There are other opportunities to differentiate. Microsoft could leverage its dominance in desktop office suites by offering perfectly compatible "lite" versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook (something a little more than whats in Windows Phone 7, but a lot less than desktop versions, feature-wise).
In fact, Microsoft could probably even get away with pre-installing these applications, given that the "monopoly" argument couldn't be credibly used against Microsoft in the tablet space.
Such a bold move could immediately establish Microsoft's multi-touch tablet product as the new business standard.
And finally, the Windows Phone 7 user interface offers something incredibly compelling for tablets not currently available on the iPad: the replacement of icons with user-configurable update boxes. On Windows Phone 7, the main screen shows updated Tweets of friends, stock price changes, sports scores potentially any data you want.
This feature is of limited value on a phone, which is either in your pocket or being used youre not likely to sit there staring at the screen waiting for the information to update. But on a tablet, you could easily imagine doing that.
Just prop up your Windows Tablet 7 device next to your PC, and youll have an instant dashboard monitoring everything you care about. Everyone would want that. And nobody else has it.
Microsoft hasn't got a prayer of competing against Apple in the consumer touch-tablet space. But the company could be a leader in business touch-tablets. Windows Phone 7 is the right approach. The only thing Microsoft needs to do is ship as soon as possible. Not in two years. Not late next year.
The window is closing fast for Microsoft to avoid its habitual error of shipping the wrong product at the right time, followed by the right product at the wrong time.
Microsoft has the right product, more or less. By quickly transforming Windows Phone 7 into a Windows Tablet 7 OS, the company could have the right product. And if the company can do so within six months it would be the right time, too.
Come on, Microsoft. Think different!