Dear Microsoft, Steve Balmer and Bill Gates: What is up with your obsession with keyboards?

“Dear Microsoft, Steve Balmer and Bill Gates: What is up with your obsession with keyboards?” John Kirk asks for TechPinions.

Just giving people [tablet] devices has a really horrible track record. You really have to change the curriculum and the teacher. And it’s never going to work on a device where you don’t have a keyboard-type input… – Bill Gates, 25 June 2012

$500 fully subsidized with a plan! I said that is the most expensive phone in the world and it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard, which makes it not a very good email machine… I like our strategy. I like it a lot… – Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, 17 January 2007

“Now, is that the very same Steve Ballmer who just introduced us to the Surface – with an attachable keyboard? Not to rub it in, Mr. Ballmer, but your strategy of relying upon the importance of a physical keyboard was wrong, and not just a little,” Kirk writes. This week marks the fifth anniversary of the iPhone. The iPhone now generates nearly $25 billion in revenue per quarter or over $100 billion per year. And – are you ready for this – the iPhone, all by itself, is bigger than ALL of Microsoft. That’s right, one single product, that didn’t exist five years ago, is now bigger than Microsoft… and it doesn’t even have a keyboard.”

Kirk writes, “The Surface is, perhaps, a bit too aptly named. With a keyboard and a kickstand and an upturned rear-facing camera, it’s very clear that Microsoft intends the Surface to work best of all on…well…on a suface. A flat surface, to be precise. But tablets want to be held, not held down. Tablets want to be touched, tablets want to be moved, tablets want to be ‘free.’ A word of advice. A keyboard is a peripheral device, not the principal device. Focus on what matters or soon nothing else will matter at all.”

Much more in the full article – highly recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: Anachronisms love antiques.

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  1. It’s just a very weird product. It’s a tablet in terms of the main hardware, but it has a keyboard that makes it look like a laptop, but in a configuration that means it will only be effectively usable as a desktop – albeit one you can carry with you!

    1. Apologies . . . but . . . what product? WHAT PRODUCT? There is NO product! There are photoshopped pictures of a supposed product, there are web-based images of a keyboard/cover . . . but NO ONE, especially the attendees at the “rollout,” were even allowed to touch this supposed “product”! We’re all praising and condemning a “product” that doesn’t exist!

      (Must go take my meds now. Vaporware gets my blood boiling–as do all other forms of human produced fecal matter.)

      1. Precisely!

        All this talking about a product that DOES NOT EXIST!

        Microsoft is the little boy on the playground who once bullied and stole others’ lunch, but has since become an ignored, pathetic loser, and now makes noise and waves his fat arms wildly, trying to regain the attention of the others who have moved on.

      2. Randian, you’re right but go a bit too far. It is a product, albeit still in prototype phase. It’s definitely not finished or ready for primetime, but it IS a partially operating product. What was demo’d at the Surface event was not a photoshopped image. Attendees were allowed to touch the Surface, they just weren’t allowed to use the keyboard.

      3. To be fair, there are at least 2 of them they could probably sell. I’m sure for accounting purposes they could class that as a product even if they don’t work.

  2. The “keyboard” mindset is seductive. I fell for it, too.

    For my iPad, i went out and bought a bluetooth keyboard. Then I carried it around for a few days, while using it, and evaluating typing speed, convenience, etc. I even carried it along (didn’t use it) on a cruise, in case I had to do some “serious typing”.

    Then I put it on a shelf, and haven’t felt it necessary since. Wish I hadn’t spent the money on the keyboard and case.

  3. Big Lots has been selling a case with a bluetooth keyboard for $35.00 for quite some time. If you really want one, check it out. As you know, Big Lots sells close outs. So, maybe it’s just not a product people are interested in.

  4. Gates and Ballmer are movers and shakers using words telling others what to do. I don’t think they use computers everyday most of the day all week long.

    I think they discount other manager’s concepts and don’t have the high level hands on experience themselves, so they ‘miss the ball’.

    But it is not just keyboards that Microsoft gets wrong. Last time I heard, Microsoft’s software in FORD vehicles was why FORD’s vehicles have been one of the lowest rated for problems.

    1. “Last time I heard, Microsoft’s software in FORD vehicles was why FORD’s vehicles have been one of the lowest rated for problems.”

      Yup! Wonderful! HEY FORD — pay me a million a year and I’ll make a lot better decisions for you than that one.

      (Seriously — how profoundly stupid can a business executive be?)

    2. You mean Ford is rated HIGHEST for problems thanks to Microsoft Sync or whatever they call it now. People are confused and confounded by MS software in their cars too. Some things never change. Microsoft has become thir own worst enemy.

