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Ballmer "urgently" wants to launch iPad killer

Steve Ballmer

By Barry Collins

Posted on 30 Jul 2010 at 08:16

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said providing a Windows alternative to the iPad is the company's chief priority.

Speaking at the company's financial analysts meeting, Ballmer admitted he was concerned about the success of Apple's tablet. "Apple has done an interesting job of putting together a synthesis and putting a product out, and in which they've... they sold certainly more than I'd like them to sell, let me just be clear about that," he said.

"We think about that. We think about that in competitive sense. And for us, then, the job is to say, Okay, we have a lot of IP, we have a lot of good software in this area, we've done a lot of work on ink and touch and everything else - we have got to make things happen."

Ballmer compared the tablet market to that of the netbook, where Microsoft ceded early ground to Linux-based machines before dominating the market. "Just like we had to make things happen on netbooks, we've got to make things happen with Windows 7 on slates," the Microsoft CEO said.

"And we are in the process of doing that as we speak. We're working with our hardware partners, we're tuning Windows 7 to new slate hardware designs that they're bringing them to market. And, yeah, you're going to get a lot of cacophony. There will be people who do things with other operating systems. But we've got the application base, we've got the user familiarity. We've got everything on our side if we do things really right."

"Job one urgency"

Ballmer claimed Windows slates would receive a boost with the launch of Intel's low-powered Oak Trail processor next year, which he claimed would help improve the battery life and reduce the weight of slate devices.

He also said that many people were using iPads like laptops, and that Microsoft's partners would be focusing on delivering devices with detachable keyboards and stylus input.

"Some of you will say, well, when? When? And I say, As soon as they're ready," Ballmer added. "It is job one urgency around here. Nobody is sleeping at the switch. And so we are working with those partners, not just to deliver something, but to deliver products that people really want to go buy."

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User comments

Always just in time!

"Just like we had to make things happen on netbooks" - yes, just as the market for netbooks plummeted, they had an answer. Perhaps they'll have a slate response once everyone has bought an iPad.

By MJ2010 on 30 Jul 2010

"we've got the user familiarity"

I suspect that the deciding factor on user-interface and display style is going to be down to whether people want a tablet to be a big screen version of a mobile phone or a keyboard-less PC.
The other significant factor is that ARM (which Apple uses in the iPad) consumes far less power than x86 and battery life is a key factor for a slate device.

By milliganp on 30 Jul 2010

@MJ2010

"just as the market for netbooks plummeted, they I kind of agree with your point, in that given all the work MS has done on slates etc, they are late to the party. However, I think you are wrong re Netbooks. Surely it was the availability of Win XP that really caused them to take off, and they are still big sellers today. Its just they're no longer the latest thing, so the press has moved on to hype iThis and iThat.

By rjp2000 on 30 Jul 2010

Hope this isn't the Zune mk. II

Maybe hardware isn't Microsoft's strong point these days?

By Lacrobat on 30 Jul 2010

Well it won't be built by Microsoft so they don't have a lot of control with the hardware

By TimoGunt on 30 Jul 2010

Microsoft is *still* missing the point...

"we're tuning Windows 7 to new slate hardware designs that they're bringing them to market. "

They still haven't learnt! They are trying to adopt a full OS, designed for mouse/pointer to a tablet form which uses fingers and thumbs. The iPad was successful because they use the iPhone OS input. HP are looking at using Palm's WebOS on their tablet. Dell used Android on their Stream because it was designed to be a touch interface from the outset

Until Microsoft realise that they need a completely new UI instead of shoe-horning the desktop UI, they will always fail

I cannot believe that Steve Ballmer, CEO fo a major IT corporation and one of the richest guys in the world cannot see what the majority of the IT world can see. Maybe he should try using Android/iPhone/PalmOS instead of belittling them to understand what a good user experience is supposed to be like!

By Chatan on 30 Jul 2010

nobody is sleeping at the switch?

Maybe now they are not, but they were a year ago, when Jobs kicked off the party. Ballmer sounds like the captain of the Titanic organising the crew to start bailing.

By Noghar on 30 Jul 2010

Ballmer has missed the point

The iPad isn't successful because it's a flat PC, it's successful because it *isn't*! The iPad is a totally different kind of device that overlaps existing product types in some areas but doesn't replace any of them - it adds something new.

That of course is something Microsoft's copycat IT strategy and "market share at all costs" philosophy hasn't got a good track record on. Microsoft doesn't lead, it follows.

By SwissMac on 30 Jul 2010

Ahm ....

"The iPad is a totally different kind of device that overlaps existing product types in some areas but doesn't replace any of them - it adds something new."

@SwissMac - Ahm forgive me if I'm missing something but what's the something new it adds? (Not saying as a MS fanboy or apple hater I just haven't read anything about it that's new.)

By koshthetrekkie on 30 Jul 2010

Bet that's got Apple quaking in its boots!

(not)

By JohnAHind on 30 Jul 2010

Altered State of Windows

I think if Microsoft can adjust Windows 7 - in the methodology as they did with Server 2008 when they came up with 'Core' - then they might stand a chance at mounting an alternative. For me though the iPad is a fun, home device. Not a business tool, they need to make sure they keep that in their focus, otherwise just buy a laptop!

