Proving once again that he is at once, both a master of delivering what everyone already knows, and having the poorest timing of any major CEO around, Steve Ballmer announced that Microsoft will be producing a Windows tablet computer.

Well, I am just shocked!

[TechConnect]

During his keynote at the Windows Partner Conference in Washington, Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer has told the audience and the world that a number of big name manufacturers will be launching Windows 7-powered slates (tablet PCs) by the end of this year.

Among the companies working on Windows 7 slates are Samsung, Dell, Asus, MSI, Lenovo, Toshiba and Sony, with Ballmer saying that the upcoming mobile devices will be available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Note that HP is listed as one of Microsoft’s partners bringing Win7 slates although it’s known the top PC maker is going to focus on bringing webOS-based products to market.

With or without HP, the slate/tablet market should get really interesting and crowded in the not so distant future – if only Apple didn’t get a head start with its iPad.

I know that this will slow the adoption of iPads by some businesses, as now they have a firm commitment that there will be a product from Redmond, though everyone already knew, in their souls, that there was no way Microsoft would not enter this market with at least one product.

What remains to be seen is what will happen to a system running Windows 7 on a tablet? Will there be a way to have decent speed and an acceptable battery life? Will getting that acceptable battery life resolve itself as as tablet that operates like a slug, or having a battery that makes no one want to carry it around (these things are all lightweight by my estimations, but the “girly-men” that review these things have a fit if anything portable doesn’t almost float in the air by itself).

Also, we will have to see how many people will actually need a tablet with the full capabilities of Windows 7. Many don’t need much more that the ability to check and compose e-mails, and open a file or two from their computer sitting back at the office – for that crowd, the tablet from BlackBerry would seem to fill the bill nicely. (I should note that the iPad also accomplishes this, and unless there is anti-Apple sentiment present, the iPad is already out, its weaknesses are known and in the process of being fixed, and by the time Microsoft converts to a tangible product from vaporware, the second generation iPads could be on sale.

Perhaps, if Microsoft pulls a winner out, Mr. Ballmer can take off a month, and afford to get the personality transplant he so badly needs.

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Will Microsoft have a winner this time? Remember, this is not the first go around for Microsoft and a tablet computer – the last time even Mr. Gates could not sell it…


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