Microsoft Chases Apple iPad with a Tablet ... Due in 2012

Last Updated Jun 30, 2010 10:08 AM EDT

People have waited to see what Microsoft (MSFT) would do to catch up with Apple (AAPL) and the iPad. You oughta know, Microsoft has plans for a tablet. Big plans. So big, in fact, that it will take the company until 2012 -- maybe -- to come out with something.

Not that Microsoft has made a formal announcement, but the leaked slides that offer plans for Windows 8 also discuss what types of machines will run the operating system. Read through the collection of slides, and you can deduce a lot about Microsoft's tablet plans. However, although what it plans might be competitive today, it probably won't be two years from now. Microsoft and the PC industry have dallied behind Apple because they are terrified of failure. That's ultimately why Microsoft killed its Courier twin-screen tablet project and HP announced a tablet at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, only to kill it off later.

And the dawdling continues. The slide collection is all about Windows 8, with a release target in 2012, given all the references to what market conditions might be like in that year. Plans include three basic types of consumer machines:

  • family hub PC -- for heavy communications, media consumption, web browsing, and gaming
  • workhorse PC -- for heavy communications, productivity applications, and media editing and storage
  • lap PC -- for web and media consumption, light communications, and casual gaming
It's the last one we'll focus on -- a slate or tablet. Microsoft has begun to emphasize a number of features:
  • face recognition login
  • location awareness
  • e-reading/media consumption
  • wireless connectivity, including mobile broadband
  • automatic screen orientation with rotation lock button
  • high definition video display
  • soft keyboard for light text entry
  • social networking features (probably leveraging work for the Kin phone
  • GPS-based location awareness
  • accelerometer-based gaming
  • attention tracking to pause programs when a user looks elsewhere
  • screen brightness adaptive to ambient light
  • 9-inch diagonal screen
  • hardware graphics acceleration
And here are a series of conceptual images from the slides:

In addition to being late to the party, Microsoft is offering many features that are already available or easily added. Granted, some, like attention tracking, are interesting, but not enough to warrant a two year delay. Microsoft would do well to emulate Apple. Don't strain to get everything possible into the first version. Come out with something first, and then add features iteratively. By the time Microsoft readies its wish list, it will have buried its possibilities.

  • Windows 8: Microsoft's Strategy Still Wears Blinders
  • Microsoft Learns From Apple, Sort of
  • Microsoft Needs More Traitors
  • Apple Sells 1M iPads Because Steve Jobs Isn't Afraid To Fail
  • Tablets Need Handwriting and Voice Recognition, Not Just Multitouch
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      Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.