Adapting to Lightweight Form Factors, the Cloud
However, Microsoft's current issues with tablet PCs could hint at future problems with adapting to lightweight form factors and the cloud. Microsoft already faces something of an uphill battle in creating a Windows install base for the rapidly expanding consumer tablet market. Some of its largest manufacturing partners, including Samsung and Dell, have built tablets running Google Android. Hewlett-Packard is offering a Windows tablet PC, the Slate 500, for the enterprise market, but the general expectation is that the company will devote much of its tablet energy to devices running Palm WebOS. And Apple's iPad, of course, continues to dominate the category.Despite his earlier assertions that "new slates with Windows on them" would appear "this Christmas," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer seemed determined to dodge the tablet question during an Oct. 21 keynote talk at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2010 in Orlando, Fla."Devices ship all the time," he told the audience of CIOs and other executives. "You will continue to see an evolution of devices. That's what you'll continue to see. ... There's a next generation of things that will come with the Intel processors." Those "Intel processors" are a reference to the chip maker's low-power "Oak Trail" Atom processor, due in 2011. Ballmer has previously hinted that a Windows-centric tablet PC push would come with those processors' release. But some analysts suggest that Microsoft needs to do more than merely load Windows 7 onto a touch-screen form factor; the operating system itself needs to be redesigned to take into account fingers and different hardware. "Microsoft and its partners must develop UX shell(s) appropriate to the tablet format to compete with Apple's excellent iPad performance," Forrester analysts J.P. Gownder and Sarah Rotman Epps wrote in a May research note. In his blog posting, Ozzie discusses some of Microsoft's positive cloud steps: Windows Azure and the online version of Office, Bing and SQL Azure. But the rest of his entry-coupled with Microsoft's wrestling over its tablet PC entries-suggests the company could face some major growing pains if it wants to adapt to the possible next tech transformation.