In a joint press conference with Toshiba today, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has again pledged his support for the Tablet PC. It's a pet project of his and despite lacklustre sales so far - it might break through a million sales in this, its third year - he's keen to see it succeed.
"We need to keep investing, both in the hardware and software side, before it moves into the mainstream," he said. "I totally believe in the tablet."
All very admirable, but does he mean it?
Not if Microsoft's Tablet PC support commitment is anything to go by.
On January 28, we reported that Microsoft finally acknowledged a bug in the default digitizer that ships with Windows XP Tablet Edition. The bug is pretty serious. It eats up the PC's memory forcing the user to reboot, or use a third-party digitizer, and had been plaguing users since the spring. In a follow-up to our piece, Microsoft's ISV manager Frank Gocinski told Microsoft Monitor's Mary Jo Foley that Redmond would ship a fix.
No service packs were slated, so Microsoft might just post the bug fix, as soon as it was ready, he said.
Alas, it was an empty gesture. There are no plans to fix the bug, or provide users with a fix, we hear.
For now, users are directed to this sage advice from Microsoft PR guy Robert Scoble:-
"I shut down my Tablet PC most evenings and start it up from a fresh boot," he advised, on hearing of the taptip.exe bug. "Why do I do that? Because I’ve been using computers for 20 years and have learned that’s the best way to work."
(Robert also advises us to turn off electricity sockets when they're not in use, in case the electricity "leaks out", and to leave all your cutlery out when there's a full moon.)
It's rare and refreshing in these days of short-termism that a company is prepared to lay down a years-long commitment to a new product category. Alas for Bill, the company isn't backing him up. And the joke's on Tablet PC users. ®