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Bill Gates unimpressed by keyboard-less Apple iPad

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, a longtime proponent of tablet-style computing and touchscreen devices, has said he is not impressed by what he's seen of Apple's iPad.

The multi-billionaire spoke with Brent Schlender of BNET and admitted that while he became envious of the iPhone, the iPad has not elicited the same reaction from him.

"You know, I’m a big believer in touch and digital reading, but I still think that some mixture of voice, the pen and a real keyboard — in other words, a netbook — will be the mainstream on that," Gates reportedly said.

"So, it’s not like I sit there and feel the same way I did with iPhone where I say, 'Oh my God, Microsoft didn’t aim high enough.' It's a nice reader, but there’s nothing on the iPad I look at and say, 'Oh, I wish Microsoft had done it.'"

Gates joins a chorus of technology enthusiasts and casual users alike who have said they feel they were let down by Apple's iPad announcement. One study found that while the number of users interested in buying the device tripled after it was unveiled, the lion's share have said they will not purchase an iPad.

Gates' support of tablet-style computers is nothing new It was in 2001 that he and Microsoft introduced the "Tablet PC," which was predicted to be everyone's primary computer in just a few years. However, the form-factor and input method failed to catch on.

At the D conference in 2007, Gates and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs sat down together for an interview in which the two tech titans spent some time talking about the future of computing, and where tablet-style devices might fit into the mix.

"I believe in the tablet form factor," Gates said in 2007. "I think you'll have voice. I think you’ll have ink. You'll have some way of having a hardware keyboard and some settings for that. And then you'll have the device that fits in your pocket, which the whole notion of how much function should you combine in there, you know, there's navigation computers, there's media, there's phone. Technology is letting us put more things in there, but then again, you really want to tune it so people know what they expect."

While Jobs didn't embrace the tablet form factor like Gates did, he did say he believed computers were going to become even more mobile, and the very idea of what consumers view as a computer could change dramatically.

"This general purpose device is going to continue to be with us and morph with us, whether it's a tablet or a notebook or, you know, a big curved desktop that you have at your house or whatever it might be," Jobs said. "So I think that'll be something that most people have, at least in this society. In others, maybe not, but certainly in this one."

Of course, Apple's latest take on the tablet is much different than the options offered by Microsoft and competitors up until this point, with the multi-touch, multimedia iPad being more akin to an iPod touch than a MacBook. Analysts expect the iPad to sell millions in its first year.