business model (they are a software house). Apple saw how badly the OEM's were doing of the job and did it properly.
Hard to blame Microsoft for that...
re: That's not quite correct
"Apple also did a lot of research around the form factor. The 10" display came out as the clear preferential size (a conclusion that is now fully backed up with recent publicly available market research) and they waited to launch a capacitative display tablet until they could implement the ideal. RIM choosing 7 inches was really about cost and supply chain issues ( though they claim otherwise, but they would seeing as Apple grabbed the available lines of supply for 10 inch capacitative displays at iPad launch)"
That's open to debate.
I recently brought a Samsung galaxy and did so because I found the ipad too big.
7" is about the same size as a kindle and is small enough to go inside a jacket pocket or in the wife's handbag.
I've met many people on many forums that have the same opinion, a few also having ipads too and saying the ipad never leaves the house/sofa due to it's size.
re:re: That's not quite correct
Agreed. Research comes cheap. I can't help suspecting Apple's enthusiasm for the 10" form factor has more to do with the hope that it will supplant the pc as a general purpose home computing device (thus replacing a semi-open platform with one that is as locked down as hell - 30% cut on all web transactions!) and for that 7" just won't cut it.
Sent from my 7" tablet while sitting in a very nice little cafe.
@Ojustaboo, not really
It's open to individual preference, but not really open to debate. The 10 inch form factor is hands down preferred. There are now multiple studies confirming this.
"We find that consumers are not interested in form factors that deviate from the benchmark set by Apple, Few consumers, less than 15 percent prefer the 7-inch screen size versus the 10-inch screen of the iPad.
"Over 50 percent of respondents are firmly in favor of the 10-inch screen, which leads us to conclude that the 7-inch tablet models recently launched, like the BlackBerry PlayBook, are destined for failure. Consumer's preference for the 10-inch form factor explains the lukewarm response to Samsung's 7-inch Galaxy tablet and the rapid introduction of larger screen models in that series." - Bernstein Research report.
Why do I need a title to reply to a post?
And it's too heavy to hold one-handed for reading in bed, unlike the Kindle.
In this wordfest of a commentathon...
... no one mentioned the ubiquitous anti-virus ? The one slowing down my netbook ?
Just give them six months
First, they'll announce availability of partner Win 8 tablets. Then, the channel stuffing will occur: millions of units 'sold'. Finally, any mention of it during financial calls will just drop off until there is nothing left. Microsoft tried to do this with the iPod and iPhone, and that got them nowhere. Just because they have a pretty good percentage of the pc market, why does that make you think they'll have any chance of getting a foot in the door of a completely new market?
Lack of imagination was the problem
And Apple are well-known for creating new things? You don't have to innovate to succeed. Android is totally derivative for instance.
Few innovations left these days
Scaling up a mobile OS and platform was an innovation of sorts. Everyone else was trying to scale down the x86 platform and full desktop OS, remember the UMPC market? that's died a death.
Notice how everyone is now talking about ARM and how x86 isn't so important anymore? that could be due to the realisation that instant on and off devices are what people want now. They want the best of mobile and the best of the desktop combined.
The L word never had a problem running on ARM, anything from Android to a super computer. I don't think it's a problem of getting code from x86 to ARM and thinking smaller, it's just that all these companies write proprietary code that probably looks like barf with bits corrected in crayon.
Win 8 will have full ATI/Nvidia drivers
Nobody from Linux world could convince nvidia and ati ship drivers for linux/non x86 but Windows guys will make sure drivers for dx 11/12 will be in windows 8 for arm.
It is not just about games you know, default UIs now need opengl.
Oh ATI has a old powerpc driver... Thats all.
Linux has an advantage
It uses GCC on all platforms, is there visual studio with all tools and library for ARM?
IMHO Microsoft has a lot of porting to do to get Windows and what Windows customers expect on ARM tablets.
Last I looked
Honeycomb ran on NVidia Tegra with display output.
s/ATI/AMD/. The "ATI" brand no longer exists.
Re: Is there Visual Studio for ARM?
Yes. The compiler and tools most definitely do exist because it's what you use to develop for WinCE or whatever the non-desktop thingy is called this week. They've existed for about a decade and are generally about one product cycle behind the mainstream offering.
If MS want to offer Win8-on-ARM, the tools won't be a problem. Similarly, since Itanium is only just a thing of the past, porting the core OS isn't going to be a problem either. The only problems are political (do they actually want to offer it?) and appropriateness (is the standard desktop offering actually what you want on a tablet?).
When Linux for PPC driver shipped, it was ATI, not the AMD which messed up everything making stupid choices like not shipping win 7 drivers while Vista driver exists.
