Microsoft execs continue to insist tablets are PCs

Microsoft execs continue to insist tablets are PCs

Summary: Microsoft Windows Phone President Andy Lees' restatement of Microsoft's tablet positioning has kicked off again the debate as to whether tablets and PCs are one and the same.


Microsoft Windows Phone President Andy Lees' restatement of Microsoft's tablet positioning has kicked off again the debate as to whether tablets and PCs are one and the same.

Lees, one of the keynoters at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference on July 12, told the Microsoft partners in attendance that Microsoft is holding onto its decision to ban ts OEM partners from using the Windows Phone operating system as the OS for tablets. This isn't new; Microsoft execs have been saying the same for months. But here's what Lees said yesterday:

"Now, a lot of people have asked me, are we going to produce a phone that is a tablet? You know, are we going to use Windows Phone 7 to produce tablets? Well, that is in conflict with this strategy. We view a tablet as a sort of PC. We want people to be able to do the sorts of things that they expect on a PC on a tablet, things like networking to be able to connect to networks, and utilize networking tools, to get USB drives and plot them into the tablet. To be able to do things like printing, all of the things using Office, using all of the things you would expect from a PC and provide a hybrid about how you can do that with the tablet, as well."

After having used an iPad for a year, I have to say that I don't consider that device to be a PC. In fact, I still use both my PC and my iPad at different times and for different reasons. I am not saying iPads can't be used to do "real" work or that I can't have "fun" on my PC. But on those occasions when I need something small, light, portable, with a battery that will last all day (keeping me from having to lug power cords and/or an extra battery), I grab my iPad and go. When I know I'm going to be typing a lot, I still fall default to my PC.

Some Microsoft partners and customers are believers in the "business tablet" concept -- the idea that tablets are only useful if they include all the same features as "full-fledged" PCs. These are the folks who agree with the claim that tablets and PCs are and should be the same.

I'm not in this camp. I want the kinds of apps that are on my phone -- not the ones on my PC -- on my tablet. With Windows 8 tablets, maybe we'll have the best of all worlds: Both phone/phone-like apps and business apps on the same device. Until then, however, I really feel like Microsoft is continuing to repeat its historical tablet mistakes, and will have similar poor market results.

What's your take? Are tablets PCs? Should they be?

More from the Microsoft Partner Conference:

Microsoft shows off early peek at Windows Server 8

Microsoft commits to deliver next CRM Online release by year-end

Windows 8 will run on all Windows 7 PCs (and Vista PCs too)

Microsoft: 400 million Windows 7 and 100 million Office 2010 licenses sold

Microsoft: In a year, Windows Phone has gone from very small to ... very small

Microsoft makes it official: New beta of Windows Intune 2.0 available

What's on Steve Ballmer's Microsoft priority list now?

Microsoft to deliver Surface 2.0 software developer kit on July 12

Why Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is so bullish on Bing

Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Tablets


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).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Microsoft execs continue to insist tablets are PCs

    The mistake was not designing an interface for touch. The hardware of the day only supported stylus input. Windows 8 will fix all of that!
    It will be the best of both worlds!
    • RE: Microsoft execs continue to insist tablets are PCs

      @jatbains How? When existing applications doesn't use these fancy new controls. Isn't a Windows 8 Tablet running Microsoft Office every bit as broken as their current offering?
      • No.

        @ jeremychappell

        The whole point is to have new apps for the touch UI, which is something Microsoft are clearly aiming at with their HTML/JS push and porting tools for iPhone/Android apps -- right now targeted at Windows Phone developers, but undoubtedly with Windows 8 developers in mind too. At the same time, all the Windows management features corporations rely on remain in place (in contrast to the iPad or Android tablets, which lack anything comparable).

        If you want to use tablet apps (ported from iPad/Android or written from the ground up), you use the touch screen. If you want to use Office or other PC apps, you dock the tablet or connect a wireless keyboard/mouse -- or for a second-class experience when these aren't available, use a stylus like with current Windows tablets. If it works, it does what both the iPad and current Windows tablets do, so can replace both of them.
      • RE: Microsoft execs continue to insist tablets are PCs

        @WilErz ... well stated! :) The big concern I have isn't about whether Microsoft can deliver an OS that provides a good experience. Every release of Windows proves that there always improvements to whatever category of hardware is popular of the era.

        No, the big question is will OEM's actually be able to deliver hardware that can truly compete with the iPad form factor? By that I mean, can they provide 10+ hours of battery life to a full-function system, and can they provide it in a form factor that is lightweight and stylish?
    • RE: Microsoft execs continue to insist tablets are PCs

      Rumor has it that the new iPad HD is actually a 10 inch tablet Apple is developing that will run Lion, it will have a new name and create a new category of products...
      • RE: Microsoft execs continue to insist tablets are PCs

        @Hasam1991 No rumor has said that. Ever.
      • RE: Microsoft execs continue to insist tablets are PCs

        @Hasam1991 ... wow, that's so far from a reality that it makes me want to bang my head on a bed of nails.

