Why Microsoft?s Tablet Strategy is Fundamentally Flawed

  • Posted: 14 September 2011 03:13 PM #16

    A hammer is good for nails and a screwdriver is good for screws. If all you have is a hammer, then everything beings to look like a nail.

    Apple believes that you should use the tool that best fits the job. Microsoft believes that their tool (Windows) is the best fit for any job.

         
  • Posted: 14 September 2011 03:18 PM #17

    Honestly, this is ridiculous conjecture.
    I use “Adobe Suite” day in and day out on a 24” iMac.
    I have zero desire to use it on my iPad.
    The amount of precision and power required producing layouts, cropping photos etc is simply not going to happen on a 10” screen operated by fingers.
    If you want to do these things on an iPad then you do not recognize what the iPad was invented for.
    I do not want a tablet 2” thick with a slow OS, weighing 7lbs with a fan blowing hot air in my face.
    I love my iPad for being an iPad.
    Simple as that.

         
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    Posted: 14 September 2011 03:26 PM #18

    KitsuneStudios - 14 September 2011 06:04 PM

    But the iPad still lacks some professional software, especially creative development apps like the Adobe Suite. I’ve passed on the iPad for that very reason. This could be fixed in time by rewriting the desktop apps for a touch-pad, but that takes time.

    Everyone I know who uses CS always wants more screen real estate: multiple large screens. The iPad is not meant to offer that. They also want to manipulate individual (or small groups of) pixels. That’s not something touchscreen tablets are designed to do since the input method is a relatively fat finger.

    So, what happens if you start a Microsoft tablet with the Metro touch overlay and touch apps, but can access the classic desktop with a swipe? Touch access vanishes, in favor of the digitizing pen screen. Now we have a system where creative professionals are at home: The Cintiq+Keyboard combination, with full access to creative programs like Alias Sketchbook, Photoshop and Flash, as well as access to the full range of Windows peripherals.

    You’re describing a full blown computer with multiple accessories attached to it. I wish Microsoft good luck trying to pack all this into an iPad-like device.

    You can buy a Modbook convertible with a Wacom? Penabled? digitizer for nearly 4x the price of an iPad. PC equivalents have existed for a decade. Most people don’t need what they offer and haven’t been buying them.

         
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    Posted: 14 September 2011 04:33 PM #19

    Drew Bear - 14 September 2011 06:26 PM

    Everyone I know who uses CS always wants more screen real estate: multiple large screens. The iPad is not meant to offer that. They also want to manipulate individual (or small groups of) pixels. That’s not something touchscreen tablets are designed to do since the input method is a relatively fat finger.

    Yes and no. You are right in that the desire for perfect pixel control and big monitors mean that the desktop/desktop replacement will never be completely replaced by a tablet.

    But sometimes, we just need to do work on the road, or want to have a way to do sketches or rough work outside the office. That means a laptop or a sketchbook + a tablet, when a tablet would do.


    ...

    Drew Bear - 14 September 2011 06:26 PM

    You’re describing a full blown computer with multiple accessories attached to it. I wish Microsoft good luck trying to pack all this into an iPad-like device.

    Not necessarily. Again, having something you can use as a tablet when all you need is a tablet, then use as a laptop when you need a laptop. WiFi and Bluetooth eliminate the need for lots of ports; a single USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt port would allow you to dock the tablet and use it much like a docked laptop.

    Drew Bear - 14 September 2011 06:26 PM

    You can buy a Modbook convertible with a Wacom? Penabled? digitizer for nearly 4x the price of an iPad. PC equivalents have existed for a decade. Most people don’t need what they offer and haven’t been buying them.

    I don’t think those examples are quite accurate. The pre-iPad tablets were under-priced and overpowered (much like the original MacBook Air) and offered none of the tablet-centric features of the iPad, forcing them to thicken them up. The modbook is extra expensive because it’s custom-built with retail components.

    I think the combination of the ultra-book specifications and the iPad-inspired touch-based controls could conceivably allow Windows to occupy a wider market segment than the iPad, and thus compete.

