Tablet pioneer and Xbox veteran bids adieu to Microsoft

Tablet pioneer and Xbox veteran Otto Berkes resigned from Microsoft earlier this week after a long and distinguished career at Redmond.

Years before Apple’s iPad hit the market, the talented Berkes had designed a slate-like touchscreen device which Bill Gates proudly showcased at a 2005 conference in Seattle.

Unfortunately, the first generation of “UltraMobile PCs” were expensive with less than stellar hardware, prompting Microsoft to ditch the category – a move which has haunted the corporation ever since. 

Berkes later began working on the hardware and OS of a prototype slate device dubbed “Courier,” only to find the project scuttled in early 2010.

“It’s unfortunate you can’t repeat that experiment. One of the outcomes of that effort was a change in thinking around Windows and the PC and touch interfaces and hardware evolution,” said Berkes.

“[In any case], it’s a good time for me to make a transition to a different set of challenges and something new and fresh.”

Ted Hase, another one of the four original Xbox founders who also left Redmond, told the Seattle Times Berkes had experienced the most success when Bill Gates was still at the helm.

“There was an aspect of Bill where Bill stayed somewhat of a dreamer. In those dreams come those flashes and those sparks of creativity. I think the company has lost that which is a sad day.

“[And Berkes] has the combination of being able to actually see the bigger picture – but also he is someone who has the courage and the strength to withstand all of the criticism and ridicule on behalf of that vision.”

Indeed, in 1998, Berkes and his team requisitioned a few Dell laptops, dismantled them and built the first functioning prototypes of a Windows gaming console. Fast forward to 2011, when Microsoft’s Xbox business is fast approaching $10 billion in yearly sales and has already outpaced Windows in terms of growth.

“I think if anything, the successes of the other companies, the success of the competitors, the Apples, the Googles of the world, is somewhat of an affirmation that all of the early criticism Otto had taken was unfounded…  In the end, Otto basically held truth in his hand,” added Hase.

[Via Seattle Times]