iPad 3 Faces Biggest Test: Windows 8

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2012-02-29 Print this article Print

Apple will likely release the iPad 3 March 7. While the company has managed to dominate the tablet space, it could face a huge threat in Microsoft's Windows 8.

Apple€™s iPad has dominated the consumer tablet market since its inception, but that hasn€™t stopped any number of competitors from taking their own runs at the crown. For the past several months, tablet after tablet€”usually running Google Android, with occasional exceptions such as webOS€”has entered the arena as an ostensible €œiPad killer€ only to suffer through anemic sales and lukewarm reviews.

Apple is hosting an event March 7 where it will almost certainly debut the iPad 3. €œWe have something you really have to see. And touch,€ reads the invitation sent to the media, which includes an image of a finger touching the calendar app on an iPad screen. Over the past few months, rumors have focused on the next-generation tablet€™s possible features, including a high-resolution screen (in a Feb. 9 article, AllThingsD pegged the resolution at 2,048 by 1,536), as well as a more powerful processor and camera.

Those features might gain the iPad franchise an extra competitive advantage over the lightweight tablets in the space, but Apple faces a much larger challenge on the tablet horizon: Windows 8.

On Feb. 29, Microsoft offered up the Consumer Preview (or beta) of Windows 8, which will arrive sometime later in 2012. The Consumer Preview can be found in a special area on Microsoft€™s Website; the beta€™s ISO files (for those who wish to install it on another partition or virtual machine are also available. In a bid to spread the Windows franchise onto tablets in addition to traditional PCs, Windows 8€™s start screen is composed of a set of colorful (and touchable) tiles linked to applications, with the €œold style€ desktop interface accessible via a single click or finger tap.

That alone might not make Windows 8 a viable iPad competitor, but Microsoft has more up its sleeve than a sleek user-interface redesign. For months, Microsoft executives have insisted that their new operating system will provide a robust, €œno compromises€ experience. Power users will have access to the usual features they expect from Windows. The Windows Store will offer a wide variety of apps. Cloud-related features include cloud storage, the ability to roam all settings, and communicate with email and contacts from a Windows Phone smartphone or Windows PC.

With those features in place, Windows 8 tablets could prove attractive to business users and consumers who like the familiarity of the Windows brand. But Microsoft will still have to deal with Apple€™s significant lead in the space.

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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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