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    Posted: 14 September 2011 05:05 PM #20

    KitsuneStudios - 14 September 2011 07:33 PM

    I think the combination of the ultra-book specifications and the iPad-inspired touch-based controls could conceivably allow Windows to occupy a wider market segment than the iPad, and thus compete.

    Maybe. Neither Windows ultra-books or tablets are competitive at this time. It remains to be seen whether combining the two will change that.

    Someone brought this up in another thread, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple has a MB Air/iPad convertible in one of their secret labs. Imagine a 13” MacPad running a child or grandchild of Lion & iOS 5.

         
  • Posted: 14 September 2011 05:09 PM #21

    KitsuneStudios - 14 September 2011 07:33 PM

    You are right in that the desire for perfect pixel control and big monitors mean that the desktop/desktop replacement will never be completely replaced by a tablet.

    But sometimes, we just need to do work on the road, or want to have a way to do sketches or rough work outside the office. That means a laptop or a sketchbook + a tablet, when a tablet would do.

    EDIT: KitsuneStudios, I prepared a long response to your earlier post, below. In my fervor to promote my position, I neglected to acknowledge some obvious truths. I agree with your comment, above. It’s better to have a program available even if it can’t run at it’s best. I believe that many, many people will enjoy using the new Windows tablet. But I think that their numbers will be similar to the number of iPad users who use a keyboard or mouse.

    ORIGINAL POST STARTS HERE

    KitsuneStudios - 14 September 2011 06:04 PM

    I have to disagree a bit here, and note that there is an opportunity for Windows 8.

    Your observations are most welcome.

    KitsuneStudios - 14 September 2011 06:04 PM

    But the iPad still lacks some professional software, especially creative development apps like the Adobe Suite.

    Even if the tablet had the power and the battery life to support Adobe Suite, it would still be ill suited to the task. The touch interface and the relatively small screen size are inappropriate for such a program.

    KitsuneStudios - 14 September 2011 06:04 PM

    I’ve passed on the iPad for that very reason.

    As well you should have.

    KitsuneStudios - 14 September 2011 06:04 PM

    This could be fixed in time by rewriting the desktop apps for a touch-pad, but that takes time.

    Maybe. But it would have to be a radical new design.

    KitsuneStudios - 14 September 2011 06:04 PM

    So, what happens if you start a Microsoft tablet with the Metro touch overlay and touch apps, but can access the classic desktop with a swipe? Touch access vanishes, in favor of the digitizing pen screen. Now we have a system where creative professionals are at home: The Cintiq+Keyboard combination, with full access to creative programs like Alias Sketchbook, Photoshop and Flash, as well as access to the full range of Windows peripherals.

    Here’s where we disagree. You think that Window’s earlier tablet efforts failed because earlier tablets didn’t have the power, speed and battery life necessary to support them. I think the earlier tablet efforts failed because there was a fundamental misunderstanding of how one should interface with a tablet.

    I think we can both agree that the finger is the best way to interact with a tablet. But the finger is an oddly shaped blob that touches 16, 18, 24(?) pixels at a time. To make it work, a whole new finger friendly interface had to be built.

    A sylus or a mouse literally touches one pixel at a time. Menu driven interfaces work extremely well with styluses and mouses because the fine precision of those devices allow one to pick and choose among many options with extreme accuracy.

    With a tablet, the moment you switch from a touch friendly interface to a stylus/mouse driven interface, you’re lost. Yes, you can do it, but it’s slow, tedious and Pa-yane-ful. This desire to use a stylus or mouse to interface with a tablet is the wall that Microsoft has been pounding its head on for the past ten years.

    KitsuneStudios - 14 September 2011 06:04 PM

    If Windows 8 can give people a tablet-centric experience with the option of bouncing back to an existing library of desktop apps, they can probably manage to capture a significant number of users.

    I disagree KitsuneStudios, but you’re in good company. This is exactly what Microsoft is thinking too.

    So what’s my beef with Microsoft’s take on tablets? First, the iPad is optimized for touch. By definition, the Windows tablet cannot be optimized for either touch or the traditional Windows interface. It must make them both work. It serves two masters. And as the plethora of Android tablets has demonstrated, it’s hard enough to make a tablet run touch smoothly even when you’re trying. If you’re not even trying, you’ve got no shot.

