It has been over a year since Apple launched the original iPad. The success of that tablet has led virtually every other vendor out there to try to emulate it–with somewhere around 100 tablet variations currently in the works. Other than a few feeble attempts by vendors to cram Windows 7 onto a tablet, though, Microsoft has been conspicuously absent.
Even before the launch of the iPad, Steve Ballmer took a preemptive shot across Apple’s bow in his 2010 CES keynote–demonstrating the HP Slate running Windows. Unfortunately, that device was delayed, possibly scrapped, and eventually did finally come to market–but has had anemic success at best. MSI and others have Windows-based tablets planned for this summer, but they too will have a very difficult time getting anything but a niche following when competing with the iPad 2, Motorola Xoom, BlackBerry PlayBook, or HP TouchPad.
One significant advantage that these other tablets have over a Windows tablet at this point is that they are built on operating systems that are designed for mobile devices. A tablet is a different mobile computing paradigm and it takes more than just cramming a desktop OS into a touchscreen flat panel.
Apparently, Microsoft is working on a tablet version of Windows, but rumor has it that we won’t actually see it until the middle of 2012. By that time, Apple will be on at least the third generation iPad, and rivals like Motorola, Samsung, RIM, and HP will be moving on to second generation tablets. If Micosoft is going to show up to the tablet party that late in the game, it better come with a game-changing platform that revolutionizes the industry.
If the Windows tablet will just be another me-too copycat of the iPad, Microsoft should just not bother.