Microsoft Won't Beat Apple In the Tablet Market: 10 Reasons Why

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-12-27

Microsoft Won't Beat Apple In the Tablet Market: 10 Reasons Why

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. 

Here's why:

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. 

Microsoft Won't Beat Apple In the Tablet Market: 10 Reasons Why

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5. It's too worried about smartphones 

Years ago, Microsoft was a much different company than it is today. Thanks to its dominance in so many areas, it could focus on several different markets and perform well. Nowadays, that's simply not the case. Granted, Windows is still dominant on PCs and Office is the top productivity suite, but Microsoft falls flat in the mobile market, search, and advertising. Microsoft simply isn't the company it used to be. As it focuses on rebuilding its brand in the smartphone space with Windows Phone 7, it's hard to see how it can be successful at also making a name for itself in the tablet world. 

6. The shortage of mobile applications 

An essential component in the success of tablets today is the ability to have mobile applications from third parties. That's precisely why both Apple and Google are so concerned about building out their mobile app stores. Microsoft, on the other hand, is still far behind there. Its Windows Phone 7 marketplace has less than 5,000 applications. All of those programs are designed for smartphones. If Microsoft plans to make a play in the tablet market, it will need to find a way to bring compelling apps, not full-fledged desktop-focused programs, to its operating system as quickly as possible. 

7. Control over all aspects 

Apple is successful today because it controls all aspects of the iPad. Not only does the company design its hardware, but it also makes the software. The result is a sound marriage between the two integral components that make the device so impressive. Microsoft seems to be planning to only offer software. Because of that, the company is relying on the design talents of its vendor partners. So far, at least, no company has been able to match Apple in the tablet market when it comes to design. 

8. Google distractions 

Although Google hasn't made a strong push in the tablet space just yet, it's a major concern for Microsoft across an array of markets. It's the company that Steve Ballmer worries about each and every day. Realizing that, Microsoft is likely building its tablet-friendly operating system with Google in mind. In the process, the company could lose sight of what makes Apple successful. That wouldn't be a good thing. 

9. Who knows what Apple has planned? 

Microsoft has no idea what Apple has planned for the iPad and its mobile operating system in 2011. The company could offer an incremental update or it could deliver something revolutionary. The smart move on Microsoft's part would have been to wait and see what Apple would do and then respond with a worthwhile solution of its own. Instead, Microsoft seems to be planning to talk tablets in January before Apple shows its hand. That's a mistake, and it will contribute to Microsoft's inability to catch Steve Jobs and company. 

10. The vendors aren't there 

When it's all said and done, Microsoft needs to rely on vendors to gain market share in the tablet space. So far, HP has most notably offered a Windows 7-based tablet to customers. Acer is planning to offer an option next year, as well. Meanwhile, several vendors, including LG, Samsung, and Acer, along with several others, have either offered up Android-based tablets already or are planning to do so in the New Year. Simply put, Microsoft is facing a vendor battle with Google. The market battle with Google could hinder its ability to fend off Apple.

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