Microsoft Questions Tablets, Reveals Its Ignorance

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Speaking at a conference in Sydney this week, Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) chief research and strategy officer, Craig Mundie, seemed to think little of tablet computing.

"I don't know whether the big screen tablet pad category is going to remain with us or not," Mundie told his audience.

Good. Lord. Even if he were being tongue in cheek -- as in, "I'm not sure tablets replace PCs," which is a perfectly legitimate claim -- his nonchalant behavior convinces me that I was right to question whether Mr. Softy would ever be cheap enough.

Apparently, the Kinect was the outlier. Innovation is for suckers. Tablets? We don't need no stinkin' tablets! Who cares if Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is prepared to sell tens of millions of iPads, and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) is signing new Android tablet partners at a rapid pace? It's a fad! Pfffft.

Dismissing tablets as simple hype may be OK for pundits, but it's dangerous for so-called product strategists. The former only forfeits credibility. The latter? Tens of millions in potential profits. Please take this market more seriously, Mr. Mundie.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think about tablets and Microsoft's strategy using the comments box below.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft and has written Apple puts. The Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy is in search of a sandwich.

Read/Post Comments (10) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2011, at 7:55 PM, EddieHaskell2 wrote:

    And you wonder why MS has been left for dead over the last decade!? What a sad commentary from the Chief Strategy Officer who's job it is to see trends before they happen. It's this lack of vision that has made MS the walking dead and why I will no longer invest in their stock. Ballmer needs a new Chief Strategy Officer. Come to think of it, MS needs a new CEO. "Where there is no vision, people (companies) parish!"

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2011, at 8:18 PM, daveshouston wrote:

    I think anyone with any competence would have bailed out of Microsoft several years ago.

    Their strong suit, perhaps their only suit, has been to copy others.

    The only discernable difference between then and now is that they used to be good at it. Their knock-offs of Word Perfect (Word), Lotus 1-2-3 (Excel), Apple OS (Windows), Netscape (Internet Explorer), etc etc etc etc etc were good quality copies.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2011, at 8:36 PM, verylargelarry wrote:

    ditto Eddie

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2011, at 8:49 PM, CMFSoloFool wrote:

    The Tablet is for real, but not as a PC killer. I do believe it whacks the Netbook category pretty hard, but I believe the Tablet, or more specifically the Apple iPad, has created a brand-new category of computing device. The iPad is another new piece of "nice to have" technology. It plays movies, plays some games, reads email and ebooks, lets you do some light web browsing, albeit not with Flash, and works well as an expensive, light, vacation gadget. But not much else. Everyone I know who has one is not giving up their PC. But Apple is going to make a fortune on them, that's why Apple is my largest allocation in my portfolio.

    Sorry but Mr. Softie doesn't get it, they'll never get it, but their Kinect could be the next big thing if they know what to do with it. Kinect-like technology could completely revolutionize home entertainment, communications and device control, just as the iPhone did for smart phones. But I just don't think Microsoft knows what they have on their hands. It reminds me of IBM and PC Dos.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2011, at 9:01 PM, melegross wrote:

    We have to consider his remarks in light of what MS has been, and will be doing.

    As far as that goes, their steps in tablets has been a failure so far. The convertible market, has never grown, and is dying now. Their attempt at a Win 7 tablet is a failure. Manufacturers are hardly selling more than a handful.

    Then, when Win 8 comes out in late 2012, they will try again.

    So, this seems to be to be an excuse as to why MS hasn't succeeded so far. If it's a fad, then it doesn't really matter, and they've got a year and a half until they can try again. If they then succeed somehow, they can say it's because of their superior OS and hardware designs. If not, it wasn't their fault, because they said it was a fad, didn't they?

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2011, at 10:43 PM, saron1 wrote:

    The only argument I can think of, why the "big screen tablet category" might NOT survive, if someone manages to put a disappearing keyboard in it - so that its technically not a tablet.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2011, at 11:27 PM, TRVSMRGN wrote:

    MSFT upper management is just awful. They blow opportunities and fail to connect with millions of consumers. From advertising to hardware issues, MSFT just lacks any direction and/or belief in their products. This is why I refuse to invest in MSFT. Poor product support, slow product releases, etc. They are always one step behind in markets where innovation and speed of delivery rule. They abandoned the Courier(waste of $), no longer markets Zune HD(waste of R&D), PlayForSure is dead, and now the tablet market is a "fad." MSFT you are a for-profit business and your competitors will slowly steal your business. I think they believe the markets revolve around them. It's a shame.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2011, at 11:28 PM, techy46 wrote:

    Mudie might be considering what the replacemenrt for the notebook, smart phone AND tablet might look like. There's a lot of redundancy between these the mobile and transportable devices and there's probbaly a lot of thought going into what could replace all three. Even if he had an idea or opinion of what that might be he's not going to divulge that publicly. A chief strategy officer at any company like Apple, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle is going to be really coy about that companies next moves until the need to know is explicit. The MS enterprise arcjitetecture stack make Apple look like the North Pole so go olay with your toys boys until 2012 comes around. Merry Christmas.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2011, at 7:05 AM, dcflipflop wrote:

    Windows is, and always has been, a bloated OS. Android is a much leaner and meaner choice which I believe fits better with a low power, inexpensive mobile device. Google was prepping to make a move against MS for desktop OS but then I think they wisely realized there would be more opportunity for netbook, tablet, and smartphone applications. At home there are very few things I can do with my desktop that I can't do with my netbook. MS is standing on the sidelines while Apple and Google are firmly establishing themselves as leaders in this market. After reading this article I am glad I decided against buying MSFT.

  • Report this Comment On April 04, 2011, at 6:52 AM, CMFSoloFool wrote:

    While MS may be missing the tablet revolution, I won't let myself feel bad for them. Nor do I believe they are headed for the rocks. On the contrary MS is still a very powerful and very profitable business. And, while we may think they are missing the tablet opportunity, they are banking on the next wave of corporate computing: Cloud.

    Steve Balmer has clearly communicated Cloud has ~80% allocation of their massive $10B R&D budget. And guess what; those tablet thingies, they rely on the cloud to be truly useful.

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