    Second, you’re asking developers to write programs that work and work well with both OS’s (which Microsoft maintains is actually one OS).

    Third, you’re breaking the metaphor. One of the words oft used to describe the iPad is “immersive”. It works because you don’t have to think about what you’re doing, so you can spend all of your time thinking about what you want to get done. Is the Windows dual OS going to be “immersive”. Well, let me put it to you this way. It has a task manager.

    Conclusion: Microsoft isn’t making Windows work on their tablets because they think it is best for tablet owners. They are making Windows work on their tablets because having Windows work on tablets is best for Microsoft. You will not end up with the “best of both worlds” by having both a tablet and a desktop operating system co-existing on the same tablet. You will have a device that strives to be good for everything and ends up being good for nothing.

    Show me where I’m wrong, KitsuneStudios. Talking this out is how I learn.

    [ Edited: 14 September 2011 05:38 PM by FalKirk ]      
  • Posted: 14 September 2011 05:35 PM #22

    FalKirk - 14 September 2011 08:09 PM
    KitsuneStudios - 14 September 2011 06:04 PM

    So, what happens if you start a Microsoft tablet with the Metro touch overlay and touch apps, but can access the classic desktop with a swipe? Touch access vanishes, in favor of the digitizing pen screen. Now we have a system where creative professionals are at home: The Cintiq+Keyboard combination, with full access to creative programs like Alias Sketchbook, Photoshop and Flash, as well as access to the full range of Windows peripherals.

    Here’s where we disagree. You think that Window’s earlier tablet efforts failed because earlier tablets didn’t have the power, speed and battery life necessary to support them. I think the earlier tablet efforts failed because there was a fundamental misunderstanding of how one should interface with a tablet.

    I have to say as a rule of thumb in a UI sense you can’t have “the best of both worlds”. Either you end up with one world compromised… or both. If you know what you are doing, and accept the trade-off, you can still succeed.

    Case in point: The iPhone is sorta crappy as a phone, and at best decent as a camera. It’s an excellent pocket computer, on-the-go message center, geo-sensor platform and whatnot, but no-one in their right mind would call it a best-of-breed camera or phone. The right move Apple made was to accept this and roll with it, as people in the future (well, our now) would use the phone functionality less, and the pocket computer and message center functionality more.

    I truly can’t imagine how you can make a laptop-class system that doubles as a tablet without compromising weight, price, performance of the laptop facet or some combination thereof.

    Further, you have built-in platform fragmentation from the get-go. User who want to use it as a laptop will not be satisfied by the tablet-oriented apps. Users who expect tablet-optimized experience will not be able to use apps created with mice and styli in mind. Only very professional developers will be able to target both modes and achieve an acceptable or even exceptional UX in both, and it will drive up costs, and be a barrier to entry for the growth layer of app developers, who donut have the resources or experience to do this.

    So it can work, but it’s hard, and involves a choice. Just like all good design, or art does. What you prioritize defines what you achieve. Refuse to prioritize, and you achieve mediocracy or obscurity.

    Hmm. Wordy. I blame the Glenmorangie.

         
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    Posted: 14 September 2011 05:45 PM #23

    FalKirk - 14 September 2011 08:09 PM

    Here?s where we disagree. You think that Window?s earlier tablet efforts failed because earlier tablets didn?t have the power, speed and battery life necessary to support them. I think the earlier tablet efforts failed because there was a fundamental misunderstanding of how one should interface with a tablet.

    I think we can both agree that the finger is the best way to interact with a tablet. But the finger is an oddly shaped blob that touches 16, 18, 24(?) pixels at a time. To make it work, a whole new finger friendly interface had to be built.

    A sylus or a mouse literally touches one pixel at a time. Menu driven interfaces work extremely well with styluses and mouses because the fine precision of those devices allow one to pick and choose among many options with extreme accuracy.

