Microsoft exec questions tablet market, while HP's Apotheker touts TouchPad

The tablet market that has enraptured so many handset companies in the wake of the success of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad may not be around for the long term, according to a senior Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) executive.

Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer, Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer, said he's not convinced that tablets can carve an enduring niche into peoples' lives. Speaking at a lunch held in Sydney by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, he said he thinks the smartphone "as it emerges more will become your most personal computer," while laptops will become the "portable desk."

"I think there's an important distinction--and frankly one we didn't jump on at Microsoft fast enough--between mobile and portable," Mundie said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. "Mobile is something that you want to use while you're moving, and portable is something that you move and then use. These are going to bump into one another a little bit and so today you can see tablets and pads and other things that are starting to live in the space in between. Personally I don't know whether that space will be a persistent one or not."

Microsoft has made several lackluster attempts to break into the tablet market, and several computer makers, including Acer and Hewlett-Packard, have developed tablets running Windows 7, Microsoft's desktop software. Research firm IDC has predicted that media tablet sales will reach 42 million in 2011, while Gartner predicts that tablet sales will jump to 54 million this year. 

HP CEO Leo Apotheker, meanwhile, has been busy touting HP's forthcoming TouchPad tablet, which will run its webOS operating system and come out in June. "We happen to have the greatest operating system currently available in webOS. It's an absolutely outstanding operating system. Our TouchPad will be coming out in June, and then everybody will see firsthand how good it is," Apotheker said at Tony Perkins' AlwaysOn OnDemand 2011 conference. "We want to use the webOS to bring everything together."

For more:
- see this Sydney Morning Herald article
- see this eWeek article

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