MIKE WENDLAND: Tablet computers’ merits aren’t worth the big fuss — Ah, at least one person noticed.

When Microsoft introduced the first tablet PC in 2001, Bill Gates predicted that they would rival laptop sales in popularity by 2005.

Well, it’s almost 2005 and I can count the number of tablet PCs that I’ve seen in use over the past couple of months with one finger.

hat’s probably because, after initial sales failed to spike, Microsoft and its tablet PC partners decided to promote them mainly among some special groups — construction workers, medical and health care personnel, students and educational workers and sales and financial professionals.

That’s called the vertical market, and that’s where most of the sales have been. The rest of us, regular users in the horizontal market, hardly have been bowled over.

Microsoft says it remains fully committed to the platform and that sales are increasing each quarter

There’s actually more to it than that. Microsoft always had the wrong approach about these things and I never felt that people inside the company were as jazzed as Bill and a few others. So they were very defensive. They did a very poor job of placing these machines within the influencers, for example. Over nearly four years I’ve never had one in my hands to review or comment upon although numerous people at Microsoft promised that they’d make sure I saw how great these things were. I admit that I never made a point of trying to get one either. But you’d think that my lack of interest (and public criticism of the whole idea) would have triggered some propaganda effort, wouldn’t you? Naw. Nothing. It’s almost as if they were defeatists. Worse, during a humorous awards presentation to a very select audience at a PC Mag TechEx awards in Las Vegas in 2002 I made some funny remark about the un-success of the platform and some Microsoft manager got all bent out of shape and moaned and groaned to the editors about what a jerk I am. I told the powers that be that someone was obviously over sensitive about a mere joke. I mentioned that I’ve been willing to check out the platform and I wanted one of these complainers get in touch with me. Again, nothing. I have to assume that the lackluster marketing directed at a columnist like myself was reflective of an overall lack of effort or general disdain that the company has been exhibiting more and more. This platform (in this iteration) was doomed from the beginning from that perspective. Although I suppose that the insiders knew this was a dog from the outset and were oversensitive to any negative criticism (be it a joke or anything else) because they were guilt-ridden. Normally Microsoft folks revel in any sort of attention, although this has lessened over the years as the corporate culture of the company slowly evolves and becomes more and more defensive and reactionary.

Meanwhile, the tablet PC’s are great for insurance adjusters.

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