Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?

Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?

Summary: Microsoft has some fancy footwork to do around its tablet/slate positioning.


Microsoft has some fancy footwork to do around its tablet/slate positioning.

Until now, Microsoft officials have claimed that iPads are not PCs. It's not hard to see why. If iPads are counted as PCs, Apple would be the No. 2 PC vendor.

But are slates/tablets running Windows 7 PCs? As is evident by a marketing campaign on the site, Microsoft is straddling the fence. The campaign isn't new; Microsoft officials pointed to it from the Windows Blog some time after the Consumer Electronics Show in January. But it does make plain the Softies' dilemma in the tablet/slate space.

"Introducing a PC that's not very PC: The ASUS Eee Slate," reads the banner-ad copy. "The ASUS Slate with Windows 7 delivers all the power, speed and productivity you've come to expect. Once off its stand, it becomes a sexy, touchscreen slate that provides infinite possibilities."

Microsoft's ad shows a young child picking up the $999+ device and intuitively knowing how to use the stylus to draw. (Haven't we seen a similar tactic somewhere before?)

The longer version of the text shows more clearly the tricky marketing waters the Softies need to navigate with the company's slate strategy. Is a Windows 7 tablet/slate a PC? Or isn't it? You can argue both sides, especially with a device like the new ASUS Eee Slate, which has a stand and a keyboard.

Last year, Microsoft execs scrambled to undo confusion over the company's tablet vs. slate vs. PC rhetoric. To differentiate between tablets and slates running Windows 7 vs. tablets and slates running Windows Embedded Compact 7, the Softies ended up saying that Windows Embedded Compact slates were for content consumption, while Windows-based ones were for both consumption and creation.

As Apple drove home last week, the iPad -- especially iPad 2 -- can do both content consumption and creation. But to me, this doesn't mean PCs are toast and we're now in a post-PC era. And as long as a PC/Mac continues to be a necessary part of the iPad mix, as one blogger noted recently, can we really say we're in a post-PC world?

While we're debunking tablet-related rumors, I've seen a few reports claiming Microsoft is "delaying" its tablets until 2012. Um... there are Windows tablets and slates out already, running both Windows 7 and Windows Embedded Compact 6.X. Microsoft officials still haven't said when they plan to deliver Windows 8 to OEMs. (In fact, they still officially have not used "Windows 8" to refer to the next version of Windows, if you want to be precise.) But if they do RTM Windows 8 in 2012, enabling tablet/slate makers to get Win 8 slates out in time for holiday 2012, they will be "on time," in my book.

Once more, with feeling: Windows 7 slates are not touch-centric, though they may be touch-capable. There's no equivalent to the Apple App Store for these devices. They tend to be heavy, pricey and fairly bulky. They don't come with their own colorful array of covers with cleaning cloths built in. All of these reasons contribute to the way Microsoft is marketing Windows slates vs. iPads. Microsoft is focusing on selling Windows 7 slates/tablets primarily as devices for the enterprise. (And that's why the Eee slate campaign is rather confusing, in my opinion, as it is attempting to position a $1,000 PC as a potential iPad equivalent.)

To me, a tablet/slate is something quite different from a PC. It shouldn't be a PC stuffed into an iPad-like shell.  Do you think tablet/slate is more than just another PC form factor category? Why/why not?

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, iPad, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Software, Tablets, Windows


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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  • RE: Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?

    I've used an HP TouchSmart laptop for about two years, and I currently have an HP Slate on my desk; both running Windows 7. I have no issue with using Windows 7 in a touch environment (note: I don't use the stylus). The biggest issue I have with the TouchSmart is the size and weight. That's why I'm looking for a smaller form factor, and why I'm evaluating the HP Slate. At the moment, I'm leaning towards the Asus device, due to weight and size. I don't care about the App store, I want something that runs Win32 executibles (like Windows Live Essentials).
    • RE: Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?

      @roteague <br><br>Agreed. I currently use an ASUS EEE PC T101MT at school or on trips, and have no problems at all using the UI without a stylus to navigate. The stylus comes in handy though to write with - something other tablets need. <br><br>I'm jealous of the HP Slate. If it wasn't so expensive, I would have ordered one myself.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?

