Microsoft Expects Tablets to Outsell Desktops Next Year, Touch Input to Challenge Traditional Pointing Devices

Microsoft Projects Touch to Become Dominant Interface for PCs

by Anton Shilov
06/27/2012 | 11:10 PM

Many considered Timothy Cook's prediction that tablets would eventually outsell personal computers in traditional form-factor eventually as too extravagant. Apparently, Microsoft expects tablets not only to outsell desktops already in 2013, but touch-based input to become principal on the PC in the coming years.

As the World Becomes Mobile, Tablets Are on Offence


"We have gone from a world, where all PCs were desktop machines, few people had laptops. [...] To the world, where over 60% that are sold this year are laptops, not desktops. Next year, tablets will outsell desktop PCs. So, we are going from this world where most things are fixed to the place where you use them to the world where most PCs are actually battery-powered, which is a dramatic change to how we think about designing an OS and applications," said Antoine Leblond, vice president for Windows web services at Microsoft, at TechEd Europe.

Modern tablets can do a lot of simple tasks, but they are clearly not personal computers and cannot be used for content creation, although Apple, Google and Microsoft are working hard to bring tools from "big" operating systems onto tablets. Thanks to improvements of tablets - primarily thanks to apps - in the U.S. tablets already outsell desktop PCs, according to some market observers.

Tablets are perfect for a number of things like reading, monitoring the Internet and receiving information. But desktop and notebook personal computers are much better when it comes to typing, running complex applications and many programs at once. In fact, user interfaces of Apple Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows 7 are tailored to run loads of apps simultaneously to efficiently work and create something valuable. Meanwhile, when it comes to smartphone- and tablet-optimized touch-based Apple iOS, usage of multiple programs at the same time is not truly efficient. Something similar will likely happen to Microsoft Windows RT, partly because it will not run traditional Windows programs and will rely on Metro interface that is not designed for multitasking.

Touch User Interface Changing the World

"Five years ago we had very few devices out there in general that had touchscreens. Loads of people thought that touchscreen-based cell phones would become niche devices because they did not have physical keyboards. [...] In a cell phone store today the vast majority of phones do not have physical keyboards. [...] Touch-screens are everywhere. [...] Ironically, the two places where we do not have great touchscreen support yet are TV, which is fine as our hands are not that long, and the PC. But the PCs [with touch-based input] are coming," said Mr. Leblond.

The issue with both iOS UI and Metro UI is that they specifically omit high-precision input available on OS X and Windows 7 in order to enable finger input. As a result, efficient operation of multiple programs simultaneously as well as programs that need high-precision will not be possible. Nonetheless, this does not stop Microsoft from praising touch UI and proclaim that it will become a dominant input method that can challenge or even substitute the mouse eventually.