The problem is often
that the bright ideas arrive before the hardware is capable of handling them. Handwriting recognition on the Newton was a genius idea, but the hardware was incapable of making it work at a reasonable speed. Building an OS on top of a database worked well (though was never game-changing) in the green screen world of Pick and OS/400, but the desktops and laptops of 2006 weren't man enough to run it with all the GUI bells and whistles (and backwards compatibility) required by Microsoft - you needed a highish-end box to make Vista, even in its emasculated production incarnation, run successfully. I wonder how it would perform on today's boxes?
Re: The problem is often.
Much as I hate to poke holes in your argument, the '400 inherited this setup from the System/38, which also had that "the whole filesystem is an OO database" thing.
With a processor that made a 16Mhz 286 look athletic.
Raw horsepower was not the limiting factor in 2006........
Unreliable sources state:
"In hindsight, the System/38's architecture was probably too demanding of the hardware of the era. When first launched, it struggled under the overhead of the software and operating system"
No doubt there were many reasons for the dropping of WinFS, but even without it the performance of Vista was less than impressive, so I strongly suspect that speed was at least a significant factor.
I rest my case, m'lud.
M$ is a Corperation
The larger the corporation the smaller the number of innovations that are tolerated. Managers want to protect their jobs and execs want to protect their bonuses and stock options so as a result very little happens.
True innovation is seldom an overnight success and to be appealing to a board of directors it has to be. Catch 22.
Instead of innovating themselves, M$ buys out the smaller companies who do. Of course, they "corperatize" the new additions, make them more efficient and subsequently gut them driving off the original thinkers who cannot stand bureaucracy and three inch thick HR manuals. This is why Skype has been having service issues since M$ bought it.
"I can't see Redmond buggering it up this time, but you never know."
Really, even with my eyes shut.
This is not simply MS bashing, I simply have an undying faith in the ability of people anywhere (and that includes myself) to get things terribly wrong in ways we never could imagine. This is a kind of inverse creativity embodied in Bergholt Stuttley (or Bloody Stupid) Johnson on the Discworld.
However, MS might get it beautifully right.
I thought the story was that the iPad came first but then they shrunk it to a phone as there wasn't a market for tablets. Once people had used the iPhone the crys came for 'a bigger one'.
Re the comment on dead batteries from using attached to the mains - Apple also seem to do something neat there as well. I just sold a 3 year old Macbook that spent 95% of it's life plugged into the mains. The battery on it shows less than 50 recharge cycles and the capacity was still very close to the theoretical new capacity on system profiler.
A 3 year old thinkpad treated in the same way had completely killed it's battery. Now it might just be that the thinkpad was an older generation of tech but I didn't think Li-Ion batteries had moved on much.
Laptop batteries don't get killed from you keeping the device plugged in. Constant cycles kill the battery. Any laptop these days uses an intelligent charger that blasts the battery up to about 80%, then drip-feeds it to full. From what I'm aware, rechargeable lithiums HAVE to be charged like this anyway. At least, I've never seen a lithium charger (be it li-ion phone/laptop or li-poly flying-model battery) NOT have some degree of brains in it.
I have a 6-7 year old HP zv5000 here that still has 89% of its battery capacity, with most of that dropping off after its previous owner (hi, bro) gave it to me and I started using the battery. Previous to that it had just been used as a smaller desktop PC.
WindowsCE, PPC, XDA/MDA
"I thought the story was that the iPad came first but then they shrunk it to a phone as there wasn't a market for tablets."
Everyone seems to have forgotten that MS dominated this field only a few years back with PDAs (such as those from HP, manufactured by HTC, Mio, etc) and the XDA/MDA phones. Aside from web browsers and media players there were apps for navigation, VoIP, games and even VPN clients.
These now live on as PNAs - some with WinCE but many with a Linux OS.
Then there were older products like the SIMpad from Siemens. Running WinCE, the SIMpad would allow users to browse the Internet, view MS Office documents, etc. using a large touch-sensitive screen. These never caught on until Apple re-invented the idea with the iPad.
I'm just impressed that Apple has convinced so many people that the iPhone and iPad are so novel and now own the field, just as they did with MP3 players and the iPod.
More to do with the charger letting the battery alone
The problem here more seems to be in the power supply leaving the battery alone when it's ok.
The last 20% charge with low current isn't good for the battery (note how you'll find plug-in hybrid vehicles never fully charging/discharging their batteries). So in "all day plugged in" environments a lot will depend on the system's strategy of when to leave the battery alone and when to actually try and top it off.
