Another Windows 7 slate dropped from this year's Christmas list

Another Windows 7 slate dropped from this year's Christmas list

Summary: Another week, another Windows 7 slate is cut from the list of those slated (pun intended) to ship in time for this holiday season.

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Another week, another Windows 7 slate is cut from the list of those slated (pun intended) to ship in time for this holiday season.

This time, as Engadget's PC reviewer extraordinaire Joanna Stern noted on August 23, the vendor didn't decide to dump Windows 7 for Android. Instead, MSI has decided to delay its Windows 7-based WindPad so it can incorporate Intel's Oak Trail processors that are expected to offer better power management and battery life. (MSI is also developing an Android WindPad slate, which is still on tap to ship before the end of this year, by the way.)

It was just a month ago that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer showed off a list of 21 vendors all said to be working on "Windows 7 slates" due out in time for this holiday season. (Seemingly, Ballmer's list included slates running Windows Embedded Compact-based operating systems, as well. The Embedded Compact 7 release to manufacturing date is still sometime in the fourth quarter of 2010, last I heard.)

Since Ballmer flashed his slate slide, there's been further disarray in the Windows slate market.

ASUS is readying both Windows 7 and Windows Embedded Compact 7 slates/tablets, but they aren't likely to hit until very late 2010 or early 2011 (and at a $1,000 price point for the Windows 7 model and a $400 to $500 one for the Compact 7 one).

Hanvon was supposed to launch its Windows 7 slate in April but best I can tell it became available in limited markets and quantities (in China and Australia) in August and was priced at more than $1,000. No word if/when the B10 will hit other markets.

Pegatron, the hardware OEM behind the ExoPC, is continuing its work on Windows 7 slates which will be private-labeled (best I can tell) by various partners around the world. The Canadian partner is Ciara-Tech, which will market the slate under the name Ciara Vibe (be careful searching that name, as there is another "Ciara Vibe," images of whom are probably not safe for work). No other OEMs have been announced. ExoPC had created its own touch user interface that is layered on top of Windows 7, as well as its own app store for developers who create apps that make use of that interface. It sounds like the Canadian launch still might happen in mid-late September (?)

Hewlett Packard is still promising a Windows 7 slate for the fourth quarter of 2010, but it sounds like that product will be marketed as a business-focused product (more of a tablet without a lid) and not a consumer-focused iPad competitor.

Ballmer said at Microsoft's Financial Analyst Meeting (FAM) in late July that Microsoft and its partners were counting on Intel's Oak Trail to give them a better answer to the iPad. Ballmer insisted that Windows 7 -- not Microsoft's Windows Phone OS or Windows Compact Embedded (which also runs on ARM processors, unlike Windows 7) -- would be the best operating system for a new line of iPad competitors.

What Ballmer and others at Microsoft haven't addressed is whether Microsoft will offer its partners some kind of a standardized touch shell for their slates. Currently, OEMs making Windows-based slates are doing their own things by adding different user interface layers on top of Windows 7 to make it a touch-first operating system. (Microsoft is offering OEMs some guidelines for optimizing Win7, IE8 and Windows Live for touch, but is not providing an actual shell they can use.)

I'd think Microsoft would have learned its lesson with Windows Mobile as to what happens when its hardware partners are allowed to customize extensively on top of a Microsoft-provided operating system. As Android developers are discovering, as well, the result is often a bunch of incompatible platforms that don't support applications in a common way, creating market fragmentation and programmer fear and loathing....

Microsoft execs dropped hints at FAM that they are aware of these problems and are thinking about the optimal ways to make Windows a touch-centric user interface. That's what the Microsoft "Surfboard" prototype touch application seems to be all about. Microsoft's Corporate Vice President of Windows Consumer Marketing Brad Brooks mentioned Surfboard in passing during FAM. During a demo, Brooks said:

"So, here I've got another slate form factor and again running Windows 7 and I'm going to pop open an application here that we've been, this is a prototype application we've been working with at Microsoft and using to help train our ecosystem about how to create touch-first application on Windows 7.  And so this particular application is what we call internally Surfboard."

It's looking more and more as though there won't be many Windows 7 slates available this holiday season. As I blogged before, sometimes it is better to be late than lame. If Microsoft uses the next few months to create a better touch-centric slate reference platform -- and maybe even a shell -- maybe the delay will be worth it.

Do you think Microsoft should/could develop a touch shell for its PC maker partners to bring more standardization and unity to the Windows-based slate space?

