Even though Microsoft's public stance, when asked about the impact of Apple's slate is "iPad? What iPad?", the Redmondians are preparing the company's partners for battle in 2011.
Microsoft is making available to its reseller partners marketing collateral to help them defend against the iPad's encroachment into the enterprise market. I had a chance to check out a PowerPoint dated December 2010 on "Microsoft Commercial Slate PCs" that the company is offering to its partners to help them explain Microsoft's slate strategy to business users.
Check out ten slides from Microsoft's iPad Battle Plan for Partners
The presentation makes no reference to Windows Next or Windows 8, which is expected to be the first version of Windows that Microsoft will optimize for slates, among other form factors. It also makes no reference to the Windows Phone OS, which some believe -- in spite of its Version 1.0 status -- should/could be a better operating system than Windows for slate devices.
The PowerPoint does, however, show how the Softies are encouraging partners to position slates and tablets running Windows 7 vs. the iPad. There are suggestions in the deck for how to sell to business users who alredy have committed to the iPad, as well as to ones who haven't yet done so.
Microsoft and its partners cannot afford to stand by idly as the iPad gains more traction. During Apple's most recent earnings call, officials there said Apple sold 7.3 million iPads in its most recent quarter. According to Apple, 80 percent of the Fortune 500 are piloting or deploying iPads. If iPads are categorized as "computers," Apple -- as a result of iPad sales -- is the No. 2 worldwide PC vendor.