In an interview with Fox Business Network, Bill Gates says Microsoft is at work on a number of different tablet projects, with a focus on stylus-based input. Microsoft recently acknowledged the death of its long-rumored Courier project, which focused on developing a mobile device with two touch screens, and rumors abound that Hewlett-Packard has cancelled its plans for a Windows 7-powered tablet PC. Microsoft, Google and other companies face some fierce competition in the space against Apple, which sold 1 million iPad units during the tablet's first 28 days of release.
Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates suggested
during a television interview that rumors of the company's death in the tablet
PC space were, at best, premature. His comments followed a week in which
Microsoft announced the death of its long-rumored Courier project, which
centered on a dual-touch-screen device in a folding book-like format, and in
which further scuttlebutt had it that Hewlett-Packard had decided to eliminate
a Windows 7-powered "Slate" tablet PC from its upcoming lineup.
"Microsoft has a lot of different tablet projects that we're
pursuing," Gates said, according to a Fox
Business Network transcript quoted by TechFlash.
"We think that work
with the pen that Microsoft pioneered will become a mainstream for students. It
can give you a device that you can not only read, but also [use to] create
documents at the same time."
That would run contrary to other companies' development road maps for tablet
PCs, which seem to emphasize the use of hands or fingers to make changes on the
screen, as opposed to a stylus. Several legacy products, including touch-screen
PDAs running Windows Mobile, have put emphasis on the stylus as a means of
would likely have allowed users to write notes or draw
longhand. However, Courier was executed before it could leave the development
lab; Frank Shaw, Microsoft's corporate vice president of communications,
acknowledged the product's existence and demise simultaneously, saying,
"Its technologies will be evaluated for use in future Microsoft
HP's tablet PC project, though, seemed much more finger-oriented. Whether or
not the rumors of its demise eventually prove to be true, the Windows 7-powered
Slate would have allowed users to hold video conferences, snap photos and
interact with multimedia. But according to certain analysts, HP's recent Palm
acquisition may have negatively impacted the project's development.
"HP's upcoming Slate tablet was originally expected to run Windows 7
OS, although using Windows 7 would translate to a higher cost to the consumer
and could mean more strain on the processor," Anna Hunt, an analyst with
IMS Research, wrote in a May 3 research note. "The tablet market will
likely see devices at sub-$250 price points within a year's time ... therefore
suppliers must be very aware of lowering costs while maximizing performance and
With that in mind, baking the Palm WebOS into a tablet has the potential to
affect Microsoft's broader attempts to move into the tablet PC market.
"HP's current tablet with Microsoft Windows has not been well received
by reviewers, and TBR believes the Windows PC operating system does not lend
itself to a touch-screen tablet experience," John Spooner, an analyst for
Technology Business Research, wrote in an April 30 research note.
"Microsoft itself is finding the tablet PC market more complicated than
expected ... We believe a WebOS tablet will be better received than a Windows
tablet, which may lead to adoption of WebOS tablet PCs in the enterprise."
Gates' comments are one of the first indications that Microsoft may be
continuing to develop products for the tablet space, despite the HP rumors and
the Courier termination. That may be strategically necessary for the company,
considering how the nascent area of consumer tablets has already seen at least
one breakaway success: On May 3, Apple announced that it had sold 1 million
in the 28 days since it released the device.
"Apple's done a great job," Gates was quoted as saying on Fox