Brent Schlender of BNET recently interviewed Bill Gates, the new retired CEO of Microsoft, and while his article doesn’t make it clear what the original intent of the interview was, he did think to ask Mr. Gates about his thoughts on the recently announced Apple iPad.

bill gates“You know, I’m a big believer in touch and digital reading, but I still think that some mixture of voice, the pen and a real keyboard – in other words a netbook – will be the mainstream on that.  So, it’s not like I sit there and feel the same way I did with iPhone where I say, ‘Oh my God, Microsoft didn’t aim high enough.’  It’s a nice reader, but there’s nothing on the iPad I look at and say, ‘Oh, I wish Microsoft had done it.’”

The hook in this whole little tidbit of information is that Microsoft did attempt something very similar.  Mr. Gates first spoke about possible Windows tablet computers in 2000 at Comdex, and the next year he showed off a Compaq tablet that looked just like an up-sized version of the company’s iPaq PDAs.  While he hoped by the 2002 Comdex conference he would see reporters taking notes on such devices, it just didn’t come to be with any large amount of success.

The Windows-based tablets never caught on, and when it even dabbled with UMPCs (ultra-mobile PCs) a few years ago, those also failed to catch on, but both dalliances in this field were handled under Mr. Gates reign as the CEO of the company.  So, yes, at some point he did indeed “wish Microsoft had done it,” it just failed to ever catch on with the public.

None of this is to say that the iPad will see any more success than those devices did, only time will tell that tale, but it seems designious at best to say you don’t wish for something like this when you did indeed attempt it yourself.  Of course, it might be in his wording of him saying that Microsoft didn’t aim high enough this time, they aimed for pretty much the exact same thing.