Microsoft's slate strategy takes yet another turn

Microsoft's slate strategy takes yet another turn

Summary: A year ago, Microsoft was attempting to differentiate slates from tablets and advocating that OEMs use different versions of Windows for each type of device. This year, the message is it's all one big Windows world.

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What a difference a year makes, when it comes to Microsoft's slate strategy.

At the Computex show in 2010, Microsoft officials were doing some fancy footwork to differentiate slates from tablets and explain when and why OEMs would use Windows Embedded Compact vs. Windows 7 as operating systems for those different categories of devices. This year at Computex, Windows -- not the Embedded Windows version -- is being championed as Microsoft's operating system for slates and tablets both.

Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft's Corporate Vice President, OEM, provided the first of two Microsoft keynotes at Computex 2011 on June 1. Guggenheimer explained that Microsoft would talk about the current generation of Windows-powered devices during today's keynote, and tomorrow's "preview" there would be all about "the next generation of Windows." (Here in the U.S., Microsoft Windows President Steven Sinofsky is expected to provide the same "Windows Next" information at the AllThingsD conference at 3:15 PST on June 1. Sinofsky's remarks will not be Webcast.)

Just a year ago, Microsoft officials were positioning Windows Embedded Compact as the operating system that Microsoft hoped PC makers would use in their slates. (Microsoft was talking up slates a year ago as "consumption" devices, as opposed to creation devices.)

Because it could run on ARM processors, Windows Embedded Compact -- version 7 of which Microsoft finally released to manufacturing in March of this year -- was a good choice for low-power devices, the Softies said. For PC makers who wanted to create devices that could handle both creation and consumption equally, Microsoft was touting full Windows 7 as the operating system of choice.

At this year's Computex, Windows Embedded merited barely a mention during Guggenheimer's keynote. There was no more talk about creation vs. consumption devices. And the bit that Guggenheimer did discuss around Microsoft's Embedded OS platform was all about industrial devices, point of sale terminals and cars. Not a word this year about Windows Embedded being a good choice for slates.

(If you want to compare the two Computex keynotes from Guggenheimer yourself, here's a transcript of his Computex 2010 remarks. Here is a transcript of his June 1 2011 Computex remarks.)

Even just a couple of months ago, Microsoft was still positioning Windows Embedded Compact as a slate operating system. (Check out the pictures of the slate devices under the Windows Embedded Compact heading in Microsoft's slide below.)

But shortly after the Windows Embedded Compact 7 launch, something changed. Microsoft seemingly dropped Windows Embedded Handheld 7 -- its Windows Embedded Compact 7-based version of its ruggedized handheld operating system -- from its roadmap. And so far, all the new Windows slates and tablets that have come to market in the past couple of months and/or promised for the following couple of months are running full Windows 7, not the Embedded Compact 7 version of the operating system.

One explanation for the change is that Microsoft is putting all of its slate/tablet eggs in the Windows 8 basket. Because Windows 8 will run on both x86 and ARM chips, Microsoft no longer needs two different operating systems to target the two families of platforms. Microsoft is believed to be readying two different interfaces for Windows 8: One tailored to work on touch-centric devices and another that will work on standard PCs, laptops and notebooks. (Maybe we'll hear more on this from Sinofsky later tonight, though I'm not holding my breath as to the amount of Windows 8 information Microsoft is planning to share at this point in the development schedule....)

The Windows Embedded team hasn't been willing to talk about futures or positioning the several times I've asked for explanation. My assumption is Microsoft is no longer encouraging (or maybe even allowing) OEMs to use Windows Embedded Compact as a slate/tablet OS. If I get any kind of updated positioning statement from Microsoft, I'll update this post with it.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

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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118 comments
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  • RE: Microsoft's slate strategy takes yet another turn

    I'm glad that they've finally got the ship pointed in the right direction. I'm happy that Microsoft is under preasure, because I think it will force them to innovate. In years gone by companies would complain about Microsoft instead of out innovating them so Microsoft got lazy. Thanks to the Apple's and Google's of the world, Microsoft now has to innovate to get back in the game. This is good news for all users and I'm excited to see what they come up with.
    rwalrond
    • RE: Microsoft's slate strategy takes yet another turn

      @rwalrond

      Well said. Microsoft has shown many signs of innovating in the past 5 - 6 years or so and taking offerings from potential competitors very seriously. I welcome that as it just makes the products that much better.
      bobiroc
      • 5 or 6 years?