    With a tablet, the moment you switch from a touch friendly interface to a stylus/mouse driven interface, you?re lost. Yes, you can do it, but it?s slow, tedious and Pa-yane-ful. This desire to use a stylus or mouse to interface with a tablet is the wall that Microsoft has been pounding its head on for the past ten years.

    Long before the iPad, there were touch-response systems used in applications like point-of-sale and kiosks. They gave UI designers one obvious guideline: make touchable controls large. You could also see the trend in software designed for kids and older people (or novices). Make controls large because eyesight and motor control aren’t that of your typical power user. Simplify content presentation and available options because user focus on task isn’t there. These lessons guide 90% of the battle of taking an idea that worked great on the desktop with a mouse and large screen and putting it on a touch enabled small screen.

    The other 10% is stuff like multi-touch and drill-down exploration of content spaces. These define the differences between iOS/Android and the old Windows tablet experience. For the latter, there are now a ton of developers who get how drill down and search define the app experience on a small screen. And now to get your feathers in a bunch… Multi-touch isn’t nearly as important as you think it is. It’s like the double-click in a desktop interface. It should be a shortcut, not the only way to do something. If you doubt that, find a pretty girl with nice, long nails, and see how she deal with her smart phone.

    Developers have already learned how to reach smaller screens and take over the screen rather than playing inside a window. See netbooks, and lots of software, especially in education circles, optimized for these devices. Now imagine having a device where all the software you’ve invested in over the last decade still works acceptably well, and you can get more additional or future software that adopts more contemporary interface conventions.

    [ Edited: 14 September 2011 05:48 PM by Bosco (Brad Hutchings) ]      
  • Posted: 14 September 2011 05:59 PM #24

    I can’t imagine trying to use InDesign on an iPad. I thought it was barely useable on a 17” MacBook Pro. Adobe would need to massively ovrerhaul it’s interface of CS to even make it functional in a touch environment. i mean the arrow pointer feels clunky sometimes for precision work like snapping to a point or repainting a single pixel. I’m not sure what benefit they would get from that. I agree that if you relied it and needed it in a pinch then yeah, technically it would be nice to have it, but it’s kind of like a carpenter saying it’s possible I may have to build a cabinet when I’m out of my shop, so I better figure out how to fit a table saw in my toolbox.

    i may have drifted off topic a bit. Sorry.

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    Less is More (more or less).

         
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    Posted: 14 September 2011 06:28 PM #25

    Oh God! See this Windows 8 v iPad story at the Huffington Post, the comments are also a hoot.

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    “Works of art, in my opinion, are the only objects in the material universe to possess internal order, and that is why, though I don’t believe that only art matters, I do believe in Art for Art’s sake.” E. M. Forster

         
  • Posted: 14 September 2011 06:59 PM #26

    Drew Bear - 14 September 2011 08:05 PM
    KitsuneStudios - 14 September 2011 07:33 PM

    I think the combination of the ultra-book specifications and the iPad-inspired touch-based controls could conceivably allow Windows to occupy a wider market segment than the iPad, and thus compete.

    Maybe. Neither Windows ultra-books or tablets are competitive at this time. It remains to be seen whether combining the two will change that.

    Someone brought this up in another thread, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple has a MB Air/iPad convertible in one of their secret labs. Imagine a 13” MacPad running a child or grandchild of Lion & iOS 5.

    I was the one who brought this up in another thread, and I agree with KituneStudios that there is a potential opportunity for MS (and Apple if it chooses to) to deliver a hybrid portable that is both a full fledged utraportable and a tablet. 

    Yes, there would need to be trade-offs.  The device would be thicker and heavier than a tablet alone, and with shorter battery life. 

    But I for one would gladly give up my MBA and iPad for a hybrid that was twice the thickness and weight of the iPad and with half of its battery life. 

    Most of the commenters on this thread are looking only at the DEVICE when comparing an iPad to the Windows 8 hybrid concept.  But you need to look at the entire user experience of owning electronic devices.  There are very large benefits of having just one device where you needed two before.

    Of course, the final trade-off is price.  If this is going to be a quality ultraportable, then presumably the price is double the iPad, and that would make it a competitor only to the MBA, not to the iPad.

