Bill Gates not impressed with the iPad

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Billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates has never been shy about commenting on Apple’s products, and now, in response to the iPad announcement, he’s pretty much towing the line of the general Windows world response to Apple’s new tablet: meh.

“You know, I’m a big believer in touch and digital reading, but I still think that some mixture of voice, the pen and a real keyboard — in other words, a netbook — will be the mainstream on that,” Gates reportedly told Brent Schlender of BNET.

“So, it’s not like I sit there and feel the same way I did with iPhone where I say, ‘Oh my God, Microsoft didn’t aim high enough.’ It’s a nice reader, but there’s nothing on the iPad I look at and say, ‘Oh, I wish Microsoft had done it.'”

That’s not a surprising reaction. Microsoft was one of the first mainstream computer companies out there to really embrace tablet computing… but the way Microsoft’s tablets and the iPad encourage users to interact with them are totally separate paradigms.

Microsoft favors the kitchen sink approach: a tablet, to them, is a Windows laptop you can use with a stylus. Apple’s approach is to deliver a cohesive user experience unburdened by legacy pre-conceptions.

It makes sense: Microsoft is primarily in the business of selling software. For them, a tablet, a PC, a phone is all about the OS: their partners make the hardware choices, and the OS needs to support all of them. But Apple’s business is the elegant fusion of both software and hardware… which is why no one looks at Microsoft to revolutionize the way we interact with our devices. They’re only bothering themselves with half the equation.

My prediction is that Microsoft, yet again, is going to be playing catch-up here. Gates can say he believed in the iPhone now, but that’s not what Microsoft CEO Ballmer thought, predicting it would never garner any real market share. Now, three years late to the game, Microsoft’s scrambling to get their Windows Mobile operating system up to the standards of even the first iPhone OS. Bill Gates may not run Microsoft anymore, but his complacent attitude is indicative of the problems plaguing the whole company that he founded.