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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64 comments
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  • RE: Another Windows 7 slate dropped from this year's Christmas list

    This is a good thing, Oak Trail will be good.
    angarita calvo
    • Yes, but

      @angarita calvo

      by then, ARM will be better also. Intel/MS are chasing a moving target. I am not saying they cannot succeed, just that it is hazardous to compare one line of current products to a future line of different products. It is really an irrelevant comparison. We will see what the situation is like when Oak Trail finally ships.
      Economister
      • Intel wipes floor with ARM

        @Economister

        You just watch Intel crushing ARM out of business. Count on it.
        LBiege
      • RE: Another Windows 7 slate dropped from this year's Christmas list

        @LBiege

        The problem for intel is the x86 instruction set makes its chips less efficient. Intel has overcome this disadvantage by spending much more money on production process than anyone else could afford. But now that Globalfoundries is preparing to produce ARM at 28 nm, that advantage is vanishing. I don't see how Intel is ever going to catch up with ARM.
        Eduardo_z
    • Just about every WinSlate will settle on Oak Trail

      The current Atom chips look very sluggish in comparison.
      LBiege
    • RE: Another Windows 7 slate dropped from this year's Christmas list

      @angarita calvo Wait for Oak Trail... then why not wait for the next bigger, better, faster, less-power-hungry processor? Or the one after that? Come on, geterdone already!
      levinson
  • RE: Another Windows 7 slate dropped from this year's Christmas list

    Delay for a better processor so you can have Microsoft Windows 7 on the slate is totally worth it.
    Loverock Davidson
    • Their attempt to hide win7's bloat under more powerful hardware will fail

      @Loverock Davidson <br><br>but then letting win7's bloat shine on less powerful hardware will fail also.<br><br>There is no escape for win7's bloat and power hunger, failure is the way to go.<br><br>Now I'm wondering: How much failure is enough for them, and how much is too little? When will they finally stop this nonsense of trying to put win7 onto hardware where because of bloat and power hunger it has absolutely no chance of running acceptably?
      OS Reload
      • Like it "failed" on netbooks where it kicked linux to the curb?

        yeah right pantload...
        Johnny Vegas
      • @Vegas: It ate more into vista's sales than it did into Linux's

        @Vegas

        Financially Linux sales were not affected by MS giving XP away.

        Vista was the real loser.
        OS Reload
      • Fascinating.

        I can undersatnd why you do not look at things logiclly, and without emotion.

        You would not like what it is you had to say.

        :|
        Tim Cook
    • RE: Another Windows 7 slate dropped from this year's Christmas list

      @Loverock Davidson LOL yeah, we can't wait to see a POINT AND CLICK OS on a touch device...that's never been done before.

      How non-innovative can you get?

      EPIC FAIL.
      cyberslammer
    • RE: Another Windows 7 slate dropped from this year's Christmas list

      @Loverock Davidson

      As always, LD is absolutely correct. MS is going to clobber the ipad because it has been making tablets so much longer and has had much longer to learn from its errors. It's the version 3.0 phenomenon (even if they are up to v 7.0, by my count).

      Just remember, Microsoft is always best. It is best in every way, it always was, and always will be. Keep that in mind and you never go wrong.
      Eduardo_z
  • Is it a drop dead certainty that Oak Trail will be enough?

    I suspect the processing power will be fine.. At least I hope. But will the improvements to battery drain or use be enough? Also what about price being a cutting edge processor JUST ramping up production has to effect the price of the chip right? This is very interesting and I can't wait to see how it all plays out:P

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
    • And, there is the problem. If it requires more processing power to be

      responsive enough, then, it will make the end product heavier, less battery life, thicker, etc. Couple that with an OS not appropriate for a tablet, and you are going to see a lot of manufacturers dropping Windows 7 tablets.
      DonnieBoy
      • I disagree. You, and many like you claimed that of

        Windows on a netbook.

        It was Linux being dropped by manufacturers in the end, not Windows.

        Could that same fate be in store for Android powered devices?
        Tim Cook
  • RE: Another Windows 7 slate dropped from this year's Christmas list

    I'm very skeptical of pure Windows 7 slates - the OS is simply not designed to be used with the slate format. Much better would be to simply do what Apple does and release a Win Phone 7-based slate. I don't quite understand why MS seems so reluctant about that idea?
    andlju
    • Why does MS seem so reluctant about that idea, you ask?

      @andlju <br><br>What about these:<br><br>No multitasking<br>No copy/paste<br>No (somewhat) bug free wp7 release<br>No features to match the competition (at launch wp7 will stand where the competition was more than 3 years ago, at best)<br><br>No options other than win7. <br><br>Are these enough to justify MS's reluctance? I guess they are.
      OS Reload
      • Wow another pantload of FUD, what a surprise

        WP7 has multitasking, at launch it will have better multitasking support than ios has after 3 years. And the tech previews of it have already proven it less buggy than ios so wrong there too.

        Of course if windows slates were designed to be as lame as ipads then maybe using a weaker os would be acceptable. But they're not, they're designed to enhance productivity, not hinder it like ipads, so they'll make the smart choice and choose windows.
        Johnny Vegas
      • RE: Another Windows 7 slate dropped from this year's Christmas list

        @OS Reload I agree that the WP7 should have cut and paste from the get go. Some of your other information is not quite right.
        rmark@...