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How Microsoft ‘missed’ the tablet market

If you ever wondered why Microsoft have been so weak in the tablet sector then the the inside story has been published on CNET – it is called ‘The Inside Story of How Microsoft Killed Its Courier Tablet’. It makes for interesting reading.

In 2010, Microsoft apparently had two teams of people working on tablet computers. One team of people were from the Windows division, and the other from the Xbox section of the company. To cut a long story short, the Windows team won the battle and the Xbox developers team had to kill the dual screen tablet which was called ‘Courier’.

Due to the strategy move, Microsoft failed to get a tablet out in time to compete with the iPad and they are waiting for Windows 8 to hit mainstream, next year. We aren’t sure if a dual screen tablet would have worked against Apple, but perhaps someone might have made a single screen version for mainstream release. After all the dual screen Acer Inspire Iconia has been a complete flop, costing a whopping £1,400 in the UK.

The story at CNET gets more interesting as a description has been posted of a meeting with Bill Gates and members of the Courier tablet team. Ballmer asked Gates to look at Courier and to offer him some advise before moving ahead with a plan.

The Dreamy eyed Bill Gates in his younger years

We quote the CNET article:

At one point during that meeting in early 2010 at Gates’ waterfront offices in Kirkland, Wash., Gates asked (Courier developer J) Allard how users get e-mail. Allard, Microsoft’s executive hipster charged with keeping tabs on computing trends, told Gates his team wasn’t trying to build another e-mail experience. He reasoned that everyone who had a Courier would also have a smartphone for quick e-mail writing and retrieval and a PC for more detailed exchanges. Courier users could get e-mail from the Web, Allard said, according to sources familiar with the meeting.

But the device wasn’t intended to be a computer replacement; it was meant to complement PCs. Courier users wouldn’t want or need a feature-rich e-mail application such as Microsoft’s Outlook that lets them switch to conversation views in their inbox or support offline e-mail reading and writing. The key to Courier, Allard’s team argued, was its focus on content creation. Courier was for the creative set, a gadget on which architects might begin to sketch building plans, or writers might begin to draft documents.

“This is where Bill had an allergic reaction,” said one Courier worker who talked with an attendee of the meeting. As is his style in product reviews, Gates pressed Allard, challenging the logic of the approach.

Clearly Gates had the platform killed and here we are today. We certainly can’t say that if the strategy from Ballmer had changed if things would be different today, but we certainly can’t see how the situation would be any worse for Microsoft.

Kitguru says: It is embarrassing for Microsoft to not have even modest tablet success in 2011. They may rule the desktop industry, but in the mobile market they have always had problems.

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