Many pixels have been spilled over Steve Ballmer’s admission that “[Apple has] sold certainly more [iPads] than I’d like them to have sold.” As Ars points out, Ballmer just doesn’t get why a dumbed down machine running a poky processor is so popular. However, any media lover can tell you it’s not about running Excel and Powerpoint on a tablet – it’s about doing a few simple things without much fuss. Here’s what Microsoft can do to build a great tablet platform that people will actually buy.
Use the Zune interface – As the four people who own Zunes will attest, the UI is great. It’s so great, in fact, that MS is planning on using parts of it in Windows Phone 7. But we’re not talking about Windows Phones, are we? We’re talking about a usable, cool tablet. So take the best of the Zune and blow it up to tablet size.
Ignore Windows 7 – Seriously: unless you’re an insurance adjuster or an EMT, you don’t need a full-bore version of Windows on your tablet. What you need is a media player and a few basic functions, not a full programming platform for folks to write garbage data entry apps. After all, isn’t that what the Internet is for?
Create a skunkworks separate from the main company – Get this thing out of Microsoft proper. Make a Tablet Team in New Mexico, far from the fussing and infighting that, for example, killed the Kin. Microsoft is no longer a unified whole. Take advantage of that fact.
Bring in XBox functionality – This is a must. Offer $4.99 versions of your favorite XBL games. Who wouldn’t want to play Limbo on a Tablet? Offer gamer interaction via a dedicated XBL app. Capitalize on the entrenched 360 fan base in order to win converts.
Hire Apple engineers – Seriously. Poach them. They can’t be very happy working in that strange den of secrecy and deception. Microsoft has more money than god. Make a tablet dream team, make them make a tablet, give them some Teslas and a nice place in Aruba. End of problem.
Forget everything you know about tablets – Stop thinking about the tablet thus far. It’s garbage. It’s been historically overpowered, underutilized, and the Tablet PC platform has basically been some pen interaction bolted onto Windows. Stop. Just stop. Make something entirely new. It’s not that hard. Seriously. MS runs the world when it comes to computing. They probably have a programmer who could write a tablet emulator in Windows 7 in a weekend.
Ignore the niche – Seriously, do you really need all that sweet niche money? I haven’t seen a single tablet used ever in any of the niches that it was supposed to fill including medical and construction. I’m sure the Army uses some tablets but heck, they’re already starting to use iPads in Afganistan. Let HP and Cisco try to sell tablets to businesses. They’ll fail. You guys can sell to the general public and succeed.
Innovate the form factor – Make the tablets bigger, smaller, thinner, better, foldable. Make them something different. Don’t waste time on the same old form factor. You’re just beating a dead horse.
Make it cheap – There is only one way to sell a Microsoft tablet – make it as cheap as the XBox. Make it a media device that you can pick up on an afternoon at Target. Nobody needs a $1000 tablet. I mean it. Nobody.
Make it multi-carrier – Make it easy to get data. Release a GSM and CDMA version. Add 4G. Differentiate. Make the Verizon nerds happy while making the AT&T proponents happy.
Personally, I think Microsoft is too big to amaze us anymore. Their products are splurted out like gruel into a tin plate and we’re expected to pay our tuppence and eat. Well, if Ballmer is upset about not selling tablets, let him do something about it. Make a tablet worth our while.