Extra Ports and Office Are Essential

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-06-17 Print this article Print


However, Microsoft will have to do even more than that to provide a realistic alternative to the iPad. It has to do things that no iPad can do, and that means, among other things, run Microsoft Office. 

A few months ago, there was a flurry of rumors that Microsoft was getting ready to release Microsoft Office for the iPad. Those rumors were at best premature and more likely simply wrong. But if Microsoft was planning to deliver a tablet in which Office was a major differentiating factor that would explain why an iPad version never appeared. If there is a feature that users want and can€™t get on a tablet, it€™s Office, and those other Office-like apps you can get on the iPad just aren€™t the same thing. 

A few other things that Microsoft can deliver that users really want and can€™t get at all, or at least can€™t get easily in an iPad, are ports. A couple of USB ports, a Secure Digital (SD) card port and a High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) port built into the tablet would give users yet another factor in favor of Microsoft. This isn€™t to suggest that they will make all the difference, however. A number of current Android tablets have these ports, and that hasn€™t made them hot sellers. 

But coupling those ports with Microsoft Office and the ability to use standard servers and printers on the network could make a huge difference. While the iPad can make use of printers, the choice seems to be limited to only a few WiFi printers. Connecting to a network server isn€™t something that€™s easily available. The Windows 8 tablet that I used could already do those things. 

Ultimately, however, if Microsoft builds its own tablet, there are two other things it needs to do. The first is to do it right. €œIf they wish to be successful they can be,€ Mathias said. €œBut they sometimes mess it up with incomplete implementation.€ Microsoft has had mixed success in this area. The Zune music player failed to compete with Apple€™s iPod, partially because it didn€™t offer much that was unique and it was expensive. On the other hand, the Xbox video game console has been a huge success, although Microsoft had to be willing to soak up years of losses to make it that way.  

At this point, Microsoft holds the key to success. If the company is willing to put the product design and engineering into producing an exceptional tablet at a reasonable price, even if that means losing money initially, then its tablet has a good chance of holding its own with the iPad. But if they don€™t get the marketing equation right, then they€™re doomed. 

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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