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Windows slates in the coming months? Not much seen yet

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On the first day of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference this week there was not much about the Windows slates. It is not surprising given that Intel has just begun real and honest marketing of its sufficiently low power SoCs (see: Intel SoC for Cloud Clients [June 25]).

… what you’ll see over the course of the next year is us doing more and more work with our hardware partners creating hardware-software optimisations with Windows 7 and with Windows 7 Media Center …

  • Even more, Mr. Ballmer is emphasizing that whatever they will be doing on Windows 7 and Windows 7 Media Center basis will still not be the real thing, and everybody should wait for Windows 8 with real “Big Button touch” — i.e. (I would add) waiting till 2012:

… Media Center is big and, when people say ‘hey, we could optimise [that] more for clients’ I think what they generally mean is ‘Big Buttons’.  Big Buttons that’s, I think, a codeword for Big Buttons and Media Center is Big Buttons not Little Buttons. I’m not trying to trivialise that – it’s a real issue.

We’re not going to do a revamp of Windows 7 over the course of the next year for that purpose.  Whether we should, or we shouldn’t, we’ve put all our energy around doing a great job on that and other issues in the next version of Windows

  • Related post on my other blog: Windows 7 UI overlays from Microsoft and elsewhere [Aug 30]. This is clarifying the UI situation for Apple iPad competitive Windows slates.
  • Related: Compal president pessimistic about non-Apple tablet PC shipments in 2011 [Digitimes, Sept 2]. His prediction is only 15 million units at max while Apple tablet PCs ~10-12 million. Also: “Wintel netbook sales have recently been devoured seriously by tablet PCs and if the two firms do not consider dropping prices or improve performance, sales will continue to drop.”
    Notebook supply chain still has no clear visibility for December orders [Sept 6]: “First-tier notebook makers Quanta Computer and Compal Electronics have recently adjusted their third-quarter notebook shipment forecast from positive growth to an up to 10% drop; however, they still forecast to see growth in the fourth quarter and are working aggressively to bring up their shipments for the quarter.”
  • Update: Even the most Windows slate concious manufacturers are publicly admitting now their dependence on Intel’s lagging chip capabilities (finally): MSI waiting on Intel Oak Trail for Win 7 tablet, Android version will hit before end of the year [Aug 23]. See also Mary-Jo Foley’s Another Windows 7 slate dropped from this year’s Christmas list [Aug 24].
  • Update: Toshiba’s dual-screen Libretto W100 laptop on sale in America for $1,100 [Engadget, Aug 16]. Excellent price for this unique, Intel U5400 based device which has only 0.8 kg weight and 3 cm thickness (when closed). See the complete offering on the Amazon site: Toshiba libretto W105-L251 7-Inch Dual Touchscreen Laptop (Silver/Black). Look at the picture on the right (copied here for convenience). Toshiba’s characterization is nothing less than: “ultramobile companion goes beyond slates and tablets to deliver something more: a full Windows 7 experience to be enjoyed across two touch screens. So now you can enjoy many different things – games, ebooks, movies, music, TV and so on – from a single handheld device.”
  • Toshiba is, however, mum on the battery life, just stating 36 Wh with the large capacity 8-cell Li-Ion battery. Considering Intel U5400‘s 18 W max TDP this is clearly not enough for even 2-3 hours of continuous use. This is why vendors should wait for Oak Trail’s Q1 2011 arrival for their Windows slates.
  • Update: and surely we will have the notebook convertibles with full touch screen capabilities like this: New Smaller LIFEBOOK T580 Is The Gateway to Fujitsu’s Tablet Line Up Slate-beating LIFEBOOK tablet PC combines touch screen mobility with the convenience of a keyboard [Sept 2], see also the detailed specification. Notable differentiator: “Even in direct sunlight, the screen display is bright and clear thanks to high-definition LED backlighting with an Ambient Light Sensor that automatically adjusts display brightness, while a smear-proof coating means no distractions from fingerprints.” Price, availability: “The LIFEBOOK T580 is the lowest-priced tablet PC in Fujitsu’s line-up. Exact pricing varies by region.  Fujitsu’s LIFEBOOK T580 will be available for all regions in late November 2010”
  • Update: Acer to launch three tablet PC models featuring 5- to 7-inch panels [and Android 3.0 in the first quarter of 2011] [Sept 14]: “Before the Android models are released though, Acer will launch an x86 model using an Intel processor and Windows 7 to test the water in the market”.
  • Crucial issues for the future: What if a Microsoft Surface like functionality will go into this kind of handheld design? I mean a case when one of the screens is configured to work (via software added to Windows 7) as a Microsoft Surface which is even more enhanced with a tailored very general input functionality. I came to this idea when watching the concept video on YouTube (also available on the Amazon site). Even more: What if the Microsoft Courier prototype will also be adopted to this design and brought to the market? Those two things will change the whole market by themselves! And these are “just” software additions to the existing Windows 7. The screens are already multitouch!
  • This little device has been the best what Microsoft could demonstrate at this partner event. See all the detailed information below on that Toshiba Libretto W100 as mentioned at the partner event as well as elsewhere around the web.

