Bill Gates: Tablets Frustrating Without Keyboards, Office

Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates recently went on CNBC to talk about where the markets on a whole are heading. Eventually, he was asked about the declining PC market and the surging interest in tablets. What will the world look like in the future and how will the cloud factor in? The cloud is a gigantic opportunity, he said, that allows so many things you couldn't do before.

He then began talking about Windows 8 and how it's revolutionary by blending together the elements of a tablet and a desktop so that the platform can find a home on any form factor. With Surface, you have the portability of a mobile device and the richness of a desktop PC. And as tablets grow in popularity, it will be harder and harder to distinguish between PCs and tablets.

"With Windows 8, Microsoft is trying to gain share in what has been dominated by the iPad-type device," he said. "But a lot of those users are frustrated. They can't type, they can't create documents, they don't have Office there. So we're providing them something with the benefits they've seen that have made that a big category, but without giving up what they expect in a PC."

Microsoft has been criticized for not bringing Office to Apple's iOS platform. But Gates seemingly confirmed the very reason why the suite hasn't appeared on the iPad: because of the iPad. Only on Windows 8 and RT-based tablets can you have the true mobile Office experience. Sure, there are document creation/editing apps for both iOS and Android, but it's not the full-blown Microsoft experience, and Microsoft may want to keep that exclusive, competitive edge.

Earlier this month, the IDC said that Microsoft sold 700,000 Surface Pro units, which the company began selling in February, and 200,000 Surface RT units in 1Q13, capturing only 1.8 percent of the market. "Beyond the Surface products, Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets continued to struggle to gain traction in the market," the firm said. "Total combined Windows 8 and Windows RT shipments across all vendors reached 1.8 million units."

In 1Q13, 27.8 million tablets were shipped using Google's Android platform followed by Apple's iOS with 19.5 million units. Tablets sporting Windows 8 Pro were on 1.6 million tablets and only 200,000 units used Windows RT. The IDC noted that Microsoft entered the top five for the very first time, seemingly confirming that the company's market share is growing.

In addition to talking about the PC sector and the rise of tablets, Gates was asked about his thoughts on Apple's declining stock value. However, the whole tablet aspect was kicked off by "Squawk Box" co-anchor Joe Kernen, who asked Gates about his thoughts on the tablet market.

"We gotta just ask you about all these tablets, and, you know, PCs. Everybody's writing off the PC," Kernen said. "You still do… Microsoft still does 80 billion a year doing, uh, I dunno what the hell it does, but obviously there's still something going on in the PC world to still do revenues like that."

To see the full "Squawk Box" interview, head here.

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  • stevejnb
    While I entirely agree with Bill - personally, I considered tablets toys until I could get one with a fully functional office suite and a good keyboard - the surface keyboards are not the answer. They're better than typing on a touchscreen, yes, but I do not want to type full papers on one of those flat surface things. Keyboards with discrete keyboards are where it is at and, frankly, you can already get those in extremely small form factors.
    The cost of Windows tablets are what is holding them back in my eyes. Windows 8 actually works very well on a tablet but people don't want to pay iPad plus pricing for something they A) don't know is a much more capable product and B) do not understand how it is different. MS licensing fees? Dropped to $30 per license, from their usual $120 (saw it reported on Tom's I believe - feel free to correct if I'm wrong), so I'm not sure that's the big hold back now.
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  • Other Comments
  • icemunk
    There is certainly a market for windows tablets, but most people don't want to pay $400+ for a mediocre spec windows tablet. The only thing holding back Windows tablets are the retarded Microsoft licencing fees.
    9
  • damianrobertjones
    @icemunk: Sorry but i do NOT believe that the licence cost is holding anything back and as for specs... the current Atom laughs at anything from Apple or Google so I'm not too sure what you're getting at. High res screens? Marketing and that's about it.
    4
  • stevejnb
    While I entirely agree with Bill - personally, I considered tablets toys until I could get one with a fully functional office suite and a good keyboard - the surface keyboards are not the answer. They're better than typing on a touchscreen, yes, but I do not want to type full papers on one of those flat surface things. Keyboards with discrete keyboards are where it is at and, frankly, you can already get those in extremely small form factors.
    The cost of Windows tablets are what is holding them back in my eyes. Windows 8 actually works very well on a tablet but people don't want to pay iPad plus pricing for something they A) don't know is a much more capable product and B) do not understand how it is different. MS licensing fees? Dropped to $30 per license, from their usual $120 (saw it reported on Tom's I believe - feel free to correct if I'm wrong), so I'm not sure that's the big hold back now.
    11