  5. I just use the one that came with my iMac when I need to do any typing more than an email or a few lines. One thing did strike me while using the Bluetooth keyboard tho… I do miss some shortcuts when typing on the screen. I feel like I should either use the keyboard more often or just not use it at all since I find myself reaching to touch the screen to do some things I can just do on the keyboard. So it becomes this clumsy out of sync exercise of half touch half keyboard. Not at all efficient – but I realize that’s on me. I guess I’d call myself a ‘tween’.

  6. Dictation is the new input “device”…. As proven by my iPad 3 …. YES it works well and will only improve with time and updates…. Evolve or die MS…. Your keyboard is soon to become a buggy whip….

  7. I have a theory that Microsoft’s emphasis on the keyboard may be because of the aspect ratio of the Surface screen. I believe the Surface screen’s aspect ratio is 16×9 as opposed to the 4×3 of the iPad. Because of this, when you bring up the Virtual keyboard of the Surface in landscape mode, you may not have much real estate in order to view your work. The reason I specified landscape mode is that Microsoft is so proud of their kickstand. That suggests, to me, that Microsoft thinks the Surface will be used in landscape mode most of the time.

    Just a theory.

      1. And can you imagine how little space is available for content when an on-screen touch keyboard is used in landscape mode, or how tiny the touch keyboard would be in portrait mode? With a 16:9 display they little choice but to break the keyboard off the screen.

    1. An excellent theory. 16×9 would mean a physical keyboard would be more necessary. Just shows the wiseness of Apple’s aspect ratio allowing for virtual keyboard and still have space left over to see what you’re typing!

  8. Gates and Ballmer are stuck in the world of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

    [faced with a 20th century computer]
    Scotty: Computer! Computer?
    [He’s handed a mouse, and he speaks into it]
    Scotty: Hello, computer.
    Dr. Nichols: Just use the keyboard.
    Scotty: Keyboard. How quaint.

          1. Actually, neither is “correct”, if we take that word to mean what it was first called. By that criterion, the name would be alumium — i.e. NEITHER of the modern versions.

            In 1808, Humphry Davy identified the existence of the metal in alum. He called the metal alumium. Later, he changed the name to aluminum (the current US form).

            Still later, the name was changed to aluminum. The reason given was (supposedly) to fit with many other elements — even though both ium and um were actually used in the names of various elements.

            In 1925, the American Chemical Society (in the US spirit of “we do it our way”) decided to go back to the earlier aluminum.

            So, if anything, aluminum is the more correct form (predating aluminium), while alumium is the ultimately correct form, if we want to pick nits.

  9. There’s nothing in the iPad manual that says it’s not compatible with a keyboard. I have an Apple Bluetooth wireless keyboard that I pair with my iPad 3 whenever I feel a typing task is needed. It’s quick and easy. You don’t have to do anything other than prop the iPad up on a stand and start typing away.

    I used a 12 South Compass stand for my iPad that tucks neatly away in my Tom Bihn Ristretto for iPad bag when I’m not using it. I like the flexibility of a Bluetooth keyboard coupled with a stand because I can put a leather cover around my iPad (from Proporta, UK) and use it without the keyboard for 90% of the time when I’m reading a book, a magazine article or just playing games. When in my bag, I tuck the Bluetooth keyboard safely away in a Waterfield Design slip case.

    I think if you have to use a tablet with a keyboard all the time, you’re defeating the purpose of buying a tablet in the first place which is an ultra portable slimline computing device that allows you to do so many different things while still making it usable in the palm of your hands, so to speak.

    1. I’m looking forward to delivery of my TouchFire keyboard. I don’t have much trouble with typing on the iPad screen, but I think the TouchFire will be useful for typing-heavy projects. And light, thin and unobtrusive. We’ll see…

  10. Bill grew up typing code and he thinks he is the normal average guy…his mentality is that since he functions with a keyboard…everybody else should. He should give his kids Apple products and see how the next generation functions.
    Steve was able to not just think different, but think simple.
    He tested products with the mindset of the average new user, so anything difficult got chunked across the hallway.
    True testing of a consumer product involves 8 year olds and 80 year olds. Even if you are good at picking your nose, it doesn’t mean everybody else has had the same reps. as you.
    Starting a weed eater in 2012 should not be hard to do, but Poulan wants you to be frustrated enough to buy more of their junk products, and I am talking about the Pro versions.
    Honda got the tolerances right on their car engines early and also got their small engine lawnmowers right for a small premium. High standards pays off longterm, and Bill is in denial about that.

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