Ballmer promised the world that a Windows 7 tablet is coming. Maybe it is, or maybe it's just a pipedream, but Microsoft doesn't need to focus on developing a Windows 7 tablet. Microsoft does need to focus on having a strategy for taking advantage of the changing mobile computing market--but it doesn't have to include a Windows 7 tablet.
The assurance of a Microsoft tablet from Ballmer seemed more like a macho reaction to a triple-dog dare than a legitimate Microsoft project. It's as if the analysts and media challenged Ballmer's manhood, and Ballmer couldn't accept that Apple and Google have tablets without throwing Microsoft's hat into the ring as well.
Here is what I have noticed, though: Exxon-Mobil does not build cars, and Coca Cola does not involve itself in manufacturing refrigerators. Exxon-Mobil wants to continue to ensure that its fuel is used in as many different vehicles as possible, and Coca-Cola would like to have its beverages in every refrigerator, but each focuses on how to adapt and improve its own products, and how to better market existing products, rather than trying to sell the cow and the milk at the same time.
Microsoft has strengths, and it has weaknesses. Rather than trying to overcome its weaknesses to flounder about in a futile attempt to compete in markets that aren't its core business, Microsoft should focus on its strengths, and how to continue to evolve and adapt them to meet the changing needs of its customers.
At one point, mobility was about putting a Windows desktop into a more portable form factor, and supplying the world with Windows laptops, but the game has changed. That means that Microsoft does need to recognize that mobility is rapidly changing and determine where it fits in the new equation, but it doesn't need to build the mobile platforms.
The rise of increasingly powerful and capable smartphones, and the introduction of the tablet revolution have shifted mobility away from Windows. The next generation of mobile computing relies on a mobile OS that is uniquely suited for mobile devices. Microsoft will shoot itself in the foot if it continues to try to make mobile computing about putting its Windows desktop operating system into new gadgets.
Most of the world relies on Microsoft Office for essential productivity software. Microsoft's customers are heavily invested in Microsoft server technologies like Exchange, SharePoint, and Office Communications Server, and they want tools to allow them to access the Microsoft backend while on the go.
Rather than wasting time and money pursuing a Microsoft-centric platform that would probably only capture 10 percent of the market anyway, Microsoft should be building its mobility strategy on developing cross-platform solutions, or platform-specific apps that enable the 90 percent of the market to continue using Microsoft software no matter what smartphone or tablet they choose.