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Heads in sand

Oh, this is depressing. Over the last year, as the iPad has sold faster than Justin Bieber concert tickets, the world has patiently waited to see how the rulers of the traditional PC world, Microsoft, would respond to this brave new world. And their response has been, it's fair to say, disappointing. The HP Slate that Steve Ballmer showed off at CES a few weeks after the iPad launch, as an example of Windows' touchscreen potential, was only released almost a year later - and only as a business product. Indeed, over a year since the iPad debuted, there isn't a single mass-market Windows 7 tablet from a major manufacturer available. And Microsoft's own attempt at a touchscreen device with a dedicated OS, 'Courier', was killed long before being released.

Microsoft-watchers worry the company is doing what it did after the iPhone launched - refusing to recognise a major shift in the tech world is taking place that requires them to heavily revise existing software. (They figured it out with the smartphone area in the end, creating Windows Phone 7, but the almost three years it took them cost them dearly in terms of market share.)

So you'd think Microsoft would be doing everything it could to help people see they 'get it' when it comes to tablets.

Nope.

Here's what Microsoft's Chief Research and Strategy Officer, Craig Mundie, had to say about tablets earlier this week:

'Mobile is something that you want to use while you're moving, and portable is something that you move and then use. These are going to bump into one another a little bit and so, today, you can see tablets and pads and other things that are starting to live in the space in between. Personally, I don't know whether that space will be a persistent one or not.'

Now, we're not experts, but we'd say this quote is a magnificently illuminating window into Microsoft's depressingly 1990s' mindset. They still see computers as work devices, to be used at a desk, and they think 'portable' devices are something you use at one desk, then move to another and use it there. 'Mobile' is something you use to check your stock options in an airport.

But in the real world, where actual humans live, we want to idly surf the web while watching TV, and read blogs in bed, and in the bath, goddamit. And we've tried doing all those things with both a mobile and a laptop, and neither is very much fun.

Oh well. Hopefully, reluctantly, eventually, the world's biggest software manufacturer will get a clue. If it doesn't, it'll have gone from king of all it surveys to also-ran in record speed.

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