For many years, Microsoft squeezed Windows CE and then Windows Mobile into mobile phones, the operating system’s user interface was all wrong for a phone, it required a stylus and involved putting user interface elements like a Windows style start button with cascading menus.
The user interface would have much better on tablet device and the performance would have been great but on the other hand, Microsoft insisted that partners install full fledged Windows on tablets. As result of this mismatch both the phones and the tablets failed in the market year after year.
When Microsoft led the whole ultra mobile pc initiative then the company correctly foresaw the coming importance of mobile devices, but by insisting on Windows Vista as the operating system rather than a cell phone operating system Microsoft assured a failure again.
The consumers move toward to notebooks at first Microsoft tried to cram an operating system that was too big for the platform, Windows Vista but netbook buyers insisted on lite software, linux and then Windows XP.
Windows CE and Windows mobile would have enabled pen based tablets and ultra mobile PC’s to succeed far more than they did. Microsoft finally has a right sized operating system, Windows Phone 7, its right enough for phones but even righter for tablets.
The biggest hurdle for Microsoft culturally is that the company must shed its historic emphasis on feature rich; people are overwhelmed with features especially on mobile phone devices, consumer wants simple which means the elimination of features.
Microsoft understands the need to put cell phone software on tablet PCs, it’s not clear and there’s no reason to believe that the company actually has the vision and the self discipline to embrace the simplicity movement. Microsoft’s options are to either look for another lesser market to dominate for example to create and the enterprise touch tablet market, or to try to beat Google in the consumer market.
The way to do this is to tweak the Windows phone 7 and optimize it for tablets, keep the price extraordinarily low cultivate and develop amazing third party application development and leverage its innate advantages, including synchronization with Windows.
Microsoft has developed some really great ideas in combining touch with pen, the Microsoft surface team has done some ground breaking work on the development of touch user interface as well, and the company will need all these resources to beat Google. Time will tell that can Microsoft beat Google in tablets or not, but meantime the focus should be to avoid the mistakes of Windows Phone 7.