         
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    Posted: 14 September 2011 08:13 PM #27

    FalKirk - 14 September 2011 08:09 PM
    KitsuneStudios - 14 September 2011 06:04 PM

    This could be fixed in time by rewriting the desktop apps for a touch-pad, but that takes time.

    Maybe. But it would have to be a radical new design.

    Agreed, and I’ll be interested to see what that redesign looks like. Some of the early Surface demos had some fascinating concepts, but Apple definitely beat them to the punch with a system that was practical and intuitive.

    Frankly, I was kind of hoping Wacom could come up with a bluetooth pressure-sensitive stylus with a custom API that other developers could tap into: kinda likee the old Soundblaster or Voodoo cards back in the day. Might not be possible though =/

    FalKirk - 14 September 2011 08:09 PM

    Here’s where we disagree. You think that Window’s earlier tablet efforts failed because earlier tablets didn’t have the power, speed and battery life necessary to support them. I think the earlier tablet efforts failed because there was a fundamental misunderstanding of how one should interface with a tablet.

    That’s not quite it. My proposition is that the pre-iPad tablets failed because they lacked value over the competition; and a big part of that value includes the interface.

    Pre iOS tablets relied on an OS born of the CLI (keyboard) and GUI (mouse). It was impossible to use a Windows or MacOS without them. Every action, no matter how small, required going for the keyboard and/or pointing device. The benefit of the stylus (pressure sensitivity and control) was outweighed by the convenience of the built-in-laptop touch-based options. The benefit of a keyboard outweighed the lack of a keyboard.

    Since the iOS was born of the iPhone, you don’t need a keyboard or pointer at all, a big improvement over the laptop when creating an ultra-portable device. The simplicity of the iPad’s OS also gave a big advantage in opening up the marketplace. Apple now has a device that’s lighter, smaller, easier to use, and more convenient to use than a laptop, but the trade-off is starting fresh with a smaller App base.

    If I’m correct in interpreting the Windows 8 previews, Metro is to Windows as iOS is to MacOS X: a touch-centric interface with it’s own series of Apps, running the Windows OS as the back-end. Microsoft could easily continue to offer a Metro-only version of Windows for Phones and Tablets in the style of iOS and Droid.

    Now here’s my point: by being able to switch between Metro and the classic Explorer on a single device, without being forced to use either, Microsoft offers it’s hardware partners a much wider ecosystem, and THAT adds value over the iPad.

    I probably got too hung up on the “iPad with a Cintiq mode”, ‘cause that’s what I personally want. raspberry There are a lot of other options for hybrid systems that could add value:

    There could be a Lenovo ultraportable that acts like an iPad via Metro but can dock to act like a desktop in Explorer mode.

    How about an HP All-in-One which allows you to work in the touch-screen mode for simple tasks, or swap into Explorer mode for classic keyboard + mouse applications.

    If the Explorer mode is lockable, you could also set up Metro as touch installations similar to Surface, or office tablets/thin clients with a locked selection of metro apps, but a fully accessible administration mode through Explorer.

    While Apple could conceivably marry the iOS as a Dashboard like interface on a touchscreen or tablet iMac, Apple’s smaller product grid dosen’t allow for the sort of niche-filling scenarios that the open licensing model of Microsoft can offer, and the potential innovation from more open system designs could lead to the same sort of hardware innovations that helped push the IBM PC compatible to dominance back in the 90’s.

    It probably won’t crush the competition, but it may well give Microsoft a fighting chance.

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  • Posted: 14 September 2011 09:32 PM #28

    Compatibility

    This is all about compatibility. Microsoft’s dominance on the PC was unassailable. Almost all the hardware and almost all the software was compatible with Windows.

    A wholly new operating system

    With the iPhone, then the iPad, Apple created a whole new Operating System that ran on whole new devices. Not only wasn’t Windows compatibility necessary, it wasn’t POSSIBLE. Touch based Apps were simply too different from Windows based applications

    Microsoft Must

    So here we are in the present day. Microsoft doesn’t just want to make another “me too” device like the Zune or Windows Phone 7. They want to make a tablet device that is compatible (there’s that word again) with their Windows operating system and their Office Software suite. If they don’t got compatibility, they don’t got nothing. So how can Microsoft make their tablet software compatible with their existing desktop software?

