Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is on a European tour this week, and a number of news outlets are reporting that Ballmer has said again -- for at least the third time this year -- that there will be Windows 7 slates out in time for holiday 2010.
Most of the reports I've read today seem to have forgotten about Ballmer's summer speeches where he promised the same. At the company's annual Worldwide Partner Conference, Ballmer showed a slide listing more than 20 vendors that were on the Windows tablet/slate bandwagon. (Ballmer didn't distinguish between slates running Windows 7 vs. slates running Windows Embedded Compact 7 -- which are two quite different things.)
If Microsoft does end up showing off any of this year's Windows slates at its October 11 Consumer Open House events in New York and London, where it will be launching Windows Phone 7, I'd bet they'll be models we've seen demonstrated earlier this year at Computex or other Microsoft conferences. I'm doubtful they'll be much to write home about.
Most of today's reports about Ballmer's slate commitments also are failing to mention his July remarks regarding their limitations. Ballmer admitted this summer that the real iPad competitors from Microsoft's partners -- which will still be running Windows 7 -- won't be out till later in 2011, some time after Intel ships its Oak Trail processors.
This year's Windows 7 slates are unlikely to have very good battery life; a standard, touch-centric interface; or anything like the Apple iTunes store. These are all things consumers are coming to expect when they're in the market for slates.
Microsoft is planning to make Windows 8 optimized to run on slates from the get-go and is expected to work with OEMs to launch app stores when Windows 8 is released (supposedly 2012). That's one heck of a head start for Apple and Android/Google OS slates....
I know I wouldn't want one of this year's Windows 7 slates under my Christmas tree. The 2011 crop of Windows slates should be better. If I were Ballmer, I'd stop crowing about Generation 1 of the Windows 7 slates and wait for something more credible to trumpet....