Asus Windows 7 Slate at CES 2011

Once again, this is nothing personal.  It’s just looking at the facts and replaying them.  For those who might get upset: you win some, you lose some.  Trying the same approach when you’re losing leads to more losing.  You can only start winning by taking what works and applying it in different ways to win.

I saw on Mark Wilson’s twitter feed (virtualisation MVP and blogger) today that ASUS announced a range of slate PC’s, one of which runs Windows 7.

As a laptop alternative it sounds like a nice machine.  It’s got an Intel i5 CPU, 4 GB RAM, and USB sockets.  You can use your fingers, a pen, or a Bluetooth keyboard to interact with it.  But there are a couple of problems.

Mark has been saying for months now that MS needs to focus on battery life.  The big players are the Apple iPad and Samsung/Google Android tablets.  They’ve had huge sales numbers by selling mobile devices.  Unfortunately the Asus machine is running a non-optimised OS in Windows 7, with the required traditional laptop hardware.  That means battery life is around 3.5 hours, which compares poorly with the reported 10-12 hours of alternative OS appliances.  The Windows 7 Asus machines is also over twice the price of the Android alternatives from Asus because of the higher h/w requirements.

If Microsoft wants to be a real player in the tablet market then they need to supply an OS that is optimised for mobile devices, not PCs and laptops.  As I’ve said before, they have an OS now that could be tweaked for a tablet, in the form of Windows Phone 7.  It meets the requirements in having light hardware requirements and being designed for a touch interface.  Mark recently commented about how he found Windows 7 to be not as good at touch as designed-for-touch OSs because of the approach it takes (accuracy versus close enough). 

Unfortunately, it seems that the decision makers in Microsoft don’t agree.  We’re hearing loads of rumours that a Windows 8 edition will add support for ARM chips.  That will allow a lighter weight appliance with lower costs and better battery life, comparable to the competition.  The problem with this is that I wouldn’t expect to see Windows 8 until at least 12-18 months after any initial public demonstration.  That means we’re already waiting for 2012.  That gives Apple/Samsung/Google a lot more time to build up their appliance sales and to further develop their online services and application portfolios.  In the meantime, we have Windows 7 driven slates at twice the price and an almost zero 3rd party application portfolio from Microsoft.

This sounds awful like what happened with Windows driven phones.  Apple and Google were years ahead of Windows Phone 7.  They captured the market.  Microsoft came in too late with an incomplete product, and a tiny app portfolio.  We got some claim of big sales of Windows Phone handsets.  The truth is, the number was really the number of handsets shipped by manufacturers.  How many Windows phones do you see on the bus or train, versus Android or iPhone handsets?  The ratio around here is 0/100.

I saw another article (retweeted by Mark) that really drives the stake in.  The strategy from Microsoft regarding mobile devices (phones and tablets) is wrong.  The market has decided that.  Maybe I was right about Steve Ballmer’s future?

By the way, Steve Ballmer is doing the keynote at CES later today (18:30 PST) in Las Vegas.  It’s rumoured (strongly) that he’ll be talking about slate PCs (Windows 7) and (grasping at straws) that he’ll have Windows 8 on show in public for the first time.  Windows 8 (based on leaks last year) may look very different with a new approach to user interaction.

One thought on “Asus Windows 7 Slate at CES 2011”

  1. Some people just don’t get it. This “Slate” computer is certainly not going to compete with ipads, etc. It’s pointless to even discuss them in the same article. Asus has 4 new devices coming out. The other 3 will compete with ipads and other pad devices. The Windows 7 Slate is a laptop with a detachable keyboard. It will appeal very strongly to a small group of people. Just as the current laptops which have stylus and touch screen support do today. With certainty, very few people who buy a device such as an ipad are thinking to themselves that they will be productive with it. They are using those devices to consume media. A laptop is a production device. This new slate is a laptop but with a different form factor. It will be as successful as other laptops with touch and stylus support I suspect. The kind of person who buys something as production unfriendly as an ipad will see this as the world’s greatest failure.

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