This is what Microsoft could tell and demonstrate on this important event:

Microsoft’s Ballmer: Windows 7 slates are coming this year [Mary-Jo Foley’s “All about Microsoft” blog on ZDNet, July 12]

I think it’s way overdue for Microsoft to tell customers what’s coming on the slate front. We’ve heard that there will be Windows Embedded Compact tablets and slates coming, but it’s doubtful (I’d think) that those will be able to run Windows apps.

Microsoft execs can’t — with any credibility — keep pooh-poohing slates, claiming they’re nothing more than PCs, given how quickly the iPad has been gaining traction. Microsoft is known to be focusing on the slate form factor with Windows 8, but that operating system is still likely close to two years away from release.

All that said, there’s more to a slate than just the physical form factor. If there isn’t longer battery life, instant on/off and some kind of app store with not just the usual business apps, but also consumer-focused apps and games, I’m not so sure users are going to bite…

So let’s see in the speech transcripts what has exactly been said today about the slates:

Steve Ballmer: Worldwide Partner Conference 2010 [July 12]

… 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. Tami is going to show you some of those today. 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 will be many form factors, many price points, many sizes. But they will run Windows 7. They will run Windows 7 applications. They will run Office. They will accept ink as well as touch-based input. And they will be very good for the kinds of scenarios that all of us are going to see for knowledge workers in the business that we serve that want to have something that works super well at work, but also supports their kind of personal interests as they travel.

Tami Reller: Worldwide Partner Conference 2010 [July 12]
(Video record: select from the presspass video gallery)

[Ryan Asdourian demoing for Tami Reller, [8:05 – 11:10]: none of the devices shown in this period of time are releated to the slates or tablets, they are rather variations on notebooks and netbooks]

… [11:10] but I’ve also got some surprises. I’ve got this right here, this Sony P. It’s a beautiful machine. Open this up, this is running the full version of Windows 7 right here. And it’s just really light, it’s beautiful, easy to carry around.
[11:35] Let me hand this one out as well. Just play with this for a second. While you do that, I’m going to show you this one last machine I’ve got. This is called the Toshiba Libretto. And it’s got two capacitive touch screens. You see here, I can actually interact with it right here, and it’s got a core i5 chip so it’s actually running an HD video and I’ve got a document open at the same time. It’s a beautiful machine. [11:50]

… [32:30] seeing apps is really what brings it to life. And seeing some of the great apps that have been built by you. So, let me ask Ryan to come and show us some of the great innovation out there. Welcome back. [[32:40] Ryan Asdourian demoing for Tami Reller] … the first demo I’m actually going to show is actually on this [Hanvon] slate I’ve got here. This is the Copia Reader. And what I can actually do here — I go ahead, I click into this, and what I see is a lot of articles here. I can actually go ahead and drag these right here to my reading queue. I can go ahead, save some of these in my favorites, and this app is actually tied into a bunch of my social networks, so I can see what my friends are doing as well, and they can comment, I can comment on their stuff. It’s a really interactive, rich way to interact and this is all built with Windows, WPF, and has Azure as a back end, so it’s a great example of rich client app and putting the cloud with that. [33:20]

The Sony P-series Lifestyle PC: Just don’t call it a Netbook [Jan 7, 2009]
VAIO P Series Lifestyle PC | Sony
Estimated Battery Life with Standard Battery6 (included)
– Default Settings: Up to 4.5 hours
– Max. Brightness: Up to 4 hours
Estimated Battery Life with Extended Battery6 (sold separately)
– Default Settings: Up to 9 hours
– Max. Brightness: Up to 8 hours
Power Requirements: 68W + 10%

Toshiba Libretto W100 resurrects the classic UMPC brand with dual 7-inch displays [Engadget, June 21]
Toshiba libretto® Dual-Screen PC
Toshiba libretto® W100 Dual-Screen PC
(coming in August): “Enjoy up to 5 hours battery life” (see here) Warning[Aug 24]: This reference is for Toshiba’s UK site. Elsewhere Toshiba is mum on the battery life, just stating 36 Wh with the large capacity 8-cell Li-Ion battery. Considering Intel U5400‘s (used in current W100/105) 18 W max TDP this is clearly not enough for even 2-3 hours of continuous use. Vendors should wait for Oak Trail’s Q1 2011 arrival for their Windows slates! No question about that.
Toshiba Libretto W100 preview [Engadget, July 1]

