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Successful Tablets Can’t Run a Desktop OS

by Travis Harvey | January 7, 2010January 7, 2010 8:08 pm PST

hpslateOne recurring theme of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show is definitely tablet computing.  Many companies like HP, Lenovo, and MSI have all been seen with tablet prototypes floating around.  It seems they’re all missing the point.  It’s not so much the hardware that’s going to make or break these devices, it’s the software.

During Microsoft’s keynote, there were three tablets on display.  All three were running the full desktop version of Windows 7.  Earlier in the week, Engadget did a hands–on with MSI’s foldable dual touchscreen (à la Courier), again running the same desktop OS.  While admittedly these are still prototypes, they’ve taken probably the biggest misstep for any tablet to be successful; the reliance on any desktop OS.

Operating systems like Windows 7 and Snow Leopard were really designed for one kind of input, the mouse.  While both are touch-capable, neither is touch-optimized.  Think of all things you click on in the span of 5 minutes.  There are the insanely small menu commands that pop up faster than you’re really aware.  The second you try on a tablet, you’ll notice.  Can you imagine trying to edit photos in Photoshop?  Talk about a nightmare!

What’s going to separate the successful tablets from the flops will undoubtedly be the software.  If you’re going to rely on a new method of input, the best experience is one created around it not ported to it.  Hardware manufacturers are essentially left either skinning Windows 7, using a mobile phone OS scaled to a larger screen, or creating their own from the bottom, up.  None of those will really bode well.

If tablets as a niche are going to fail again it won’t be because technology hasn’t evolved.  Everything necessary is within reach but judging from what we’re seeing, we still aren’t quite there.  What do you think tablets are going to need to succeed?  Share in the comments.