Windows 7 Slates to Get Touch Control Enhancements Next Year

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer confirmed today that Windows 7 Slates (aka Tablets) will be hitting the market before Christmas this year and that the company will be working with OEM partners to enhance Windows 7’s touch controls next year. It’s unclear, however, if that means Windows 7’s touch UI will be drastically improved or if Microsoft will just help OEM’s with better OS integration for their custom touch UI layers. I’m guessing people are probably hoping for the former, not the latter. Ballmer’s own words on the matter are attached below, courtesy of WGS.

Ballmer also confirmed that Windows 7 Slate devices will ship before Christmas this year, although no specific development is planned to improve touch controls on launch devices. “You’ll see Windows 7 slate devices before Christmas, you’ll see devices after Christmas, and you’ll see devices after that. We will work with OEM partners to make some enhancements to Windows 7 [for touch controls] next year.”

UPDATE: New comments by Steve Ballmer on the Slate topic via Mark Wilson at UK TechDays:

Question: “We haven’t had a Windows tablet come out yet […] we do see the prototypes coming out all the time but I do remember you saying that it’s going to run full Windows 7. […] are we going to have like a tablet version of Windows Phone 7 or a tablet of Windows Embedded 7 coming out? […] To me, although [Windows 7] is touch enabled, I don’t think it’s great for a small 7″, 9″ device.”

Mr Ballmer’s response: “Yeah, what you’ll see over the course of the next year is us doing more and more work with our hardware partners creating hardware-software optimisations with Windows 7 and with Windows 7 Media Center […] Media Center is big and, when people say ‘hey, we could optimise more for clients’ I think what they generally mean is ‘Big Buttons’. Big Buttons that’s, I think, a codeword for Big Buttons and Media Center is Big Buttons not Little Buttons. I’m not trying to trivialise that – it’s a real issue.

We’re not going to do a revamp of Windows 7 over the course of the next year for that purpose.  Whether we should, or we shouldn’t, we’ve put all our energy around doing a great job on that and other issues in the next version of Windows so we will do optimisations to have devices that look really good, that run Windows, that are very good for touch applications which we will encourage people to write. We will do things that improve – it turns out that if we just optimise settings and the configuration of Windows it can be a lot more usable through touch, even on today’s systems – we’re doing that work with the OEMs.

ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley thinks the following comments may mean that Microsoft will “encourage its OEM partners to use the Windows Media Center interface, or at least elements of it, to create more touch-friendly Windows slate interfaces.” I say, nope. Ballmer is clearly talking about further optimizing Windows for touch controls, which will in turn encourage software developers to create new touch apps that can be used on Slate devices.


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