Gates pegged current tablets' lack of physical keyboards as their biggest detractor. There's no arguing that it's easier, quicker, and more accurate to pound out text with a physical keyboard. Today's mobile professionals grew up using typewriters, word processors, desktops and laptops -- all of which include real keyboards. There's something to be said for the muscle memory that comes from beating on keys for a decade or two.
The iPad and other tablets use virtual keyboards that appear on the display and come and go as needed when you need to enter text. They work, but they don't offer the same tactile response that comes with a real keyboard.
Gates then pointed out that the Surface RT and Surface Pro, Microsoft's two tablets, have keyboard options that make them more productive. Further, the Surface Pro runs a full version of Windows, which includes Microsoft Office, Outlook, and tons of productivity apps. The Surface, said Gates, offers the "portability of the tablet, but the richness of a PC."
[ The iPad Mini is proving to be more popular than its big brother. Read iPad Mini Eating iPad's Lunch. ]
Surely Gates knows there is an entire industry of accessory makers that supports the iPad and other tablets with keyboards. LogiTech and Zagg are just two companies that make reasonably priced keyboard cases (~$100) for the iPad. There are many others. Stating that iPad users are frustrated with the lack of a keyboard is simply disingenuous considering the fact that Microsoft charges an extra $100 and $129.99 to equip the Surface RT and the Surface Pro, respectively, with keyboards of their own.
As for Gates' comments about Office, iPad users don't appear to miss it. Apple sold 19.5 million iPads during the first quarter of 2013, during which time Microsoft sold only about 900,000 Surface tablets. Those numbers speak clearly enough.
Further, both Apple and Google offer productivity suites for the iPad that are compatible (to a degree) with Office. iPad users can create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations through Apple's or Google's software and sync those documents with various cloud services, including iCloud and Google Drive.
At the end of the day, of course, Gates is just doing what he's supposed to be doing: supporting the products made by his company. There's nothing wrong with that. It would be better for Gates, however, if he weren't ignoring what's going on in the tablet market right now. Better yet, maybe he should do something about the Surface's own shortcomings.
Here's the actual clip of Gates speaking:
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