"I saw this as a lot of hand waving," he says of the Windows/ARM announcement. "[Microsoft was saying] 'Look at the ARM architecture,' but there was no discussion about timing and other critical factors. I wanted to see some proof that doing the port to ARM will give me attributes that are important on a tablet."
Nevertheless, Microsoft is determined to leverage its strengths and do tablets its own way. Windows revenue has been growing consistently without having to reconfigure the OS to different devices like tablets, which is a time-consuming and expensive task.
Faced with a choice to chase Apple or carve out its own path, Microsoft is choosing the latter, says veteran technology analyst Rob Enderle, adding that it's a big gamble but it's still a reasonable one.
"It's kind of nice to see Microsoft not copy the leader and bet that in five years, by taking another path, it can come up with something the emphasizes what it does best," he says.
Enderle stresses that there is no proof yet that there is a sustainable market for limited tablets outside of the iPad.
"But there sure is proof there is a market for a PC-like product that has similar hardware to the iPad," he adds, "and those products could be a significant portion of the PC market."
Still, Enderle is conflicted on whether Microsoft should have just put Windows Phone 7 on tablets and get on with it.
"They could have done that very quickly, but they would have had to abandon decades of advantages in legacy software and PC accessories that represent billions of dollars," Enderle says. "However, with so many applications shifting to the cloud, I probably would have gone the Windows Phone 7 route and focused on my Web resources instead of my desktop legacy."
In the end, Microsoft downshifted its Windows tablet strategy when everyone was screaming speed up. It's a gamble for the ages, and the next year will show if Redmond made the right bet.
Shane O'Neill covers Microsoft, Windows, Operating Systems, Productivity Apps and Online Services for CIO.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Shane at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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