Focus on Use of Hands, Fingers

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-06-05 Print this article Print


Other companies' development road maps for tablets, though, seem to focus more on the use of hands or fingers in manipulating the user interface. And according to one analyst, Microsoft's intent to spread Windows through the tablet space may encounter headwinds, in those companies' need to keep tablets' eventual retail costs down:

"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 end-user experience."

HP's use of the Palm WebOS, and other companies' apparent gravitation toward Android as a tablet operating system, suggests that low cost and maximized performance have indeed become keywords for suppliers. In that case, Microsoft may well be examining how to best streamline Windows 7 for tablets, as well as keep the operating system low-cost for OEMs. If the Forrester report holds weight, then nothing less than Microsoft's share of the tablet market depends on it.  

During an onstage talk at the D8 conference June 3, Ballmer insisted that lightweight, keyboard-free devices will run Windows, with customization depending on the needs of particular products. But he also defended Microsoft's embrace of a stylus as an input method on touch screens.

"Do we think people want to take notes and draw? What's the best way to do that? Well, there are different ways to do that, and we'll support them all," Ballmer told the audience. "Today, we offer devices that do use a stylus. I certainly believe that people do want to take the things that they do today with pencil and paper and do them with new technologies."

Ultimately, though, Microsoft seems to bet that the tablet market is still nascent enough to provide the company with an opening to seize market share at some later date.

"The software has not kept up with the hardware here," Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie said while onstage with Ballmer. "We haven't yet with touch even figured out what the control architecture should be."


Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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