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Microsoft downplays tablets, questions longevity of the tablet market

Executive Craig Mundie believes long term viability of tablets is uncertain

As one of few big players remaining without specific tablet offerings, Microsoft continues to have little presence in the tablet market and has recently criticized the longevity of the tablet in a mobile world dominated by notebooks and smartphones.

At an event in Australia this week, executive of Microsoft research and strategy Craig Mundie commented on the concept of the tablet: “Personally, I don’t know whether I believe that space will be a persistent one or not.” Mundie believes there is an important distinction between what is considered “mobile” and “portable,” and that tablets are on a thin line in between where almost all functions can eventually be satisfied by smartphones and laptops.

Currently, Microsoft appears in a small handful of tablets that run Windows 7, including the Asus Eee Slate and Fujitsu Stylistic Q550. Unfortunately, the operating system was not specifically built for mobile or tablet use, unlike Android Honeycomb or iOS. However, more recent rumors point to a Windows 8 tablet for 2012, which could be better designed for tablet usability. The next iteration of Windows is expected to support ARM-based systems, according to eWeek, and should thus be able to run on a wider range of mobile processors such as the Tegra, Snapdragon, and TI OMAP series.

Regardless, Microsoft will have to make a significant splash in the tablet world if it intends to enter the market due to growing competition from HP, Motorola, RIM, and Apple. The success of the iPad and the growing list of competing tablet manufacturers could make the lucrative market harder for Microsoft to ignore in the near future.


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Allen Ngo, 2011-03-31 (Update: 2012-05-26)