It does indeed seem like Apple's doing something right there and that ThinkPads are a bit clunky at it, because I've seen many office ThinkPads (and the same with some Fujitsu Siemens machines) that after less than 2 years had their batteries badly degraded (<30min useful life) but nothing comparable with Macbooks, not even with the old Powerbooks.
Now I remember from some old support documents that they left the battery alone after charging until it had fallen to 95% before trying to fill it up again. But this is many years ago and they have probably refined that
My old laptop
I had* a Systemax(?) laptop that used the 95% rule.
* Actually, I still have it, but the screen has key marks on it (too much squeezing into a packed rucksack) and it has 3 broken keys so eventually I replaced it.
(?) I think it was Systemax. It was actually a rebadged Acer.
Forgotten because it didn't happen
Microsoft never dominated the PDA market. They had at most 50% market share at one time, which was due to Palm's abject incompetence rather than Microsoft making a good product. They also never dominated the smartphone market. IIRC they maxed out at 30% market share in the US and 10-15% worldwide.
The iPhone and iPad ARE novel, in that they are [relatively] reliable, easy to use, attractive, have good battery life, and don't require a stylus.
Arm netbooks conpicuous in their absence
Aren't they? Computex 2009, Asus shows an Arm based netbook running Linux to be released Summer 2009.
Cue joint presentation by Asus, Intel and Microsoft iterating over and over again how important Intel's hardware and Windows is to the future of netbooks and Asus.
Asus Arm based netbook did you say? What Asus arm netbook? (The cancelled smartbook).
This year Asus have commited to releasing a Tegra 3 based netbook running Chrome by the end of 2011. I wait and hope.
Really realy want a netbook that runs all day without recharging and that has a friggin keyboard so you can actually do some work on it.
Meanwhile in 10 years we might get prood that Intel/Microsoft paid Asus and other manufacturers off so they don't defect to Arm and not-Windows, much like their past dealings.
Asus EEE 'fAndroid' says...
... I've been very pleased with my Asus EEE winXP 1000HE.
the form-factor is just right for my daily rail commute.
However, I thought the Asus Transformer was the 10"-er that I wanted.
I bought the one with the keyboard dock and it updated to Honecomb 3.1 Android as soon as it was on the wifi.
It's lite and has a great screen.
As a local government Councillor, I'm using it for PDF reading instead of printed reports that would kill the cat if they landed on it in the morning.
The e-mail and Google integration, along with Evernote and the bundled Polaris Office make it a great travelling companion.
With keyboard dock, it's the same 'form factor' as my WinXP, but as a fondleslab (nice use in the article, btw) I'm using small-factor swype, or palm-pilot grafiti and a Griffin capacitative 'crayon' rather than trying to type - I don't like the lack of feedback.
plus, the ability to stream web content direct to the TV via the hdmi is a great added bonus for music and video. (I recommend Ghost for audio).
I love it and so do the friends and colleagues I've shown it to, not just fAndroids, but Fanbois too!
"Meanwhile in 10 years we might get prood that Intel/Microsoft paid Asus and other manufacturers off so they don't defect to Arm and not-Windows, much like their past dealings."
The first priority of an effective monopoly is to deny it exists.
The second is to protect it at *all* costs.
eBooks & Surface
I worked with the eBooks team in the late 1990s, so I saw Microsoft's vision for tablets. The problem was not a lack of imagination by the developes or product teams, it was a lack of imagination by Ballmer and his executive vice presidents. The only cool idea to survive that project was ClearType.
They also failed to leverage the MS Surface tecnology, invented by researcher Dave Kurlander. You see that multitouch UI in the new versions of Windows, and everyone assumes they just copied the iPhone, but in fact they had this a long time ago and just failed to make good use of it.
I laugh when i hear the term corporate goverance. The fact Ballmer and Howard Stringer still have jobs shows what an oxymoron that word is.
Great Windows tablets are avaliable now!
As I was reading this using my Windows 7 tablet it occurs to me that the people complaining that windows sucks on tablets haven’t used one lately. The problem with the early tablets was the touch screen and the reluctance to go all-in and lose the keyboard. The early touch screens made the screen hard to read and all the laptop bells and whistles made them too heavy.
I’m writing this on an Acer Iconatab w500, I love it, a few tweaks to the configuration out of the box and it’s great. The best part is I can run all my normal software, office, java, flash even visual studio. It has no trouble lasting all day; I never turn it off or use hibernate.
