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Microsoft bigwig says tablets may be killed off by smart phones and laptops

Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer, Craig Mundie, thinks advances in smart-phone technology will help to render tablets irrelevant.

How excited is Microsoft about tablets? Not as excited as you might think. Despite the fact that a number of Windows-powered slates are being sold this year, the company's chief research and strategy officer, Craig Mundie, is distinctly cool about the long-term prospects of tablet devices.

"I don't know whether the big-screen tablet pad category is going to remain with us or not," he told a conference in Australia, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. Mundie seems to think that tablets may ultimately be squeezed out by a combination of laptops and smart phones.

"Mobile is something that you want to use while you're moving, and portable is something that you move and then use. These are going to bump into one another a little bit and so, today, you can see tablets and pads and other things that are starting to live in the space in between. Personally, I don't know whether that space will be a persistent one or not," Mundie mused.

If these views are representative of Microsoft as a whole, it's no surprise the company hasn't been more bullish when it comes to tablets. Current Windows slates use a modified version of the Windows 7 operating system, although there has been speculation that, in 2012, Microsoft might unveil all-new spin-off software just for tablets, to take on Apple's iOS, Android Honeycomb and webOS.

Then again, perhaps Mundie is influenced by Microsoft's previous experience of people being uninterested in tablets. After all, Microsoft touted its own Tablet PC devices a decade ago, to a cool reception from gadget buyers.

Mundie had something else to say that we're rather excited about, concerning smart-phone tech he's seen in Microsoft's research labs. Apparently, "Instead of seeing a screen, [the phone] can beam individual rays of light into your eyes right on your retina... you can look at your phone and see HDTV". The implication is that you wouldn't need a larger tablet when this kind of feature becomes available.

What do you think? Is Microsoft right to think tablets may be a mere fad? Do you fancy some retina-drenching light-ray action on your smart phone? Post a comment below or on our Facebook wall, and let us know your views.