        More like 2 or 3. Max. Before that, they were a totally lazy monopoly.

        Now they're a monopoly that's still waking up.
        ScorpioBlue
      • RE: Microsoft's slate strategy takes yet another turn

        @bobiroc "...taking offerings from potential competitors very seriously" - you mean "cloning" or stealing ideas from companies that actually do innovation...
        prof123
      • @prof123

        I'm still trying to figure out who those competitors are.

        Oh that's right, they're aren't any! With a 90% monopoly out there, 'we' don't need any...
        ScorpioBlue
      • "Cloning?"

        @prof123

        Putting a full-featured OS on a slate isn't cloning the iPad. It is creating a much more capable device. I suppose you're going to tell us that Apple invented touch interfaces?

        @ScorpioBlue

        Surface, Kinect, and WP7 are innovative products that were in development more than 2 or 3 years ago.
        Lester Young
      • RE: Microsoft's slate strategy takes yet another turn

        [i]Surface, Kinect, and WP7 are innovative products that were in development more than 2 or 3 years ago.[/i]

        Surface - Let's see...the $10,000 console that only video arcades can afford... lol...

        Kinect - Ah the visual karaoke machine. Yes, I'm sure some people are buying it. more lol...

        WP7 - That hasn't exactly blown the iPhone out of it's premier spot, now has it?

        I will say Windows CE using a Metro UI looks promising, but I predict it'll be a disposable side-show (like the Zune was) compared to Windows 8
        ScorpioBlue
      • RE: Microsoft's slate strategy takes yet another turn

        "Kinect - Ah the visual karaoke machine. Yes, I'm sure some people are buying it. more lol..."

        Yes, a lot of people are buying it. As of March of this year, it hit the 10 million mark. According to Guinness, "Microsoft sold an average of 133,333 units per day between November 4 and January 3".

        Yep, a "few" people bought them.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Microsoft's slate strategy takes yet another turn

        Let's see...40 million iPads sold vs. 10 million Kinects. Respectable. Out of how many? ;)
        ScorpioBlue
      • Message has been deleted.

        5FingerDiscount
      • A few points

        [i]So, you're comparing a stand-alone product with a sizeable fan-base vs a product that has only been on the market since November?[/i]

        Let's see...the iPad was released the previous April before that. Not that significant a lead time.

        [i]You obviously havent seen the numerous mods that have been created using the Kinect have you?[/i]

        Well that's great. That's fantastic. But let's stick to consumer releases, shall we...

        [i]What can the iPad do? Push a button and make a farting noise, or toss a Bird into a bunch of pigs. At least Kinect is pretty innovated in terms of what it can do. Oh wait, I forgot, 1/2 a million 3 year olds can wipe their fingers accross a screen... silly me.[/i]

        Based on all that ignorance, you obviously haven't used an iPad before. Why don't you try one. Hmmm?

        [i]PS 10 Million products in 2 months is pretty ground breaking, not even Apple could compete with that.[/i]

        And then what? We haven't heard much since then.

        [i]Dont knock something till you do your research[/i]

        Oh I said it was respectable. But what do you do with it beyond entertaining yourself.

        lol...
        ScorpioBlue
      • Thank's for that 'unbiased' opinion

        @ScorpioBlue

        Why do you even bother? You're of little (if any) relevance here.
        Will Pharaoh
      • Message has been deleted.

        Will Pharaoh
      • 'Unbiased' opinion

        @Will Ferrell

        Why do you insist on unbiased opinions? Let's stop the pretense of 'unbiased' opinions. They don't exist around here. It's either one side or the other.

        Windows 7 was the OS they should have released back in 2007. I'm glad they fixed a lot of the things they needed to fix, but there gonna have to do better and so far I'm unimpressed. I've been relatively lenient when it comes to Windows 7, yet not with Microsoft as a whole. Any products they make, would not be my first choice unless it was something that I had to use.

