Is it just me, or are most Microsoft products no longer interesting? I used to live on the cutting edge, always wanting the very latest release of IE, the most up-to-date service packs, and so forth. I used to read Paul Thurrott’s WinInfo regularly. Now, I don’t really care.

Perhaps it’s because with Windows 2000, for the first time, they’ve made an operating system which, while still far from perfect, is good enough. Good enough for me to ignore it and start thinking about the things I actually want to do with it, rather than the OS itself.

And Office 2000 is probably also good enough, but I hardly use it, because I so rarely have to produce documents on paper now. Poor old Microsoft.

The scary thing is that, if I understand the reports on the Win2000 sales figures, a large number of people have never progressed this far and have ground to a halt at Windows 98, possibly the least reliable OS Microsoft have ever produced. I don’t think I’ve never even seen a running copy of Windows ME. Or is it that it’s just indistinguishable from Win98?

Of course, that’s just the products, as we’ve understood them in the past. .NET is interesting, albeit mainly as a kind of riddle. And Hailstorm is interesting, as a plan for world domination. But operating systems and office suites are a bit passe, which they have, of course, realised.

I am, however, intrigued by the Tablet PC. We always used to call such things WebPads, but Microsoft do like to reinvent the wheel and call it the Round PC.

Why is it that none of the former WebPads have been successful? I’ve seen them at demos, trade shows, exhibitions, and always thought them very cute, especially since I spend an increasing amount of time each day reading stuff online and would like to do so on the sofa. But they’ve never hit the mass market. I wouldn’t even know where to try and buy one. Is it just because they always cost as much as a laptop, and customers don’t want to spend that amount of money twice?

Anyway, the prevalence of 802.11 networks means, I think, that their time has come. Compaq have apparently signed up to make one of these things, and if they do as good a job as they did with the iPAQ it should be very interesting.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser