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Microsoft’s Keyboard Obsession

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Microsoft has a little problem and it’s time we all admitted it. We have to gather the family in the living room, sit down Microsoft in the comfy chair and have a little heart to heart. Everybody can see it, except Microsoft — and it could be time for an intervention.

It’s the keyboard thing, Microsoft. Enough already. Design your software to take advantage of a touch screen. Let the keyboard go, dude.

Steve Jobs once said, it was a mistake to think of the tablet as simply a ‘keyboardless laptop.’ What I think he meant by that is that you need to design software to take advantage of the fact it has a touch screen, to rethink the entire workflow, not simply move the same software to the tablet. Think. Be creative.

Apparently, Microsoft missed that — or deliberately chose to ignore it.

The key feature of the Surface tablet? It has a keyboard. Look at the Surface commercial with everyone snapping their keyboards to their Surface tablets. It was all about having a keyboard. If we need a keyboard, we have a tool for that. It’s called a laptop. When we use a tablet, we shouldn’t be typing, we should be touching, at least as much as possible.

Ah, but this morning at Mobile World Congress, Microsoft announced a new version of Office 365. I gotta be honest. It looked like it was trying to take full-blown Office and squeeze it into a 5 or 6 inch screen. Sure, they tuned it a bit to make it mobile friendly, but it was still Office in all its glory in a smaller footprint.

So what did Microsoft do? You got it. It developed a keyboard.

It’s a small bluetooth variety engineered by the Microsoft hardware group. It folds up into a fairly small footprint to fit neatly in brief case or purse, but it’s another part of their total keyboard obsession. Instead of making Office fit the phone touch screen, it invented a keyboard to make it work better on a phone.

Next it will probably build a small wireless mouse to complete its whole vision of mobile device as a PC in a small package.

Here’s the thing, Microsoft can create elegant software for mobile devices, at least when it buys another company to help out. If you download Outlook for iOS or Android, you’ll find a beautiful mobile app that works with other mail systems besides the Microsoft variety. It links to your calendar and it even tunes the times in your calendar when you change time zones automatically, something Google has trouble with. Google’s solution is a second time zone kluge to at least make sure you don’t have to do the math do make it to your appointments on time. (Let’s see, I’m six hours ahead…)

So it’s time to have that little intervention with Microsoft, sit it down and let it know that you know. It’s not fooling anyone. You’ve lived with its keyboard obsession for years — and it’s time to let it go.

The PC had its day, but you can’t live in the past forever, not even by squeezing it into an ever smaller package.

Featured Image: reivax/Flickr UNDER A CC BY-SA 2.0 LICENSE