Microsoft goes on the iPad offensive

A set of Microsoft marketing slides pits Windows 7 slates against Apple's iPad. You might be able to guess who comes out the winner.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
3 min read

Microsoft may have laid out its plans to have Windows running on any device while unveiling the next version of Windows at CES earlier this month, but it's not there yet. In the meantime, we're still stuck with the current version of Windows, which, for better or for worse, cannot fit into the types of devices its successor promises to fit.

That very situation--along with a lack of product from Microsoft's hardware partners, has led to a relative dearth of Windows 7 in tablet PCs. It can also be argued that it's responsible, in part, for what has turned out to be much stronger than expected sales for the iPad, of which Apple sold 7.33 million units during the last three months of 2010, nabbing the "best-selling tech gadget in history" title following its introduction.

One of the slides detailing how Microsoft stacks up Windows 7 devices with Apple's iOS on the iPad.
One of the slides detailing how Microsoft stacks up Windows 7 devices with Apple's iOS on the iPad. ZDNet

But Microsoft's got a plan to position Windows 7 as the better of the two computing platforms. In a set of slides sent out to its reseller partners, and acquired by CNET sister site ZDNet, Microsoft has outlined the various ways in which Windows offers more security and breakout features, while also being more of a chameleon--working its way into more than just one hardware form factor.

The 10 slides, which you can view on ZDNet, focus mainly on the enterprise, highlighting key differences where Windows checks all the boxes for things like getting work done offline, supporting Microsoft Office and its data synchronization tools, and working with existing lines of business applications. But Microsoft also takes the iPad to task on compatibility with things such as support for peripherals, security protocols, Adobe's Flash and Microsoft's own Silverlight.

At the heart of Microsoft's argument, though, the company paints the iPad as a consumption device that doesn't play nice with existing enterprise security or application standards. To back that up, the company breaks down the ways in which Windows 7 slate form factor PCs have three distinct advantages over the iPad: optimization for online and offline data use, a design for both consuming and creating content, and support for peripherals. Microsoft also highlights Windows' pen and writing technology, speech recognition, and touch support, alongside its natural user interface and video technologies, all of which it deems to be "rapidly changing."

For companies on the fence about bringing the iPad into their business, Microsoft is going with a "one size does not fit all" approach, noting that some companies may need devices that work better with their security and compliance needs. The more telling look, though, is what Microsoft is trying to pitch to companies already using, or plan to use, Apple's iPad. Microsoft is telling those partners to "implement a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) to reduce risk in your enterprise," meaning that they'd be making use of tools like Microsoft's Hyper-V Server, and App-V.

During last year's CES keynote, Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer paid special attention to a group of Windows 7 slate concepts, though the only one of the bunch that made it to consumers' hands during 2010 was HP's Slate 500 device. At this year's show, slates were all but missing from the company's keynote, instead being replaced by myriad devices designed to show off Windows' next ARM capabilities. What's still unclear is whether Microsoft's more nascent, though already ARM-friendly, Windows Phone OS will make its way into a tablet form factor, something speculated about since the platform's introduction at last year's Mobile World Congress.