Microsoft finds itself in a precarious position. Gone are the days when the software giant easily leads the way in every space in which it competes. Instead, Microsoft is looking more like the company that might not fully understand the needs and desires of customers. Along the way, it's watching as the competition delivers better choices and options all around.
But it wants to change all that.
At CES in January, reports claim, Microsoft will be unveiling a version of Windows designed for tablets and running on ARM Holdings mobile technology, in an attempt to take on Apple, Google, and other companies in that market. For its part, Microsoft has neither confirmed nor denied that report. But speculation abounds that Microsoft will have its sights set on the tablet space going forward.
In Redmond, that might seem like a good idea. But tablet watchers know that Microsoft's desire to invest more heavily in that space will eventually will fall short, as will its quest to beat Apple.
1. Windows isn't ready
Whether it's Windows Phone 7, Windows 7, or any other type of operating system Microsoft wants to throw at tablets, one thing is clear: the company's operating systems are not ready for that space. Microsoft fully understands what it takes to be successful on the desktop. But--as it has shown in 2010 by offering Windows Mobile for far too long and delivering a sub-par OS experience in the HP Slate 500--it doesn't really get the mobile market. And that won't change at CES.
2. The iPad is too popular
Microsoft can try all it wants to beat Apple in the tablet space, but it will first need to find a way to beat the iPad. As other companies--such as JooJoo, Samsung, and Dell--have found, beating the iPad isn't easy. Apple's tablet delivers a lot of value at an affordable price. Moreover, it's offered by Apple, which only helps drum up demand and hype for the product. Until Microsoft can find a way to deliver software that's more compelling than iOS, the iPad will reign supreme.
3. Apple understands consumers better
It's not a stretch to say that Apple understands the needs of consumers far better than does Microsoft. A brief glimpse at history proves that quite easily. Not only did Apple come up with the iPod, it delivered the best touch-screen experience to consumers via the iPhone, and followed that up by offering the best consumer tablet in the space. All the while, Microsoft has played "catch up." That doesn't sound like a company that understands consumers as well as it should.
4. It was a rough year for Microsoft
When it comes to tablets, it was a difficult year for Microsoft. Last January at CES, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer showed off a range of Windows-based tablets, including the HP Slate, which he said would help Microsoft make its mark. Nearly a year later, Windows has failed to do any such thing. Ballmer looks to be trying again at the next CES, but questions remain over whether or not Microsoft really "gets" the mobile market.