        @Cylon Centurion 0005
        The processor in the HP Slate is a first gen Atom from 2008. A buddy of mine is evaluating it and the processor lets the whole thing down.

        If you want a better, cheap Windows tablet check out the ExoPC. Or if you want the keyboard, look at the Lenovo S10-3t or Dell Inspiron Duo. The Dell has a dual core Atom with Broadcom HD graphics accelerator and is pretty zippy, even with Outlook, Word and Excel running in the background.

        Or wait for the new Atom based machines that are coming this month such as the Samsung Slider.
      • RE: Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?


        Ouch, I did not know that. Bad call on HP's part. Otherwsie a nice form factor.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • Except it's NOT so expensive in terms of what you get.

        @Cylon Centurion 0005 It's the equivalent of the 64GB iPad, which is $100 less - but doesn' t include a dock, a digital pen, a folio and even with iPad 2, still doesn't have all the same features.
    • RE: Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?

      @roteague Totally agree. Give me a proper computer O/S capable of running the software I use every day. Better still - cram it into a nice form factor like the Asus EEE Slate and you've got a sale out of me.
    • RE: Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?

      @roteague watch HP this year. They are dumping the crappy touchsmart software and replacing it with their WebOs software on the PC. WebOS will essentiallybe on every one of their products as either the core OS (phones and tablets) or as an overlay to their touch pcs. They are also selling their Slate 500 in more numbers than expected. The reason is that companies want to run custom touch apps on a secured managed platform. Big customers are banks and health industry.
    • RE: Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?

      @Mary Jo

      An iPad isn't a PC because you OWN a PC and can do <em><strong>whatever you want</strong></em> with it. With an iPad, Steve lets you hold it until you get mind F'd into wanting to buy the latest incremental update.

      If a PC went into the tablet form-factor <strong>the enterprise would go wild</strong>.
      • RE: Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?

        @man_strosity Oh dear, same old same old. The notion that we don't have intelligence or capacity for independent thought or the ability to make rational decisions is just plain silly and more than a bit insulting. Is superior wisdom the exclusive domain of PC users? The PC has been in various tablet form-factors for years - the stunning success of these (intentional sarcasm) tells the story. Bring on a PC in a tablet with the usability, quality, performance (battery and speed) of an iPad and I agree, it will be a great new device. The promise of the best Android devices will surely challenge/surpass Apple. Can Microsoft cut it in this segment?
        Ian Wright
      • RE: Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?

        That's actually a consequence of the mobility aspect more than the Apple ecosystem (which I avoid like the plague). The same problem exists with laptops: they're almost always underpowered compared to the PC, because anything you can cram into a small device, you can cram multiples into a PC. This is why PCs will be around for a long time to come. (For years, we've heard that PCs are powerful enough for the average consumer, yet we keep finding new ways to use all that power and more.)
      • RE: Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?

        you got that right. We have tons of lawyers that would love it if they could run real software on a real network - legacy stuff, stuff we write, stuff that NEEDS IE. We would buy lots of them and I might buy one personally.
        Schoolboy Bob
    • Check out Fujitsu

      @roteague - Fujitsu is coming out with what looks to be a fantastic slate PC for Win 7. They have a video and other materials on their Web site.
    • RE: Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?


      Also Agreed. Fully! I've owned Slate PC's since Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, (currently using a Motion Computing Slate running Windows 7), and have never once had a problem with them. Full MS Windows computing in a hand-held device that I can ink on. No need for a media device and a computer; this is all-in-one! Running not just apps like Essentials, but also Office. Full versions. Tablets/Slates have been PC's for a very long time now! The only difference being the form factor!

      I said to a friend, who needed a new laptop and also was torn between which new e-reader she should get. She likes the slate form factor, so I suggested, why not get a slate PC and be able to put most of the reader applications on it. Problem solved.

