The tablet market is heating up. Now that Apple has sold more than two million iPads, several vendors have already jumped on board with Google’s Android operating system. Rather than wait and see how the market will turn out, they have instead decided to partner with Google to deliver, what they believe, is the best alternative to the iPad.
Microsoft disagrees. In a recent interview, Microsoft executive Steve Guggenheimer said that his company isn’t concerned by vendors, including Acer and Dell, that have decided to bundle Android in their tablets, rather than Windows. He said that the market is still young and there is little to worry about.
But perhaps by brushing aside Android’s threat, Microsoft is missing the mark entirely. Android is a fine alternative to Apple’s iPhone OS. It’s also arguably the best option after iPhone OS. And all the while, it’s Windows that will have difficulty trying to compete in a market that wants apps and entertainment over a full-fledged operating system. These are the reasons why.
1. It’s too late
Microsoft might think that it’s just the beginning of the tablet arms race, but it’s sorely mistaken. Apple started the market, but it also ensured that every other product to be released needs to compete with it. In other words, Microsoft was late to the game. And once again, the software giant will need to catch up to Apple. This is becoming a common issue with Microsoft. Rather than see the writing on the wall and break into a market first with outstanding software, the company waits for Apple to do it. And then, after months or years of waiting, gets into it on its own. Windows is already in trouble in the tablet space.
2. Google is playing to win
As Google has shown as of late, the company is prepared to take on Apple and ensure that Microsoft Windows doesn’t get sure footing in the tablet space. Recently, both Dell and Acer, the world’s second- and third-largest PC manufacturers, announced that they would be delivering Android-based tablets in the coming months. Windows was nowhere to be found. With Google focusing so much of its time on being the “other Apple” in the space, it’s leaving Microsoft to wonder why its own operating system just isn’t cutting it.
3. Apple is there to stay
There’s little debating that Apple wants to totally dominate the tablet market. In fact, the company wants nothing more than to have the kind of market share that it once enjoyed with the iPhone. That could spell trouble for Microsoft and its Windows platform. Apple understands what it takes to be successful in emerging markets. It also has a firm grasp on software and hardware design, making it increasingly likely that the company will be able to continue innovating beyond the first iPad. All the while, Microsoft is left offering Windows 7 to vendors that realize quickly that in the tablet market, that software just won’t appeal to consumers as much as it would elsewhere.
4. It’s not like the PC market
Following that, it’s important to realize that the tablet space is nothing like the PC market. Having a company’s software on as many products as possible might help sales, but it probably won’t be enough to corner a market. In the tablet space, consumers are looking for solid hardware that has the software that they covet. That’s entirely different from the PC space. When buying computers, consumers are first concerned with the software they want to run, and then focus on the hardware. That mentality helps Microsoft. A hardware-focused consumer base does not.
Choosing the Right Tablet Operating System
5. Innovation trumps all
Innovation doesn’t always matter. In some markets, the best product in the space wins by virtue of the size of its user base. But Apple has been smart enough to operate in markets where innovation matters above all else. And the tablet space is no different. That’s something that Microsoft must keep in mind if it ever wants to be more than also-ran in tablets. As useful as Windows is, and as nice as it might be to have a full operating system within arm’s reach on the couch, it’s innovation that consumers want. And so far, innovation just isn’t present when it comes to Windows 7 on tablets.
6. Microsoft won’t control the hardware
Microsoft has a relatively good track record when it comes to developing its own hardware. The Xbox 360 is arguably the best console on the market today. Even the Zune HD, which pales in comparison to the iPod in terms of total market share, is a fine device that has made users happy. But when it comes to tablets, Microsoft doesn’t plan to follow that strategy. Instead, the company wants to offer the software to vendors that will then build their own hardware. In the tablet space, that’s not a good thing. PC vendors aren’t so reliable when it comes to hardware design. Their products are typically ugly compared to Apple’s. If Microsoft wants to make its mark in the tablet space, it needs to find a way to control hardware.
7. Apple and Google know consumers
Microsoft’s key battleground is the enterprise. The software giant knows how to appeal to consumers to some extent, but it really “gets” corporate customers. When it comes to consumers, both Apple and Google have a better understanding of what folks are looking for. Look no further than iPhone OS and Android OS for proof of that. But because those companies understand consumers, they will likely block Microsoft out of the tablet market. They will know what consumers want and deliver that before Microsoft even has a chance to respond. It has happened time and again in the mobile market. Why wouldn’t it be the same in tablets?
8. Security will play a role
Security issues have been a constant problem for Microsoft throughout the years. The software giant has tried time and again to improve the security of Windows, but the issues keep coming. If and when Microsoft starts bringing Windows-based tablets to the market, security will again be a problem for the company. Undoubtedly, both Google and Apple will start chiming in, saying that their operating systems are more secure than Windows. They will also make the point that if consumers want a reliable operating system that won’t have issues, they should opt for one of their devices. Unfortunately for Microsoft, it will have little to say in response. Until it locks down Windows, it will be tough for the company to combat security critics.
9. Windows might not be ideal for tablets
Windows is a fine operating system for those that need to be productive. But when it comes to tablets, it might not make the most sense. If full-fledged operating systems worked on a tablet, Apple would have delivered Mac OS X, rather than iPhone OS to the iPad. Google would have opted for Chrome OS over Android OS. Microsoft needs to remember that. When it comes to tablets, consumers are looking for simplicity and usability. They don’t want to get bogged down with a full-fledged operating system that was originally designed with a mouse and keyboard in mind. Windows just might not be the best option for tablets.
10. Entertainment, not productivity, reigns supreme
If the tablet market was all about productivity, Microsoft would win the space without any trouble. After all, it’s arguably the best operating system on the market for those that want to get work done. But when it comes to tablets, consumers want entertainment. They want to be able to come home from a long day at work, pick up their tablet from the coffee table, and surf the Web. They want to watch a show they missed last night. They also want to listen to their favorite songs. Windows is a great operating system in its own right, but it doesn’t provide the entertainment features that its competition in the tablet market does. And that could only cause more trouble for Microsoft going forward as it tries desperately to be successful.