So, what’s our overall takeaway after spending an afternoon with the W100? It’s definitely working better than the model we saw a few months back, but even when it did work there’s not much you can do with it. It’s neat as a web surfing device, but very few things take advantage of the two screens — for instance, we’d like to see a compelling e-reading app (eh hem Toshiba Book Place). In the end — even if Toshiba gets all the hardware and software kinks worked out — we’re far from convinced that there’s a place for the W100 in our lives for $1,100.

The latest showing of the lonely Hanvon slate device was just last weekend:

Hanvon Touchpad B10 tablet computer at CES China [July 12]

… new Touchpad B10 [linking to Hanvon’s product page] tablet computer. The 9.96 x 6.61 x 0.70 inch, 1.98 pound device is powered by a 1.3GHz ULV 743 Celeron processor and GMA X4500 display chip from Intel on a GS45 chipset with 2GB DDR2 memory and a 250GB hard disk drive.

Here is an earlier report from Asia already declaring local availability and even superiority: Chinese tablet maker Hanvon throws down the gauntlet to the iPad [May 20]

To mark the availability of its first slate tablet in China, the TouchPad, Hanvon chairman Liu Yingjian smashed an Apple-shaped ice sculpture with a hammer, insinuating that his products are superior to the iPad. He claimed that the Apple slate is like a mere toy which cannot satisfy the real needs of a consumer or business user, unlike the TouchPad B10 and B20 tablets which run on Windows 7.

Quite an ambitious company! E-Reading the Market – Hanwang sells nearly all the digital readers in China. Founder Liu Yingjian knows that won’t last for long. [Forbes, May 28]
(You could see a collection of related videos as well: Hanvon’s E-Reading Market [June 1])

China-based Hanwang Technology has denied rumors that its Hanvon-branded e-book reader sales have been seriously dampened by competition from the Apple iPad and its current inventory has piled up to as high as 500,000 e-book readers, according to a Chinese-language report on sina.com.cn.

Hanwang chairman Liu Yingjian is cited saying that although the second quarter was the weak season for e-book readers, Hanvon’s sales was significant, and the company expects at least 300% growth in net profit in 2010, the report noted.

The 3d party application shown on that slate is not less ambitous: Welcome to Copia

– We’re not just changing the format.
– We’re rewriting the whole reading experience.
– Introducing Copia, the world’s first social reading experience — reading, learning and sharing all in one.

And the latest report regarding the availability: Copia Coming in July? [June 20]
(There is an embedded video demonstration [June 7] of the software as well.)



  1. […] strengths for the PC -> cloud transition [June 27] – Mobile search SaaS battle [June 28] – Windows slates in the coming months? Not much seen yet [July 13] – Microsoft going multiplatform? [Sept 17] – Microsoft to lead standards compliance and […]

  2. […] that and more on my earlier blog post which was regularly updated in recent months: – Windows slates in the coming months? Not much seen yet [July 13 – Oct 6, […]

  3. […] has been telling in the last months there had been no sufficient evidence to back his claims, see: Windows slates in the coming months? Not much seen yet [July 13 – Oct 6, 2010]. And for people interested in technical details it has been well known […]

  4. […] 7 tablets/slates with Oak Trail Atom SoC in December [Nov 1, with updates going as of Nov 24]- Windows slates in the coming months? Not much seen yet [July 13, with updates going as of Oct 9] This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the […]

  5. […] Windows slates in the coming months? Not much seen yet [July 13 – Oct 9] with the last relevant update stating: Mr. Ballmer is now (Oct) talking consistently about “next year”: How Steve Ballmer told me what to do with my iPad! [Oct 6]. […]

  6. […] were underrepresented in the keynote compared to what had been before (see my earlier posts: Windows slates in the coming months? Not much seen yet [July 13 – Oct 6, 2010] and Windows 7 tablets/slates with Oak Trail Atom SoC in December [Nov 1 […]

  7. […] Google/Android. While there had been nothing available to exercise that for quite a long time (see: Windows slates in the coming months? Not much seen yet [July 13 – Oct 6, 2010]) the situation is quickly changing with the first real slate product, Asus […]

  8. […] – HP’s Windows 7 Slate Device Revealed by Steve Ballmer [Techmeme, Jan 6 – Jan 10, 2010] – Windows slates in the coming months? Not much seen yet [this trend-tracking blog, July 13 – Oct 9, […]

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