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article imageOp-Ed: Microsoft pad release? Er, um, yes, but, maybe, sorta, kinda

By Paul Wallis     Jun 16, 2012 in Technology
Sydney - If the news that a Microsoft pad is on the way is true, it’s arguably the most predictable move Microsoft could possibly make. It could also be a very new ball game. Microsoft will be building the new device, not simply providing the software.
Microsoft isn't saying a damn thing. "Sources" are plugging the pad.
According to The New York Times:
On Monday, Microsoft is expected to introduce a tablet computer of its own design that runs a new version of its Windows operating system, according to people with knowledge of Microsoft’s plans who declined to be identified discussing confidential matters. It is the first time in the company’s 37-year history that it will offer a computer of its own creation. The device is aimed squarely at Apple’s blockbuster iPad, which has begun to threaten Microsoft’s hegemony in the computer business.
The Microsoft pad is supposedly using Windows 8 RT, an adaption of the new Windows OS now in beta testing. This could well be the first consumer run of Windows 8, so expect some bitching sessions about that, too. The positive side is that Windows 8 is supposed to be a very simple, straightforward system, which by definition means that it’s likely to be OK for a mobile platform.
Microsoft is taking a risk here. Google’s Android pad bombed, mainly because it couldn’t match the iPad technology. If Windows 8 really is the “back to basics” OS it’s supposed to be, this is where it will prove it. That could be the real technical edge, and it could eat in to the market for pads very effectively.
The downside is that Microsoft’s recent track record with consumer hardware issues is truly lousy. The notorious Vista hardware debacle cost Microsoft a lot of goodwill in the marketplace, and trust in the company’s judgment and its attitude to consumers was badly eroded for no good reason. The company was seen as anti-consumer in one of the worst PR exercises in history. The onus is on Microsoft to prove that it does get the message about consumer needs with these pads. “Take it or leave it” is not going to be an option in future, particularly in a very competitive environment like pads.
Pad Wars
This “class war” between PCs and iPads is interesting of itself. Apple, for some reason, undersells the sheer grunt of iPads. The current generation of iPads would walk all over the 90s class PCs and Macs, which if not exactly powerful by today’s standards were very capable machines for most purposes.
If you wade around Apple’s rather too cute iPad page, you notice that the tech specs for iPads show only one significant weakness- Very low memory space compared to most computers. The top of the range iPad is only 64GB, which if more than some older computers, is peanuts compared to current systems and more importantly not very impressive compared to the space requirements of some software.
Memory space matters. Space usage affects computer performance. It’s a fixable problem, if anyone can be bothered coming up with an all-purpose machine, not this damn endless “Look, I’ve got an iPad!” crap. Microsoft may or may not exploit this weakness in the iPad. If they do, and they come up with a credible working machine that can do more than show photos and try to look cool, there may be some real competition, at last, in the pad market.
(Look cool according to what, for God’s sake? There are also limits to the novelty of being told someone has an iPad, you publicity guys. If you want to look cool, let’s see some unique and useful options, not more bloody gimmicks and uploading pics of the kids with a schmaltzy soundtrack attached.)
Functionality, not funkiness, is the key to a generation of business and general all-purpose pads that will become part of everyone’s standard personal equipment. Laptops, which are the current version of mobile PCs, priced and tech’d themselves out of the market. They’re ridiculously expensive and they have to be literally pulled apart to be serviced. That’s just not good enough anymore.
Pads are far more efficient in that respect, and more cost-effective. They do have the processor power, and that allows good performance for the limited range of things they can currently do, but they’re way too underdone for heavy duty ongoing work, particularly with demanding business software and high memory usage.
Microsoft and Apple have another problem which stays mysteriously off the radar on the reviews, obvious as it is- They both have operating PC and Mac computer products. A powerful pad would compete with their own products. Therefore, we have this bitsy/dinky pad profile. (I’m not sure if Apple has missed a trick or is steering clear of the Mac territory on purpose for some reason. A Mac/iPad hybrid would be a pretty awesome machine, and it’s an obvious generational move.)
If Microsoft introduces a high grunt pad, we might have a significant race for capabilities happening, and soon. That in turn may lead to higher functionality and much better deals for consumers. It’s possible, too. Apple’s engineers did a very good job of creating a working unit out of Apple technology. They had the parts and they put them together very well.
The problem with pads is space and weight. Someone had to draw a line somewhere on size for the iPad, and the box was only so big. The infatuation with the word “mobile” did the rest. “This has to be portable and fit into…” is quite enough to shave space off what might otherwise have been enough room for more power and performance. For the sake of an extra few cubic inches, you can fit in a lot more power and performance.
The good news is that improved technology is shrinking space requirements. The other side of the equation is that this stuff takes forever to get in to consumer technology, and has to fight vested interests in the supply chain to do it.
Wanna sell some pads?
Consumers are being saddled with compartmentalized operational capabilities. You currently need a phone, a computer and a pad to have everything. That’s inefficient, expensive and actually reduces the amount consumers can outlay on software and other gadgets. (“Disposable income” is not some mystic theory of economics. It’s the hard cash paying for your products, guys.)
In its present form, a pad is no use at all to me. I do any number of thousands of words a day. I’ve typed quite a few letters almost off my keyboard in the last couple of years, even with audio dictation. While mobility and space are definite pluses, current pads can’t do what I need them to do.
My computer is a custom clone. It’s a working machine. My computer guy puts in what I need. What I need, specifically, is a great word processing machine, with a lot of memory, great graphics card, high performance and very high level of reliability. It’s all off the shelf, top parts and very few problems.
What I specifically do not need is a touch screen technology-based toy. “Cute” isn’t part of the equation. Come up with a working machine, show me it can do what I need it to do and that I can customize it to my needs, and I’ll look at a pad.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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