Microsoft’s new slates looking to take a bite out of Apple iPad

Dec 14, 2010
Finance

A decade ago, when the PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) reigned, Microsoft (MSFT) pioneered the first slate computer, a forerunner to today’s hit iPad tablet from Apple (AAPL). At the Consumer Electronics show next month, Microsoft is coming back with a new line of slates with a slide-out keyboard, aiming to take a bite out of […]

A decade ago, when the PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) reigned, Microsoft (MSFT) pioneered the first slate computer, a forerunner to today’s hit iPad tablet from Apple (AAPL).

At the Consumer Electronics show next month, Microsoft is coming back with a new line of slates with a slide-out keyboard, aiming to take a bite out of Apple.

Nick Bilton in the Bits blog in the New York Times quotes sources as saying that CEO Steve Ballmer will unveil a slew of slates from Dell (DELL), Samsung (005930.KS) and others on the CES stage in Las Vegas.

Bilton said unnamed sources described the Samsung device as “similar in size and shape to the Apple iPad, although it is not as thin. It also includes a unique and slick keyboard that slides out from below for easy typing.” It would run on the Windows 7 OS.

With the slates, Microsoft may have in mind business users who read newspapers and then get to work on Word.

As to apps, Bilton said don’t look for an app store a la Apple’s iTunes: “Microsoft will encourage software partners to host the applications on their own web sites, which will then be highlighted in a search interface on the slate computers.” Many apps reportedly are already in production.

Daniel Eran Dilger said in Apple Insider that Microsoft downplayed the importance of available third-party software when launching Windows Phone 7, claiming that smartphone users don’t want to be distracted with lots of functionality in their mobile phone. “Claiming the same thing about tablet computers will be harder to do, but the new devices’ backward compatibility with conventional Windows apps will make this less necessary,” he said.

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Dilger provides a nice illustrated history of Microsoft’s tablet devices… and flops. He noted: “In 2010, Microsoft once again focused on tablet PCs, this time under the name Slate PC, showing off a prototype of an HP (HPQ) Slate running Windows 7. That device ended up selling just 9,000 units as Apple’s full sized iPad began selling into the millions.”

The Times said that CES Ballmer could preview Windows 8, which is due out in 2013. Mary Jo Foley expressed skepticism in ComputerWorld.

She said: “The Windows team has been striving to maintain as much secrecy as possible about Windows 8. So a showing as early as January 2011 would be uncharacteristic and surprising. But it also might silence some of the continued criticism of Microsoft’s lack of a true answer to the iPad. So maybe the Windows team will be asked to break the mold…”

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