I've just finished reading Ina Fried's piece on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer talking to financial analysts about a rival to Apple's iPad, and it's clear from what Ballmer is saying that not only did Apple catch Microsoft with its pants down (again), but that Microsoft is floundering about trying to come up with a convincing response.
Let's take a look at just some of the things that Ballmer said.
Talking about Microsoft rival to the iPad, Ballmer said "they'll be shipping as soon as they are ready."
Really? Wow! But like when? Weeks? Months? Years? Vaporware????? I know that financial analysts usually know nothing about tech, but you'd think that someone would have had the idea to pin that timescale down a little.
Also, and I know it's a low blow, but let's remember that Kin shipped too ... shipping isn't what matters, it's making a product that people want.
Talking about Apple's iPad, Ballmer said "they've sold certainly more than I'd like them to have sold." Ummm, yeah, but Microsoft has for years now left a big stonking gap in the market for Apple to fill. Microsoft was too busy trying to shove "Tablet PCs" down people's throats to realize that what people wanted were just "tablets" systems.
Microsoft, through it's mismanagement of tablet development, both hardware and software, has handed Apple millions of customers, folks who when it comes time to buy a new computer, might be more likely to go with Apple.
"We have got to make things happen ... we're in the process of doing that as we speak. We're working with our hardware partners. We're tuning Windows 7."
Two points here. First, and I know that perhaps I'm being pedantic here, but isn't Windows 7 already supposed to be tuned for tablets? The marketing propaganda seems to say it is. Oh wait, that doesn't count.
Secondly, does the OS have to be Windows? Really? Isn't Microsoft really just trying to re-ignite the same old "notebook without a keyboard but with a stylus instead" market again? The exact same market that it has failed to do anything with for a decade?
"We're coming. We're coming full guns. The operating system is called Windows."
Again, back to Windows. An OS designed to be used with a keyboard and a mouse. Take a look at the point of your cursor, and how you manipulate that through the Windows 7 user interface. Now take your finger, which is about a gazillion times bigger, and imagine trying to do the same thing. It's gonna suck, right?
The problem is that Microsoft has a hard time thinking outside the "Windows" box, and an even harder time building a new OS that has all the functionality that people want (simple stuff like Cut/Copy/Paste, stuff that's been around for years). This is why Microsoft wants to shove a monolithic desktop-based OS on every device possible. It's just crazy, and it doesn't make any real sense, but it's the only business model Microsoft really knows how to leverage.
I shouldn't be too harsh on Microsoft here though, because OEMs are to blame too. Because all the OEMs compete against one another in markets that really don't allow them to stand out on anything other than price (the lowness of the price), it all really just becomes a race to the bottom to make the cheapest thing possible, and then shove Windows on it. Also, OEMs make the problem worse by cluttering up the OS with all sorts of crapware that they get paid to foist on end users. OEMs know how to squeeze revenue out of Windows, and are scared of anything different.
Who's holding their breath for a Microsoft tablet?