All tech eyes focus on Las Vegas this week for the Consumer Electronics Show, including on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s Wednesday evening keynote at which he’s widely reported to be introducing a tablet computer running Windows. Oddly, at least from my perspective, it will run Windows 7 instead of its new Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system.
A Bloomberg News report from last week reiterated comments Ballmer made last July, in which he said, “We're tuning Windows 7 to new slate hardware designs.” The Bloomberg report continued: “Microsoft is taking software designed for use with a mouse and keyboard and adapting it to a touch screen.”
I may be missing something, but doesn’t Microsoft already have an OS adapted for a touch screen interface, that being Windows Phone 7? It seems to me that Microsoft could give a great shout-out to Phone 7 by adapting it to run on a tablet, as Apple did migrating iOS from the iPhone to the iPad and Google did bringing Android from a variety of smartphones to tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab.
Although I’m not as skeptical as some other bloggers about Phone 7’s chances for market success, I think introducing a tablet with Phone 7 could do nothing but help expand sales opportunities. Microsoft has been vague about Phone 7 sales, inviting speculation that they must be pretty weak or otherwise they’d tell us the numbers. One number eked out of a Dec. 21 blog post by Achim Berg, corporate vice president for Microsoft’s mobile communications business and marketing group (See photo). He wrote that “phone manufacturers” sold 1.5 million devices running Phone 7 in the first six weeks they were on sale. “Sales are ramping well,” Berg proclaimed, but sales by manufacturers mean sales only to carriers and retailers, not necessarily to consumers.
Reporters weren’t hovering around Apple stores to record trucks delivering iPhones and iPads. They were chronicling smiling consumers leaving those stores with products in hand.
Adding Phone 7 to a tablet offering would give a needed sales boost to Phone 7 at a crucial time, adding to the momentum to the expected new sales at CDMA carriers like Verizon and Sprint and from additional handset makers.
Phone 7 still needs to prove itself to skeptics who wonder if it can approach sales of market leaders Google Android and Apple iOS. I’ll be awaiting Ballmer’s CES keynote with interest.
Robert Mullins is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. He has been writing about technology from Silicon Valley for more than a decade. He has covered such beats as network security, servers, storage, software development, telecommunications and, of course, Microsoft, for a variety of publications, most notably the IDG News Service and Network World.