By Chris_Snape on 30 Jul 2010

Let's hope it's more successfull than their iPod killer.

By graham_epu on 30 Jul 2010

They lost me with two words

stylus input

By colsmith on 30 Jul 2010

@koshthetrekkie If you want a spec sheet of technological differences that make it different, that's missing the point - although it's actually stuffed with patented technologies. Like most Apple stuff, the engineering is amazing, and the software very user friendly.

You could say it is more to do with HOW it does what it does than what it does. It's convenient, easy to use, requires only the slightest, shortest lightweight touch of a finger or fingers to react, and the GUI is so simple my 4 year old worked it out without needing any instruction.

Also, the OS has been designed for a touch interface from the beginning, about four or more years ago even before they were working on the first iPhone.

I use mine for work all the time.

By SwissMac on 30 Jul 2010

The iPad is a great new device for work

@Chris_Snape Do you own an iPad? If you did then with 200,000 apps to use you'd know the iPad can be used for work.

Did you stop using a pocket calculator when computers came along? No. The calculator is more convenient and you don't always need to use a spreadsheet (the iPad has a spreadsheet too, by the way).

For looking stuff up it's far quicker than any PC or Mac. I can switch it on, look something up (either on the internet or company intranet by internal wireless or external VPN) then switch off again and the PC is still booting up.

I can share info with clients in a one to one meeting without the device acting as a barrier. Vertical laptop screens distance client and advisor from each other when really you need to bring people closer - which is just what the iPad does.

Some of the apps out there are really amazing too, but then the OS helps the developers not only to do this amazing stuff, but also to make a load of money - but the apps themselves are really inexpensive.

It's a win-win-win-win situation (but not Win!). I win, clients win, developers win, and Apple wins.

I still use my desktop computer. And my iPhone. But now, I have something extra too. And it's adding real value to what I do at work. I even use it a bit at home lol! .

By SwissMac on 30 Jul 2010

Fingers and thumbs v writing

"a tablet form which uses fingers and thumbs"

And yet... Despite SwissMac's previous comments on how he used his iPad, which I actually found impressively elucidatory, I have to ask - did Caxton use his fingers and thumbs? Did Shakespeare? Did the Egyptians just use fingers and thumbs?

Sure - there's a lot for which fingers and thumbs are adequate - but it's hardly sophistication compared to what humans can do, is it? Somewhere there has to be a format that uses gestures for what they're good at (simple binary data) and handwriting for what it's good at (conveying complex information).

Regrettably, until Apple stops rejecting the Newton, they won't get beyond the Early Bronze Age - maybe MS will come at it from the handwriting / stylus end.

By AdrianB on 30 Jul 2010

Trouble is Microsoft will cock it up and look stupid. I'm actually warming to the iPad, mainly because of the ips screen quality. I hope that soon the price of this screen technology will drop to become mainstream.

By stokegabriel on 30 Jul 2010

@AdrianB Do you turn the pages of a book with a stick? Do you type with a stick? No, you use your fingers. Civilisation left writing with a stylus behind when we left wax tablets and cuneiform writing behind millenia past.

As I said, I still use a desktop computer and other devices, because an iPad is not a replacement for those things, nor is it trying to be.

It isn't selling in such huge quantities because it's a replacement for a laptop - in fact, in the quarter it was launched Apple's laptop sales actually went up so it doesn't seem to cannibalise the traditional computer market.

It really is a new platform, that allows you to really personalise it the way that you want to.

When it was launched, I really didn't swallow all that marketing guff on the presentation they did. I went and had a look at one, and was blown away almost immediately. It's just so darn' nice to use!

By SwissMac on 30 Jul 2010

@SwissMac - "Do you turn the pages of a book with a stick? Do you type with a stick? No, you use your fingers."
Agreed - but I write with a pen and remain convinced that writing is the most sensible - and for me fastest - way to capture information. Which doesn't invalidate umpteen uses of the iPad where the aim is not synthesis of text - it just so happens that would be my main use of the thing.

By AdrianB on 31 Jul 2010

@SwissMac - "Do you turn the pages of a book with a stick? Do you type with a stick? No, you use your fingers."
Agreed - but I write with a pen and remain convinced that writing is the most sensible - and for me fastest - way to capture information. Which doesn't invalidate umpteen uses of the iPad where the aim is not synthesis of text - it just so happens that would be my main use of the thing.

By AdrianB on 31 Jul 2010

@AdrainB and SwissMac:

I stopped writing with pens because the spellchecker (me) is useless. However, I would like to be able to use a stylus with an iPad because I like sketching with a pencil.

By lokash20 on 31 Jul 2010

Don't knock it if you haven't tried it!

There are a lot of PC centric posts which presume the iPad is a daft idea -but it works supremely well. It overlaps with PC / Netbook devices but does what it does so much better. I've played with the one my son owns and would happily buy one if it cost

By milliganp on 1 Aug 2010

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