Tablets might be fad, says Microsoft's global strategy chief

But Craig Mundle sees big future for smartphones as main computing device

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Is Microsoft simply trying to out-wait this "tablet computer" fad?

(Also see: Is Microsoft's tablet strategy really a good one?)

It could be so, if we read into comments by none other than Craig Mundie, Redmond's global chief of research and strategy, who said Wednesday that he's unsure whether tablets have a future.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Mundie, speaking at an economic development lunch in Sydney, Australia, said, "I don't know whether the big screen tablet pad category is going to remain with us or not."

Truth is, none of us really know whether or how long tablets will last. Netbooks were looking pretty good a couple of years ago, if you recall. But there's a big demand for tablets now, and it's mind-boggling that Microsoft essentially is choosing to pass on a huge market opportunity, likely because they can't just cram desktop Windows into a mobile device.

Only a handful of Windows-based tablets have been announced, this despite predictions from Gartner that global tablet sales would go from 19.5 million units in 2010 to 54.8 million units this year -- and to 208 million units in 2014. That doesn't interest Microsoft? It's certainly caught the attention of Apple, whose iPad dominates the tablet space, Research in Motion, which is releasing its PlayBook tablet on April 19, and manufacturers such as Samsung and Dell, which sell tablets running on Google's Android.

The way Mundie is talking about smartphones, though, better mean that Microsoft is serious about developing Windows Phone 7 as a viable competitor to Apple's iOS and Google's Android. The smartphone, he said, will "become your most personal computer." That's setting the bar high for an OS whose latest update apparently is being delivered via Sneakernet.

Finally, Muncie makes a bold prediction about a future that probably will arrive before your WP7 update. Via the Sydney Morning Herald:

"I believe the successor to the desktop is the room, that instead of thinking that the computer is just something on the desk that you go and sit in front of, [in the] future basically the whole room is the computer and you go in it."

Is that cool? Or creepy? I can't decide.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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