    They can’t create an entirely new, built from the ground up interface. That’s for sure. It would defeat the whole purpose. If their tablet operating system was no more compatible with Windows than Apple’s tablet operating system was, then they shouldn’t even bother. The most they could hope to get from that would be to steal a couple of points of market share from Apple.

    No, the only solution was to convert the existing Windows operating system into an operating system that ran on BOTH desktops and tablets.

    The Fatal Flaw

    Now think about that for one second and you’ll see the flaw - or what Apple believes is the flaw - in that way of thinking.

    Let me take a step back and ask you this question: “Why didn’t Apple create a single operating system that was compatible with both their upcoming tablet and their existing Mac operating system?” Think what a boon that would have been! Instead of creating a whole new category of Apps, existing Mac applications could have just been modified to work with both the Mac and the tablet. And talk about a halo effect! There are now nearly 500,000 iPhone Apps available and 100,000 iPad Apps available. Imagine if all of those Apps were available for the Mac too!

    Now tell me - what’s wrong with that picture? And what’s wrong with Microsoft’s tablet strategy?

    Hint: IT. CAN’T. BE. DONE. If it could have been done, Apple, not Microsoft would have been the first to do it.

    “Oh”, you say, “it wasn’t that Apple couldn’t do it, it’s only because they CHOSE not to do it.” Hogwash.

    Apple was the first to recognize that the tablet requires an entirely new operating system. Microsoft, apparently is the last to recognize this. The tablet Apps are not compatible (there’s that word again) with the desktops applications because tablet Apps are fundamentally different from desktop programs.

    Pages

    Think about Apple’s version of Pages, for example. Even though the desktop and the tablet programs are named the same, even though both programs were made by Apple, even though it would be in Apple’s best interest to make them “universal” i.e., work on both the tablet and the desktop, they didn’t do so. Why? Because they can’t.

    Not a Difference, a Disaster

    “Aha.” you say (you say a lot, don’t you?) “The difference is that Apple created two different operating systems and Microsoft is only using one.” That’s not a difference, that’s a disaster.

    Listen up. The tablet operating system MUST be different from the desktop operating system.  Microsoft spent 10 years trying to prove that that was wrong. They utterly failed. Apple spent 17 months trying to prove that that was right. They succeeded spectacularly. Now, despite Apple proving that their method was the correct one, and despite Apple showing Microsoft the way, Microsoft is insisting on trying to do what they’ve been trying to do for ten years - put the same OS on both the desktop and the tablet.

    Microsoft MUST make both their tablet and their desktop Apps compatible and Microsoft CANNOT make both their tablet and their desktop Apps compatible. Microsoft has diagnosed the problem. But they’ve prescribed the wrong solution.

    [ Edited: 14 September 2011 10:18 PM by FalKirk ]      
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    Posted: 14 September 2011 09:43 PM #29

    Now *that* was wonderful.  Well stated and just ..  uuhh ... right!

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  • Posted: 14 September 2011 09:46 PM #30

    Gruber:

    I?m hung up on the question of how any OS that lets you do everything Windows does could compete with the iPad, because the iPad?s appeal and success is largely forged by the advantages that come from not allowing you to do so many of the things Mac OS X can do.

    One big example: On the Mac and Windows, a lot of stuff is always going on in the background. Once launched, apps stay running, consume CPU time, and hold onto RAM until the user quits them. On the iPad, very little is going on in the background ? only essential system services ? and apps get no CPU time and are eventually flushed from RAM when they?re not frontmost. These restrictions prevent the iPad from doing all sorts of things a Mac can do. You can?t use an iPad as a media server. You can?t screen share or remotely log into an iPad. You can?t use an iPad as a web server. An iPad app can?t work on a lengthy task in the background while you do other things in the foreground. But an iPad runs for double-digit hours on a single charge with a lightweight battery and never even gets warm let alone hot.

    There’s a whole lot more in the original Daring Fireball article.