Finally, a legitimate response that the world can circle and hone in on with regard to Microsoft's response to the iPad
. Up until now, Microsoft has been rather quiet on the whole "How will you rival the iPad?" front. There have been a number of Windows-based tablet PCs announced, but so far, none have materialized. Basically, it has been a huge wait-and-see game, with Apple utilizing each and every day to pick up even more market share and further corner the tablet market.
's CEO has come forward with a real challenge. According to Steve Ballmer, who spoke today at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C., Windows 7 slates will be on store shelves before the end of 2010. Details beyond that remain scant, but at least that's a start. What's interesting, however, is that Windows 7 is the OS of choice. Not Windows CE, not Windows Phone 7, not Windows 7 Embedded Compact. Just Windows 7. The same Windows 7 that you're using on your quad-core desktop.
The real question is: will that work? Who wants a full-blown Windows 7 build on a machine with no keyboard? Is there even a market for that? Microsoft is obviously playing with fire here, and it remains to be seen if people will just spend less on a netbook in order to get a fully featured Windows 7 machine for portable use. No matter what, though, Microsoft has managed to land a bunch of partners. Lenovo, Asus, Dell, HP, Samsung, Fujitsu, Toshiba and Sony will be among the many producing Windows 7 slates, and according to reports from D.C., they will ship in a variety of form factors at a variety of price points. Some will even ship with keyboards, docks and E Ink displays.
We'll have to wait for individual companies to announce products before we know more on specifications and the like, but for now, here are a few choice quotes from Ballmer himself:
"This year one of the most important things that we will do in the smart device category is really push forward with Windows 7-based slates and Windows 7 phones. Over the course of the next several months you will see a range of Windows 7-based slates that I think you'll find quite impressive. This is a terribly important area for us. We are hardcore about this. They'll come from the people you would expect -- from Asus, from Dell, from Samsung, from Toshiba, from Sony -- Windows 7-based slates. They'll come with keyboards, they'll come without keyboards, they'll be dockable, there'll be many form factors, many price points, many sizes. "But they will all run Windows 7. They will run Windows 7 applications. They will run Office."