Asked by analysts about the 3 million magical iPads sold in 80 days, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wasn't very happy. I'm not surprised: They only sold 1.32 million Tablet PCs in 2008, with 1.25 million estimated for 2010. [Techflash]
Tablet PC's are a different kettle of fish than iPads.
It's a bit like a high performance dirt bike manufacturer being disappointed that a company that makes street motorcycles sold more than them. It's not the same application.
If MS wants to sell lightweight touchscreen-only affordable tablets, that subscribe to an app-store paradigm (such as they are adapting to with their new Windows Phone 7 Series), then they'll have a competing product.
But sadly, MS is preparing an entirely discrete OS for use on Tablets.
They don't seem to get it: Most non-technical people are intimidated by computers, computer use, computer maintenance, computer software installations, etc, etc, etc.
Here's a simple device that shows up, that's simple (intuitive even - and heavily marketed that way), and it builds off of a known paradigm (the iPhone) that is successful and known-easy, and the world is filled with experts - but not computer-geek experts... woman-next-door experts. "real people".
MS might have a real winner if they just opened the Windows Phone 7 OS to be adapted to tablets.
By creating a whole separate OS for these future (meaning who-knows-when) tablets, they risk intimidating both mobile-device users and PC users.
My suspicion is, they'll miss the boat in THIS type of logic:
"People are familiar with PC's, so we're going to make our new tablet OS similar to Windows 7".
...which is the opposite of what the iPad represents.
Not to mention, MS is so late to the game, they failed to be the one to realize and set these new-world paradigms. Now, they have to catch up, they have to conform to the new paradigms and user expectations, but in a way that doesn't say "we stole this".
And let's be honest - we're talking about the Apple herd here.
No matter what anyone does...
(used a touch of Chrome on your new phone? Is your screen glossy? Does your OS contain an icon?)
...someone who believes Apple is the genesis of everything will accuse MS of stealing it from Apple anyway, at this point.
"You snooze, you lose."
Blame yourself, Ballmer. You've got more resources available than most entire countries... there's no excuse to be this late in the game, and there's no excuse to be unable to understand the new paradigm - or at least the factors that led the iPad to success.