... and have been for a long time
I have a 2005 Motion Computing tablet in daily use. With stylus: after all, I learned to write with a pencil and this is no different. Going to board meetings with all the papers on it is so convenient - the others have 1-2kg files. Also I have the papers from all the past meetings, with my annotations, to hand. My colleague who trialled a fondleslab could read only and went back to dead trees pretty quickly.
To use it for content production is a breeze - I can pop it in its desk stand and use keyboard and mouse or remote desktop into it while it's an a drawer, or if I have to type on the move there's an on-screen handwriting converter thingy or small bluetooth keyboard that I can use. Like Novatone, I can do practically anything on it that I can do on the desktop (except Half-life, which I tried once!) including office apps, developing with Delphi, and 'desktop' mapping software that doubles as a handy satnav on a 12.1" display. Plus Winamp and VLC (12.1" screen, remember?) for long train/plane journeys
It's also been in a rucksack twice when I've been dumped off my motorbike by tw*ts in cars and one corner is held together by sticky tape. But it still works, and still gives me 8 hours on a charge so I can work all day.
Who needs fondleslabs? Some of us do real work.
Microsoft & Tablets
The one point missing from article and most commenters, is that no matter how much "vision" Microsoft and Bill Gates himself may have had about tablet technology and related 'innovation', the company did not and does not have great or even very good software to compete effectively - although they will probably always make hundreds of $$millions or even $$billions from the Microsoft (simple minded?) faithful.
Anyone who 'really' knows the technical facts and lineage of Windows - any iteration or version - understands quite clearly that most all of it is based on legacy code and design, which will not adapt well - translate that as paste/glue onto modern, mobile Internet technologies.
A perfect analogy related to me recently by a senior technical VP from one of the largest three [real innovative] technology companies in USA is: no matter what the features and specifications of a luxury sports car, e.g. Porsche 911 or Ferrari (equivalent to any hardware), it will never reach it's potential or be great if it only runs on 30 Octane gasoline - equivalent to Microsoft OS.
That's not really a perfect analogy, is it? It is, in fact, a stinker. If it were petrol it'd have an RON of 30. lol.
Oh, and anyone who 'really' knows the technical facts and lineage of English knows that most!=almost.
HP dropped the ball.
Actually the first UMPC's (as they were called) running Windows Tablet were very much like the fondleslap. Just go look at the HP TC1100, it is a fondleslab and 8 years before it! Then you have the Samsung Q1 (later the Q1+ but that was pretty dire really). But what was cool on the Samsung was MS's split thumb board...From lot's of warbling in the rumour mill it seems to be returning in Win8 Tablet's. It was a very good idea, onscreen keyboard which you use while having the tablet securely held in both hands, and still giving you a large display area to view while you type.
While MS made the goof of just shipping normal Windows for these devices. The hardware makers also should take responsibility for ignoring the great designs of the first generation products which got ignored so they could just use normal notebook parts slapped together with a funky hinge. The other issue is, usually anyhow MS hasn't really wanted to ever be anything but a software seller. There is good and bad in this, but really MS hasn't ever wanted to be something it's not. I quiet like that though. We know who or what to expect from MS. Good or bad.
Of course these things failed. The only people who might think pen/handwriting-based tablets are cool are old men who never learned how to type. If you can type, why in god's name would you ever want to write anything by hand? These things are a complete throwback to 60s science fiction.
Well, I suppose graphic designers like pen-based input for when they want to sketch something, but how many people are graphic designers.
Of course the iPad is smaller/lighter/thinner/etc. and the battery lasts longer, but if the iPad relied on a stylus and handwriting recognition, it would be a failure too.
Re: Comically retro
"If you can type, why in god's name would you ever want to write anything by hand?"
Because I don't think in prose?
When I'm brainstorming, I push my keyboard to one side and pick up a biro and a pile of scrap paper. I'll do quite a lot of scribbling before I have the ideas sufficiently clear in my head to start thinking (and writing) linearly. I'll quite often find myself redrawing a clean version of a previous sheet in order to start off in a new direction. An A4-sized tablet that tidied up my labels, straightened my lines, smoothed my curves and let me "branch" several versions of a diagram would be the perfect tool for that sort of work.
And I'm a programmer, not a graphic designer. I'd hazard a guess that text entry is a fairly small part of the time spent using a computer for most people and a fair bit of *that* is free-form text where you are constantly switching between mouse and keyboard to position fragments of text. Even something like Excel would be easier (for some tasks) with a high-resolution pen input.
If you can't already type, why learn?
The thing does speech recognition. Not well, I admit...
And touchscreens are appearing on desktops now.
"exploding market owned entirely by Apple."
Apple has 80% market of tablets. I also hate tablets and Apple's walled garden but don't troll by calling people trolls.
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