Vision unfulfilled: Microsoft Haiku

Vision unfulfilled: Microsoft Haiku

Summary: In 2005 Bill Gates demonstrated a mini-tablet mockup that looked surprisingly like the iPad mini of today. Unlike the little iPad from Apple, Microsoft never produced the Haiku.

Gates Haiku
Haiku mockup presented at WinHEC event by Bill Gates in 2005 -- Image credit: Microsoft

Bill Gates' love of the tablet is well-known. It's believed to be the reason Microsoft stuck with the Tablet PC even though it never garnered big sales. What few remember is that years ago, Gates had a vision for a handheld tablet that would be right at home in the market today.

Gates Haiku 2005
Image credit: Microsoft

The epitome of that vision was demonstrated at the WinHEC event in 2005. Gates took to the stage and demonstrated a mockup of a 6-inch tablet codenamed Haiku. The tablet was thin, fit comfortably in the hand and was shown "running" Windows. It was only a mockup, as the hardware at the time wasn't up to the task of actually producing one. Even so, it was a very advanced look at what was to come years later. 

I had the good fortune to hold the Haiku in my hand back then, and it impressed me. Gates' vision for the Haiku saw it weighing a little over half a pound. The mockup showed it displaying Windows, but a mobile variant to better work on the device was part of the vision.

Sadly, Microsoft never pursued the Haiku even after hardware evolved enough to make it possible. The company moved on to promote the Origami, which was as good as could be done with the hardware of that time, but that fell far short of the Haiku. Now that Microsoft has jumped into the tablet space, maybe the Haiku should be considered.

Windows 8 is designed for such a device, although that small of a screen would be a tight squeeze. But if you look at the photo of the Haiku mockup above, you can easily see such a tablet having a shot with consumers. It might not be what they think they want, but they'd certainly stop and look at it in the stores, unlike the bigger Windows 8 tablets that aren't selling now.

Even the codename Haiku is cool, and when you look at the mockup closely you can't help thinking this thing could sell today. It would make sense to expand that screen to at least 7 inches to work better, perhaps. Windows 8 is certainly the version of Microsoft's OS designed to crack the tablet market, and I believe the Haiku would have a better shot at doing that than any tablet currently being produced.

In 2005, the Haiku was remarkably ahead of its time. Looking back, it's downright impressive how much it looks like the iPad mini that came years later. Maybe Apple was paying close attention to Microsoft.

Topics: Mobility, Tablets, Windows 8

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  • Rounded corners!!!

    Apple should sue...
  • They Couldn't Actually Get It To Work

    Do you understand what a "mockup" is?
    • Of course you would say "they Couldn't Actually Get It To Work"

      Heaven forbid MS does something before everyone else. It would really force people like you to reexamine your lives.

      But you know that already, don't you?
      William Farrel
      • You lost me as you often do

        Ido17 makes a valid point, and you respond with three totally irrelevant and unrelated sentences.

        1. "Heaven forbid MS does something before everyone else." They produced a mock-up; no dispute there. He said it did not work. Do you have point to make?

        2. "It would really force people like you to reexamine your lives." Relevance please, especially in light of your inane first sentence.

        3. "But you know that already, don't you?" Know what? The nonsense in your first two sentences? A feeble attempt at a self-evident "truth", the "truth" being the nonsense in your first two sentences?

        Must be tough being a MS shill when all you can come up with is bitter and meaningless crap.

        And I pity your 5 (so far) voters. They obviously do not have a clue either.
        • IMO

          you seem educated beyond your intelligence.
        • @D.T. Long

          Apple fanboy,,, blah, blah, blah, blah
        • I don't think you or Idol17

          have any points, MS had working Tablets (although big) and that was clearly and early concept! To me that's very relevant, companies often have concept ideas that sometimes go places and other times they don't, doesn't make them any less relevant!
          • Re: MS had working Tablets (although big)

            Microsoft had non-working mockups.

            As did many science fiction movies or serials decades before Microsoft, by the way. Mockups, that is.

            They were even more advanced than Microsoft, because by virtue of the cinema moving pictures, they could demonstrated their mockups supposedly did do things...

