Last week's Surface launch from Microsoft wasn't the first time the company revealed its interest in tablet PCs. Aside from Bill Gates' Windows XP Tablet Edition in 2002, Microsoft also threw its weight behind a HP Slate project ahead of Apple's iPad launch. Unveiled at CES 2010, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer promised Windows 7-based tablets by the end of 2010, but HP's Slate 500 failed to deliver. Described as hot, thick, and a poor combination of hardware and software, one former Microsoft executive has revealed to The New York Times that HP's effort was "completely ruined."
HP reportedly "fumed at Microsoft" for not improving the Windows 7 touch user interface, or its clunky on-screen keyboard that was far from touch friendly. Microsoft had made several touch improvements to Windows 7 at the time, but, like its Windows Mobile software, they weren't enough for finger input. Instead, HP acquired Palm for $1.2 billion in April 2010, a decision that was fuelled by Microsoft's delayed Windows Phone software according to the NYT.
Microsoft attempted to work with other hardware partners to create iPad-like tablets, but "faith had been lost" at the company in its OEMs. The software giant started to investigate the necessary materials to create a unique tablet, discovering the lightweight magnesium metal that played an important role in Microsoft's Surface tablet unveiling. With the launch of its own tablet, it's clear that Microsoft didn't trust its OEMs to execute the company's tablet strategy alone — perhaps agreeing that its hardware partners are a risky aspect to Windows 8's success.