Craig Mundie, Microsoft's global chief research and strategy officer, is one of the many company's employees charged with trying to gauge what computers will be like in the future. Almost every consumer electronics company is throwing its weight behind tablet computers, but Mundie isn't so sure they are here to stay. He recently expressed these feelings, as well as Microsoft's strategy in general regarding the mobile and portable space, at a lunch held in Sydney by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA).
"I think there's an important distinction - and frankly one we didn't jump on at Microsoft fast enough - between mobile and portable Mobile is something that you want to use while you're moving, and portable is something that you move and then use," Mundie told The Sydney Morning Herald. "These are going to bump into one another a little bit and so today you can see tablets and pads and other things that are starting to live in the space in between. Personally I don't know whether that space will be a persistent one or not."
Mundie also mentioned a new type of smartphone technology he had seen in the labs. When the user looks at the phone, "instead of seeing a screen it can beam individual rays of light into your eyes right on your retina ... [so] you can look at your phone and see HDTV". His conclusion is therefore doubtful when it comes to the tablet category: "I don't know whether the big screen tablet pad category is going to remain with us or not."
Mundie definitely has a point. Many believed that desktops would go away when the laptops started to take over, but while laptops have become significant more popular, desktops are still being purchased. It's currently unclear whether netbooks and tablets will stick around as long as desktops and laptops.
While tablets may end up being just a fad, Microsoft should not ignore them completely. It originally did this with netbooks and then realized they were getting popular with Linux so it stepped in with Windows 7. I've argued before that we should thank the netbook for Windows 7. Despite its late entrance, the company in the end succeeded in taking over the new form factor.
There are many more players in the tablet space, however, and Microsoft's strategy of simply pushing Windows might not be a good one. It is possible the software giant will awe us with Windows 8 as it did with Windows 7, but in the meantime the company looks very ill-equipped to compete with the likes of Apple and Google, on the software side of things.