Emperor Gates’ new clothes: the failed mainstream Tablet PC

“I hate to break it to you, but the emperor is virtually naked. At Comdex in November 2002, and with great fanfare, Bill Gates introduced the tablet as the next mainstream mobile platform. Non-Windows tablets had been in use for years as niche products serving vertical markets like healthcare and insurance. When questioned about whether the tablet was really up to shouldering the mainstream computing needs of the broad horizontal market, Gates was unwavering in his assertion that Windows XP Tablet Edition would make it so. Microsoft’s focus-group research, he said, showed that people hated the tablet the first day, grumbled about it on the second, sort of got it on the third, and so on until the 10th day, when they said they couldn’t live without it. I wasn’t convinced, but many early forecasts reflected Gates’ thinking, showing growth in the tablet market reaching 5 million in 2005, 9 million in 2006, and 14 million by 2007. Well, here we are mid-2005 and not on a run rate to hit even 1 million for the year,” Roger Kay writes for Technology Pundits.

“Three years after introducing the tablet, Microsoft has largely left the OEMs to their own devices, so to speak. It does match qualified marketing funds one to one, which is a help, but other support is pretty thin. The prospect of a large supporting ad campaign has faded, and the company itself doesn’t seem as excited about tablets as it used to be. It would be a bad thing to have taken the OEMs for a long stroll through the park only to abandon them before leading the way home. The OEMs have made substantial investments to help realize the future as articulated by Gates in Vegas in 2002. And, so far, there doesn’t appear to be much there there. In fact, I think I see an emperor in his birthday suit,” Kay writes.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: More proof that Apple’s not going to be doing a “Tablet Mac” any time soon or another reason why Apple will tackle the tablet form factor and show the world how to do it right? Based on Kay’s estimates of 3.5 million in 2009 (1.2 million slates and 2.3 million convertibles which feature a screen that spins around on a mono-hinge and snaps into a slate form factor) and giving Apple a very healthy 10-percent of the market, that’s 120,000 slates and/or 230,000 convertible “Mac tablets” in 2009. Those numbers don’t sound like something Steve Jobs would deem to be high on Apple’s list of priorities. What do you think?

Related MacDailyNews articles:
RUMOR: Apple Tablet exists running ‘reduced version’ of Mac OS X – May 24, 2005
Apple granted U.S. patent for Tablet Mac (with images) – May 10, 2005
Apple looking to add wireless connectivity to iPod, rumored Tablet Mac? – August 25, 2004
Apple hints at ‘handheld tablet computer’ with European design trademark filing – August 13, 2004
The Age ponders video Bluetooth iPod; tablet Mac possibilities – January 22, 2003
Apple readying secret iTablet for Macworld unveiling? – January 03, 2003
Tablet Mac watch begins – November 17, 2002

27 Comments

  1. What I’d like to see is something similar to the desk lamp iMac form factor that the screen could pop off and communicate with the base via Airport or Bluetooth. It would work as a regular computer when attached but otherwise with a stylus. As a Graphic Designer I’d live to be able to draw right on the screen if I want to. Apple could do it right.

  2. “Well, here we are mid-2005 and not on a run rate to hit even 1 million for the year.”
    ——–
    Apple sells that many iPods every two weeks. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

  3. It’s no surprise that people said they hate the tablets. I know a lot of people in the design biz that don’t use them because they hate them. yeah, they hate them beacuse they couldnt get the hang of it after using it for 30 seconds.

    I hated the Wacom tablet too…. for the first 2 days I used it, back in 1995.

    Ten years later, I wont use anything else. I’m glad I didnt give up on it.

  4. I think that such a device will be well worth it when it can be as light and thin as a clipboard, connect to WiFi or Bluetooth, take voice commands, allow for voice-text imput, be secure with bio-security, havwe incredibly long battery life.

    A fairly long and intense list. They won’t appear for at least another 50 years and will probably run with Mac OS X 15.7!

  5. <<Based on Kay’s estimates of 3.5 million in 2009 (1.2 million slates and 2.3 million convertibles which feature a screen that spins around on a mono-hinge and snaps into a slate form factor) and giving Apple a very healthy 10-percent of the market, that’s 120,000 slates and/or 230,000 convertible “Mac tablets” in 2009. Those numbers don’t sound like something Steve Jobs would deem to be high on Apple’s list of priorities. What do you think?>>

    Jobs could very well be interested in those numbers, but only if that is the beginning point.

    Remember, the iPod didn’t garner significant share until well after it was first introduced.

    If a market for a tablet exists, and Apple decides to address it, then I foresee initial share being small but growing rapidly. Market dominance? That would be nice, but there are too many variables now (including whether Apple would even do it) to make that call.

  6. The company I work for develops Apps and complete solutions aroudn Table PCs. What I observe is that for our clients who use that product line, they fin dthe devices expensive, the handwriting frustrating (just getting the stylus to match the mouse pointer is frustrating to me) but they prefer them to laptops and even the largest Palm Tungsten screens are far too small so it is the solution their begrudgingly go for.

    Basically, all the Tablet PC needs is to be a larger form factor PDA with a large hard drive and WiFi.

    MDN: probably

  7. “Jobs could very well be interested in those numbers, but only if that is the beginning point.”

    230K units for the 1st year of a product would be a disaster on the order of the Cube. Jobs would not be interested in numbers like this. It’s precisely his ability to know when a battle is worth fighting that has allowed Apple to prosper these past 7 years, despite the wishful thinking of some of Apple’s fans.

    A tablet Mac would be a disaster. Apple would have to devote dozens of engineers full time, spend hundreds of millions of dollars in development, and at best, expect the Tablet Mac to sell at less than 1/4 the rate of the PowerBook line today. This would a bomb on the order of Newton, when Apple spent more than a billion dollars developing the technology and never even came close to recouping those costs.

    Maybe one day, the time will be right for a tablet Mac, but software is still far too dumb to make a tablet PC superior for general computing. It has its niche in vertical markets like hospitals and shipping, but no amount of wishful thinking will change the reality that 95% of users will find a tablet useless and, more importantly, very annoying.

  8. If you know how to use OS X properly, then you don’t even need a trackpad on a PowerBook – keyboard shortcuts in OS X are so powerful, when I used a Tablet I had to learn a new way of inputting what I wanted it to do – to look and touch instead of type and watch. Tablets won’t die, but they’ll never take over laptops or desktops (unless someone designs one with ian Kerkins’ wish list included) because they require a new way of thinking, one that I think is less productive and detached from what we all know.

    Can’t wait for OS X 15.7! The rate Apple are releasing new versions of OS X it won’t be long ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  9. “Microsoft’s focus-group research showed that people hated the tablet the first day, grumbled about it on the second, sort of got it on the third, and so on until the 10th day, when they said they couldn’t live without it.”

    This sort of reminds me of the Newton.

    People who worked with the Newton loved it after six or so months. But it took the Newton a long time to “learn” your handwriting and become useful. In the meantime, there were a ton of jokes about what it thought you wrote and most people threw theirs out after a few weeks because it was like dealing with a dim-witted assistant.

    How many people are giving their tablet ten days to get to the point where they love it? How many are sending it back after a week and trading it in for a laptop?

    I’ve never used a tablet, so I can’t really speak on how good they are. A person I used to work with has one and swears by it. But a product has to be great the first day or people will throw it out. Apple learned that with the Newton and I think Microsoft will learn that with the tablet.

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