      It's so difficult for me to understand why so many people, (even tech editors), talk like the iPad is the first slate to have ever come to market. I guess Apple did a good job. Now everyone knows what a tablet/slate is. Even in Mrs. Foley's column she wrote, "It shouldn't be a PC stuffed into an iPad-like shell." Again, slate/tablets were here way before the iPad.

      You're right about Windows Tablets being a little heavier. I guess back then that just came with the territory. Today they're much smaller and lighter. I too like the Asus Slate.

      I don't need the "App Store" either. I can get any application I will ever need for my machine. I don't only use my slate for games and entertainment, I also use it for work. Serious work!
    • RE: Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?

      Agree. I'm lucky enough to have one of the first ASUS Ep121 Windows 7 tablets (I'm in Asia). I've been using tablet/laptop hybrids since they first came out in 2003 and have a LOT of experience. I've looked at iPad. It's snazzy but functionally useless for most of the things I want to accomplish.

      First, I disagree that the iPad is a content-creation device. It has a camera and an onscreen English-language typewriter. This is totally useless in meetings where I want to take notes and don't want to have to look at the screen all the time to make sure I'm typing correctly.

      Second I find the best apps for tablet are by far OneNote and Photoshop. I also like MindManager. These require Windows.

      Third, I like to hook my tablet up to a projector and use it as a whiteboard for meetings and lectures - as well as doing PowerPoint stuff. Recently I've been using it as a whiteboard for online meetings using Live Meeting. This is true innovation at work and makes Apple look trite by comparison.

      Fourth, I also create content in Chinese language. A stylus - no matter how 'uncool' Apple tell me it is - is easily the best input device for Chinese and other non-Roman languages.

      I'm not buying the idea that a tablet should be a big phone. I don't want a big phone I want a small computer.

      There. Positioning problem solved.
      Major Plonquer
    • OKey... you're the exception not the rule...

      @roteague : why would anyone want to run&mdash;mark my words, not WinForms, not WPF, but plain old&mdash;Win32 in a slate format? It's like asking if Segways are available with V6 engines.

      And this is precisely Microsoft conundrum. Just as there were users for UMPC, for tablets (yes those ones that had styluses) and even for Windows Media Centers, most were tiny niche markets why couldn't offset the investment.

      Touch-capable Windows 7 required time and effort. At the current rate, the touch-capable offerings from ODM and OEMs aren't recovering that cost.
    • RE: Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?


      I've always been curious about how the Apple fans don't think Windows could ever be successfully adapted for touch. Reality is that most of iOS commands are point and click as well.

      You basically need three things for a good "touch centric" OS to match iOS: Fat Buttons for fat fingers, Drag-To-Scroll, and the two finger zoom thing.

      Really, the things holding back windows tablets are size, weight, heat generation, price and battery life. Those are all technical challenges which are quite solvable in a 2-5 year timeframe.
  • RE: Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?

    Yes and No. A PC in a tablet formfactor serves a purpose for certain segments, I believe refered to as verticals, such as counting item stock on the floor in a warehouse, or even a store environment. I can speak for using a, I'm guessing, Windows CE based tablet for ordering stock of drinks in a 7-11 as part of a job for a year. It simply worked as required, but is a smaller market than, let's say, an iPad and consumers.

    Windows on a tablet can be good for those who want something for dominately work, plus some play, but cost can be a deturent unless it's powerful enough to warrent the cost. The Asus one does, and it will sell, but it won't be iPad numbers. That'll have to wait for Windows 8.
    • RE: Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?

      If the ability to take notes during meetings or lectures is a 'vertical' then it's a very big one. This combines the entire business and education sectors.
      Major Plonquer
  • RE: Windows 7 slate: A PC by any other name?

    It's a PC and it shouldn't be. If Microsoft is serious about contending in the iPad world, then they need a touch-centric, consumer oriented device, not a full blown PC slate. I'm currently a Windows Phone 7 user and I love it! If Balmer was smart they'd be taking that OS and porting it to tablets.
  • Not sure &quot;ASUS&quot; and &quot;sexy&quot; belong in the same sentence.

    Actually I guess they're not, but those two words shouldn't even be in [i]adjacent[/i] sentences.