        Apple has made the exact opposite more likely-- they're clearly poised to turn Mac OSX into a much more iOS-based platform instead of the other way around.
    • RE: Microsoft execs continue to insist tablets are PCs

      In other news this week we find that tablet sales are not increasing but have, in fact, decreased 28% year-on-year since last year. Teh reason for this is obvious. Current tablets are useless. What are they for? Information consumption devices? I call that a 'Reader', not a tablet.

      Today's tablets completely miss the mark. They miss the mark in the two biggest markets, business and education simply because they are useless for taking notes. Using an on-screen keyboard during a meeting is laughable. With no tactile feedback you have to constantly look at the screen and not at the speaker while you type.

      A stylus, on the other hand, is perfectly natural. Most people can jot down notes without constantly looking at the paper/screen.

      So for tablets ever to be useful they must first have the ability to read handwriting. Touch is a distant second in terms of usefulness although it can be an excellent and natural way to navigate. Children use their fingers to draw. Adults use a stylus. And it doesn't matter a hoot whether Steve Jobs says they are uncool. The truth is Apple/Jobs doesn't have - and cannot do - software for handwriting.
      Major Plonquer
      • RE: Microsoft execs continue to insist tablets are PCs

        @Major Plonquer This is why the tablets of today are considered "media tablet" but not "tablet PC".
  • Sacrificing Speed to Market

    This is a huge sacrifice in the speed to market game. Google put their 'phone version' of the Android OS (2.3) on the Galaxy Tab, just to get a presence in the tablet market. It sold, established a presence, and prepped for the entrance of the HoneyComb tablet.

    This is a short-sighted decision by MSFT execs, when they could take an initial step in this market... unless they view the tablet market as another fad like the Netbook fad.
    • RE: Microsoft execs continue to insist tablets are PCs

      On the contrary, I think they are thinking long term. Which is why they are trying to differentiate themselves with a full OS capable of productivity and consumer scenarios.
      The biggest threat I see for MSFT is branding and marketting.
    • RE: Microsoft execs continue to insist tablets are PCs

      @csharpfritz - you seem to forget that Microsoft had a tablet OS shipping as far back as 2003.
      Major Plonquer
    • RE: Microsoft execs continue to insist tablets are PCs

      @csharpfritz Android tablets have not sold. In fact, they've been a miserable failure.
  • RE: Microsoft execs continue to insist tablets are PCs

    Why shouldn't a tablet be expected to do everything a PC can. Hardware is evolving and will be able to handle it, especially Windows 8.
    • RE: Microsoft execs continue to insist tablets are PCs

      @mpietrorazio@... Problem with that approach is the cost. Cost will keep climbing and will ultimately be unaffordable. There are only 3 ways by which MS can win the tablet battle.
      1. Make an entry before the end of the year (which they have already lost big grounds)
      2. Cost should be less than iPad, but should have additional functionalities & HW support
      3. Should have more, or equal battery life
      I can't think if MS has any capacity on any of the above points....
      • RE: Microsoft execs continue to insist tablets are PCs

        @krishnansriram those are your 3 ways to win? those are very light. they don't have to enter the new tablet market this year, because it's not a race they just need to make good products and people will buy. it's windows and it does everything your desktop does. first off it's Microsoft who created the tablet market, please remember that, even though they didn't capitalize on it, but they did create it.
        2, the cost does not need to be less than the ipad, it could be the same, it could less, it could be higher, it will be all of the above (more choice).
        3, battery life is already there, it runs on ARM, please remember that.
      • As long as Windows 8 brings ...


        ... a comparable user experience to the iPad, it should do well. If MS and its partners can release Win 8 touch based devices about the same prices as current PCs, there shouldn't be a problem selling these devices. I believe the safest thing for MS' partners to do, is to come out initially with relatively cheap convertible type laptops. Users will be able to switch between tablet and traditional PC use, and as more and more touch based software becomes available, users will demand more and more touch capable devices - including straight tablets / slates. Touch based all-in-one PCs should also do well initially. Also desktops with touch based screens. So then MS and its partners can leverage the current demand for regular Windows, and offer it along with a new user experience, that will become more valuable, as more software is built for the OS.
        P. Douglas
    • Why don't PC's do everything a mainframe does?


      Serious question.
      • Why should all tablets be iPad clones?


        Serious question.
      • Never implied the iPad was a unique solution.

        Simply that the PC is not the universal solution.

        Serious answer.