Windows has provided for tablet and touch computing abilities ever since the Windows XP operating system where there was a special “Tablet PC” edition delivered only with computers that used stylus-driven “tablet-style” operation. These computers came in the form of a “slate” where the only user interface was the stylus-operated screen or a “convertible” notebook computer that can be operated as a conventional notebook computer or a “tablet-style” computer just by swivelling a stylus-operated screen 180 degrees. Most of these computers weren’t available in price ranges that most people would consider when it comes to buying portable computer equipment.
They didn’t extend the availability of this operating system to other “tablet-style” or “stylus-driven” setups like interactive whiteboards, “digitizer” tablets or display and light-pen / interactive pointer.
But, when Windows Vista came on the scene, Microsoft integrated touchscreen and stylus-driven “tablet” operation as part of the operating system for all of the mainstream versions. This has opened up the floor for more touch-enabled computer setups or the ability to provide such setups in an aftermarket manner. Windows 7 has extended this further with the support for multitouch screens, again baked in as part of the mainstream versions.
Apple has cast their first “punch” in the fight for commodity-priced touchscreen computing devices with the arrival of the iPad. This has been built on “consuming” material that is normally distributed as print material and, in the case of periodical content, uses client-side “apps” delivered through Apple’s iTunes App Store to “draw-down” the material.
Android and, now, Microsoft have started taking action in providing a platform that does what the Apple iPad does but in a more competitive way for both customers and developers. Microsoft has, on their side, an increasing array of “netvertibles” (netbooks with swivel touch-screens) and low-cost convertible notebooks as a hardware starting point and the touch and tablet functionalities in Windows 7 as a software starting point. They also have been known for establishing an affordable and accessible software-development infrastructure ever since the company started with the BASIC interpreter for the Altair microcomputer in the 1970s, by providing the Visual Studio software-development suite which can allow programmers to write touch-enabled software.
Microsoft could then provide extra “shell” functionality with Windows 7 to enable full touch operation but they will need to work this in so it can work with low-cost hardware in order to make their platform affordable for most. This platform would be like the Android platform where many different hardware manufacturers provide different units that run this operating system.
Personally, the “tablet” computer race will become like what has happened during the late 1980s when there were at least five GUI-based operating platforms on the desktop computing scene. What then happened was that some of the platforms “fell off the branch” or serviced particular user classes, as certain platforms became dominant in mainstream computing life.
As I have said before. there has to be standard interactive “electronic hard copy” platform that permits “publish once, read anywhere” content authoring with the full benefits that these tablet computers offer for the new platform to succeed.