updated 08:35 pm EDT, Fri October 8, 2010
Ballmer says Windows 7 only needs tweak for slate
Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer during a TechDays session in the UK told those gathered that there wouldn't be an in-between version of Windows 7 optimized for tablets. Mark Wilson and those in attendance were told Microsoft was "not going to do a revamp" before the next version of Windows arrived, which many expect in 2012. Optimizations to the user interface on particular devices, such as upsizing buttons, would make them much more touch- and pen-friendly.
The current interface supports basic multi-touch but still has many menus and buttons designed for mouse input, requiring either a pen or that the user spend time modifying the OS settings to make them usable. Apple's iPad is designed for touch from the beginning and, while more limited, eclipsed Windows tablet PCs' estimated 2010 tablet sales within two months.
Ballmer also took the time to indirectly attack the iPad, claiming that it wasn't very good at the tablet form factor by, paradoxically, lacking a keyboard. The slates Microsoft has been promoting for holiday launches so far also lack physical keys.
"I saw a poor guy in a speech I did out down the hall, he had one of our competitors' devices and he was sitting there crouched over with this thing on his knees, bent and there's no keyboard -- and he was in torture using that poor non-Windows slate device," the CEO said.
Wilson, the "poor guy" of the speech, noted that the seeming punishment wasn't due to the iPad UI at all and underscored the problems with Windows 7 tablets and the current platform as a whole. His netbook and 15-inch notebook had too short battery lives to last through a day, took a long time to boot up and weren't easy to type with in cramped spaces where the iPad could last over 16 hours, started instantly and was comfortable to use in landscape mode.
"Ironically, the reason I took my iPad to the event was that my Windows devices are so bad for portability [in hardware]," Wilson wrote. "If Microsoft produced a slate that did [what iPads do], I would have been using it but they don't and, based on what Ballmer had to say yesterday, it may be some time before they finally 'get it.'"