        That's where I stand.
        ScorpioBlue
      • You're comparing the sales of two unrelated objects

        Why not compare Kinect sales to the sale of laptops, the two subjects are just about as close as Kinects and iPads.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Microsoft's slate strategy takes yet another turn

        I?m not holding my breath as to the amount of Windows 8 information Microsoft is planning to share at this point in the development schedule?.)<a rel="follow" href="http://www.speedydegrees.com/">online degrees</a>
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        JonathanTrott
      • RE: Microsoft's slate strategy takes yet another turn

        Microsoft???s Embedded OS platform was all about industrial devices, point of sale terminals and cars. Not a word this year about Windows Embedded being a good choice for slates.<a rel="follow" href="http://www.papermoz.com/book-reports/book-report-writing/">book report writing</a>
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        Karston1234
    • RE: Microsoft's slate strategy takes yet another turn

      @rwalrond

      Let's see...the iPad was released the previous April before that. Not that significant a lead time.

      Over a year is huge in the tech industry, especially for a ?controller? which essentially what it is.
      PS where are you getting your numbers for the iPad? The Original iPad (from I?ve seen) is sitting around 20 million units as of March 2011.

      Well that's great. That's fantastic. But let's stick to consumer releases, shall we...

      The fact that it?s revolutionizing the gaming industry, the Wii and PS3 Move all use a controller to make something happen, Kinect, there is no controller? Its opening doors for future developments, for example Virtual reality, ability for Doctors to perform operations on patients from a world away. There?s really a large gateway into what it can be developed to do.

      Based on all that ignorance, you obviously haven't used an iPad before. Why don't you try one. Hmmm?

      Of course I have, my family owns one, and my current girlfriend owns one? All it is, is an overgrown iPod touch. Apart from a bigger screen, and obviously better internals, they are very similar. iPad 2 is just thinner with a camera, and some obvious internal upgrades?
      And then what? We haven't heard much since then.
      It?s a gaming controller, what else do you want? You?re the one who?s comparing a tablet with a gaming controller. It?s like comparing a automobile to a computer desk.

      Oh I said it was respectable. But what do you do with it beyond entertaining yourself.

      I know, but 10 million units in 2 months is astonishing, if it was 10 million iPads in 2 months, you?d be tooting a new horn.
      5FingerDiscount
      • RE: Microsoft's slate strategy takes yet another turn

        @5FingerMan are you talking to me? Why do you have @rwalrond at the top of your post? You do know how to use the tree system here, don't you?

        Anyway...

        [i]Over a year is huge in the tech industry, especially for a controller which essentially what it is.[/i]

        It's huge if you keep up with the latest gadgets and have to have one right when it comes out. I for one, don't do that. Not even with Apple.

        [i]The fact that its revolutionizing the gaming industry, the Wii and PS3 Move all use a controller to make something happen, Kinect, there is no controller Its opening doors for future developments, for example Virtual reality, ability for Doctors to perform operations on patients from a world away. Theres really a large gateway into what it can be developed to do.[/i]

        Oh I'm sure there's potential down the road, but watching myself interact with a screen karaoke style, isn't exactly my idea of fun. lol...

        Btw, ff Nintendo or Sony developed it, I'd feel the same way about it.

        [i]Of course I have, my family owns one, and my current girlfriend owns one All it is, is an overgrown iPod touch. Apart from a bigger screen, and obviously better internals, they are very similar. iPad 2 is just thinner with a camera, and some obvious internal upgrades.[/i]

        So does that mean your girlfriend is one of those 1/2 a million 3 year olds that can wipe their fingers across a screen...?

        Silly me. lol...

        [i]Its a gaming controller, what else do you want? Youre the one whos comparing a tablet with a gaming controller. Its like comparing a automobile to a computer desk.[/i]

        We're talking about sales. That's where the comparison lies.

        [i]PS where are you getting your numbers for the iPad? The Original iPad (from Ive seen) is sitting around 20 million units as of March 2011.[/i]

        I stand corrected there. I should have said projected sales thru till the end of the year.

        [i]Its a gaming controller, what else do you want? Youre the one whos comparing a tablet with a gaming controller. Its like comparing a automobile to a computer desk.[/i]

        Well what's the next development? Will it bring me the newspaper in from the driveway or what...

        [i]I know, but 10 million units in 2 months is astonishing, if it was 10 million iPads in 2 months, youd be tooting a new horn.[/i]

        Well it's now 8 months since it's release. Are we to assume they've sold 40 million by this time?

        If so, then you may have a point.
        ScorpioBlue
      • RE: Microsoft's slate strategy takes yet another turn

        @ScorpioBlue

        who cares
        iPwn