Microsoft's Ballmer: Windows 7 slates are 'job number one'

Microsoft's Ballmer: Windows 7 slates are 'job number one'

Summary: One of the most pressing questions on investors' and shareholders' minds about Microsoft is how the company plans to respond to Apple's iPad. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reiterated at FAM that the company and its PC partners are going to have new Windows 7 slates coming to market "soon," but didn't much else about the company's plans.

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One of the most pressing questions on investors' and shareholders' minds about Microsoft is how the company plans to respond to Apple's iPad.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer didn't share anything new regarding Microsoft's plans on July 29 at the company's annual Financial Analyst Meeting, but did assure Wall Street analyst and press attendees that the Softies aren't burying their heads in the sand.

"We have a push with our hardware partners" around building slates, tablets and other new form factors running Windows 7, Ballmer said. Ballmer said this push was "Job Number 1," and told FAM attendees that "no one is sleeping at the switch" in terms of getting these new devices to market.

So where are they? They're coming "soon," Ballmer said, offering no further update. He said the exact timing will be up to the PC makers. Earlier this month, Ballmer said new Windows 7 slate/tablet devices will be out in time for Holiday 2010.

Ballmer mentioned a few times during his keynote the coming SoC Intel Atom processors, codenamed Oak Trail, that will be available to customers in early 2011, as enabling new lighter, faster slates. Oak Trail, according to Intel, delivers a 50 percent reduction in average power consumption with full HD-video playback. (Windows 7, Google's Chrome OS and the Linux-based MeeGo operating system are all expected to run on these chips.)

Ballmer didn't mention ARM at all, in spite of the fact Redmond just inked an architecture agreement with ARM. He also didn't bring up Windows Embedded Compact -- another operating system that Microsoft has been providing to slate makers for possible inclusion in new slate form factors -- or the Windows Phone 7 operating system, which a number of customers have said they'd like to see on slate/tablet devices.

Apple has "done an interesting job" with the iPad and has sold a lot more of them than Microsoft would like, Ballmer conceded. But Microsoft knows it "needs to make things happen, like we did with netbooks," he said.

Ballmer reiterated Microsoft's line that slates are just another PC form factor, and that users want choice of different price points, weight and amount of processing power.

At the technology showcase at FAM here at Microsoft headquarters, company execs are showing off a number of different PC form factors running Windows 7, but no slates running any Microsoft operating system. Execs also demonstrated Windows Live Wave 4 services at FAM, playing up how these kinds of services turn a PC into a "personal cloud." Windows Live Wave 4 services are being rolled out throughout this summer/fall.

Update: One Wall Street analyst just asked Ballmer in the Q&A session to be more precise about the company's slate plans. Ballmer said Windows will be the operating system, Intel will be the processor architecture and that's that. He said Windows Phone OS is for screens of the three-to-four-inch size, and isn't right for slates. "We'll be in the market as soon as we can," Ballmer said. "Does that mean really really soon? Really pretty soon?" All he'd say is "it ain't a long time from now."

I wish Ballmer would give us some real battery-life statistics and talk about plans (or lack thereof) to optimize the UI on these devices to be touch-first....

Update No. 2: Microsoft also disclosed today that it has three more Microsoft stores coming: One in Bellevue, Wash; one in Minneapolis (in the Mall of America); and one just outside Chicago (Oak Brook, Ill.).

More from Microsoft FAM:

Topics: IT Employment, Microsoft, Operating Systems, 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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  • Windows Phone 7 has been dumped

    For the slate market. Microsoft considers WP7 unviable in slates. Has decided to drop it from the slate, and try other operating systems. Lost confidence in Windows Phone 7 to run in a slate.
    Vbitrate
    • When did they say that?

      @Market Analyst

      Oh, it's what you WISH they think.
      Lester Young
      • RE: Microsoft's Ballmer: Windows 7 slates are 'job number one'

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        @Lester Young

        When a company has only about 60% of the browser market, then they've lost all focus and should get out of the business altogether. Now, when the next highest percentage browser is somewhere around 24% (and not increasing that share), then they must be doing something right.
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      • RE: Microsoft's Ballmer: Windows 7 slates are 'job number one'

        @Lester Young

        When a company has only about 60% of the browser market, then they've lost all focus and should get out of the business altogether. Now, when the next highest percentage browser is somewhere around 24% (and not increasing that share), then they must be doing something right.
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    • W/ Oak Trail powering the slates ...

      @Market Analyst

      you simply don't run subprime phone OS on it unless you are addicted to subprime OS like iOS4.
      LBiege
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  • Who needs Monday morning quarterbacking....

    When the writing is so clearly marked on the wall now? Ballmer's answer to the iPad is the Slates/tablet PCs reincarnated, <b>again</b>.
    dave95.
  • Why?

    Why are they doing this? What is the point? They don't have an offering for this - why bother? Do they need an iPad? The iPad works fine with a PC, why not just do "Office for iPad"?!

    That would make more sense, both for customers, and actually Microsoft would sell truckloads of "Office for iPad". Sounds like ego.
    Jeremy-UK
    • iPads

      Are content viewing. Hardly a viable option for content creation. It's lack of a digitizer for pen input is a HUGE drawback.

      This is where tablet PC's come into play. Windows OS has built in support for handwriting recognition, among other things. The only thing that sets them back, is battery life. But apparently, ASUS has found a way to circumvent that, as they have announced a Win7 EEE Pad with 10 hrs battery life.
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      • RE: Microsoft's Ballmer: Windows 7 slates are 'job number one'

        @NStalnecker
        I agree. Apple have done well with the ipad - but it's basically a dead end - It's a passive device.
        Microsoft just has a different philosophy on tablets/slates - they believe it should be more than that.
        Poppets
      • It CAN be more than that.

        Tablets can be more than the iPad. The hardware can support it. The only thing holding it back, is battery life as I mentioned earlier. If that can be licked, tablet PC's would I'm sure take off.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • Battery life is just one factor, price is more important

        @NStalnecker
        I just bought HP smarttouch tablet with sub-1k, battery life is about 10 hours.
        FADS_z
      • RE: Microsoft's Ballmer: Windows 7 slates are 'job number one'

        @NStalnecker Yes, it's a pen that makes the iPad so unusable...who the heck uses a pen input anymore??? I have a bluetooth keyboard hooked to mine and it works FINE...as for content creation, you're just another angry Microsoft user who has never went into the apps store to see what they have for the iPad, they have all sorts of content creation, but unfortunately your blinders are on as usual.

        Windows 7 Slate = Windows 7 FLOP.
        cyberslammer