Microsoft Windows Tablets Can Overcome Apple's Dominance: 10 Ways to Do It

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2011-01-16

Microsoft Windows Tablets Can Overcome Apple's Dominance: 10 Ways to Do It

Apple's iPad is dominating the tablet market. Whether vendors like it or not, they simply don't have what it takes right now to overcome the style and functionality that Apple's offering boasts. Google's Android platform might help some companies, like Motorola, get close. But at this point, there's no telling if that company's Xoom tablet will be able to deliver on all the hype it enjoyed at the Consumer Electronics Show recently.

But at least the Xoom tablet has a chance. After Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's disappointing keynote at CES failed to illustrate what his company's future plans are for tablets, most believe the software giant will find itself even further behind Apple. But as far behind as Microsoft might be, it's important to not discount its ability to stage a comeback.

Microsoft has the ability (and cash) to overcome Apple's iPad dominance in the tablet space. It just needs to make some drastic strategic shifts to do so.

Read on to find out how Microsoft can help Windows tablets overcome Apple's tablet dominance.

1. Deliver a real tablet version

The first thing Microsoft must do if it wants to compete at even close to Apple's level is to develop a tablet version that can actually rival the competition. Right now, Windows 7 is not ideal for tablets. However, iOS and Android are. Microsoft cannot expect to compete with Apple and Google if it can't even offer an operating system that works exceptionally well with tablets.

2. Partner with hardware makers on tablet design

Once Microsoft decides it wants to develop an operating system for tablets, it must do everything it can to partner with hardware makers on tablet designs. The last thing Microsoft needs is to see companies offering Windows-based tablets in shells that can't compare to the iPad or Motorola Xoom. Hardware design is just as important as the design of a product's operating system. Microsoft must not forget that.

3. Get rid of Ballmer

It might sound drastic, but it's clear now that if Microsoft wants to overcome Apple in the tablet market, it needs to remove Steve Ballmer as CEO. From a financial perspective, Microsoft is doing quite well, generating billions of dollars every quarter. But when it comes to achieving growth in important areas, like tablets, smartphones, the cloud and the Web, he's lacking. Ballmer is still too focused on Windows and Office, and right now, those aren't areas where the software giant should be focusing.

4. Focus less on Windows Phone 7

Windows Phone 7 has only been out for a few months, but already it's showing that it might not perform as well as competing mobile operating systems. In fact, Microsoft revealed in December that its vendors sold 1.5 million devices to retailers in the platform's first six weeks of availability. Google, on the other hand, is seeing hundreds of thousands of Android devices activated each day. Now more than ever, Microsoft should realize that it won't have a dominant presence in the smartphone market and so should turn its attention to tablets.

Microsoft Needs a Mobile OS Tuned for Tablets

5. Wait for Apple to make its next move

Before Microsoft makes any major announcements about tablets, the company should wait for Apple to announce the iPad 2. The last thing Microsoft needs right now is to offer up something that will be quickly eclipsed by Apple's announcements. The smart move is to wait to see what Apple has up its sleeve, and then make strategic decisions off of that.

6. Try to be more Google-like

It's no secret that Microsoft and Google can't stand each other. Eventually Google could be the company that completely dismantles Microsoft. But Google's recent successes have been due to its willingness to be more Microsoft-like and focus on delivering software to vendors. The strategy worked. Now it's time for Microsoft to be more Google-like and focus its efforts on delivering more value to customers. That's one area, especially in the tablet space, where it's lacking.

7. Lean on vendors

Microsoft continues to enjoy success in the PC market, offering Windows to all the vendors in the Intel PC market, including Dell, HP and Acer. If Microsoft wants to see success in the tablet space, it needs to leverage those relationships and coax those companies into making tablets running Windows. It has had some success with HP and Acer, but it needs to do more. Microsoft can only be successful against the iPad if it can blanket the market with devices.

8. Think about the enterprise

As important as consumers are to Microsoft's future tablet business, the company should spend a great deal of its time focusing on the enterprise. The HP Slate 500 is designed with corporate users in mind, which is a good start, but more needs to be done. Windows is successful today because of the enterprise, and Microsoft can't lose sight of that as it plans its strategy for tablets.

9. It's about the developers

Microsoft will never be able to match Apple and the iPad if it can't find a way to work nicely with developers and offer applications on its platform that will best Apple's App Store product. The future of the tablet market will rely heavily on which company can offer the best apps for customers. If that's Microsoft, the company will position itself quite well to gain market share.

10. Consider a Microsoft-branded tablet

Microsoft is a software company-always has been and always will be. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't develop a tablet of its own. The company could use the tablet to drum up hype for its platform and perhaps show other vendors why they should consider adopting its software. Most importantly, a Microsoft tablet, assuming it's designed well, could help put the company on a level playing field with Apple. Simply put, a Microsoft tablet could benefit the software giant greatly. 

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