Steve Ballmer is confident that Windows 7 based Tablet PC (or Slates) will be a roaring success when the first wave of devices come to market by the end of the year but we do not share his enthusiasm for a Windows-based tablet form factor, at least not as Ballmer imagines it.
There are a number of issues related to how Microsoft envisions the device like the audience that the form factor will be addressing, the hardware to be used, the pricing and the kind of competition it will be facing.
The CEO of Microsoft has already confirmed that the tablet computer will come in many different forms, sizes, price range, with and without keyboard, all with Windows 7 full flavour (no special edition at this point we suspect).
At this stage, we don't really see how Microsoft's new Tablet will be different from the original Ultra Mobile PC format (AKA Origami) that was first unveiled back in February 2006, well before the iPad (or the iPhone) appeared.
Like the Tablet PC Circa 2010, Origami came in different shapes and sizes and shared the same underlying hardware and software configuration as the current Tablet PC; Intel x86 architecture and Microsoft Windows environment.
We're not sure that the traditional Wintel ecosystem makes sense for a tablet environment; stripping a netbook from its keyboard and slapping touchscreen capabilities on its screen doesn't convert it into a worthy tablet.
Apple used an ARM-based architecture and iPhone OS4 mobile platform to create the iPad. Microsoft should take heed and use Windows Phone 7 with an ARM CPU (like the Microsoft's Zune Tegra SoC); this translates into a cheaper, power sipping solution that's light on resources and very well supported.
Price will be the third factor where Windows 7 Tablet PC will fail; ARMDroid-baed tablet are likely to be much cheaper than ANY Windows 7 Tablet PC on the market.
Already, we've seen Android-based tablets available for under $100 albeit with limited hardware capabilities(but still including a webcam, Wi-Fi and Android OS 1.6).
Lastly, the competition is not staying still; indeed, it is interesting to note that out of the five manufacturers that Steve Ballmer mentioned at the Worldwide Partner Conference, three of them, Asus, Samsung and Dell, have already launched or are planning to launch Non-Windows, Non-Intel tablets.
Unlike netbooks, non-Wintel tablets have a slight but significant headstart over Microsoft and Intel, one which could be decisive given the speed at which ARM and Android, as a common platform is moving.