            At the end, who cares?
      • 10 years after Newton…

        …and 20 years after the original Psion organiser. No doubt Bill was onto something, but it history shows MS didn't deliver a compelling tablet/PDA/organiser. Others did.
        Fred Fredrickson
    • Microsoft should sue Apple over 'Look and Feel'

      It's clear where Jobs got the idea for the iPad which came out years after this 'Haiku' mockup.... Apple has real balls to sue anyone over the look and feel of any of their products because they're all derivative....
  • Yes, this is already here.

    Acer Iconia W3 +more coming. I'm pretty sure windows tablets in this size have arrived. As long as there is one with good hardware (Surface 8"?), I'd be in the market for one.

    It's not that impressive that the iPad mini looks like the Haiku... There are only so many ways you can change a slab of glass.
  • The problem always has been that MS' strengths in desktop

    Is their failure elsewhere. They try too hard to be completely compatible with the mobile devices. It's understandable that this is a strength when you have a huge software base and you can push that software over to another device type. The problem is that the UI design is not compatible. You have to pick one, not try and combine the two (e.g. Windows 8 cock-up with the start button). Having used an MS UMPC and an HP tablet running Vista, I know I won't be looking to MS for a tablet.
    • well said

      this is the truth. Fanboys accept this and stop arguing. Just embrace the non-windows based tablet future.
      • Non-Windows Based Tablet future:

        Non-windows tablets are just media consumption devices. You cannot compare the productivity potential of the iPad 4 to that of the Surface Pro. For many people, media consumption is all they want from a device, and for them a Windows-free UI or not is irrelevant next to the ability of the device to do what they want.

        I'm so tired of anti-Windows bull***t. Windows runs on somewhere between 80% and 90% of computers in the world, and now runs on Tablets too. This isn't an argument, these are simple truths. I pity humanity for how dumb we'll all become if we rely on iPads and Androids do to our "computing".
        Son of Belushi
    • It is compatible

      Just less so in its initial form. Ultimately it will be fully compatible if not better for all form factors. You reference two early versions of tablet computing before the iPad, which is before the hardware was capable of providing a great UI experience. Now that the hardware is capable and affordable, as well as generally available and in use by many people, Microsoft's original ideas can now take form.
  • Vision and delivering

    Just goes to show that having the vision isn't enough. You have to correctly grasp the details of that vision and then deliver products that can propel the vision to reality. Microsoft was not willing or able to make radical enough changes to Windows to bring the tablet vision to reality. Apple was able to do it, and now Microsoft is playing catch-up.
    • People can downflag FDanconia

      But it does beg the question - if Microsoft was successful with tablets before the iPad, then why didn't you own one? Ask yourself that. Gates does deserve credit for seeing the importance of tablets before anyone else did. And he got why they were useful - Microsoft OneNote was designed as a tablet first app, and OneNote (and its imitators, like EverNote) have always been a perfect example of why tablets would be useful.

      But execution matters. Microsoft would have owned this market if they had, say, brought the Courier right out of the gate.
      • I think that is the difference between Balmer and Gates

        Gates is someone who actually enjoys tech and understands it. While Balmer is just another businessman who focuses on the business aspect. That really seems why Microsoft missed out on so many opportunities over the last decade.
      • Re before anyone else did

        Well, not really. Sci-Fi movies were showing tablet mockups for decades before this Gates "vision".

        One could argue that any Sci-Fi fan would envision themselves holding one. Perhaps Gates was just an Sci-Fi fan, who pictured himself having an tablet with Windows on it (because Windows is apparently all he knew about computing). In fact, this is what he did: an tablet mockup with a picture of Windows on it.

        Now, the question remains, is Bill Gates any better than other Sci-Fi fans imagining tablets?
        Even if he was a dreamer, he was apparently not good at doing things, as that Haiku never materialized.
  • Concept compared to an real device

    When Jobs announced the iPad several other factors were in place that helped him out.

    1) eReaders like the Kindle and Nook were already out and doing well.
    2) The iPad was essentially a big iPhone instead of a small OS X device.
    3) Jobs was able to leverage the advantage Apple already had with iOS and it's ecosystem of compelling apps.

    Gates never had a functioning device nor offered a compelling use scenario for his tablet that captured the public's imagination.

    On the other hand, there is no excuse why Microsoft didn't quickly finish the Haiku after the iPad went on sale. Sure it would have been a risk to bring out that size back then but if they had pulled it off they could have been in the driver's seat right now instead of trying to play catch up.