Microsoft is back in the Internet Tablet Wars
Microsoft has been involved in developing tablet computer technology since the release of the “Windows for Pen Computing Operating System” in 1991. Although this is primitive by today’s standards it does illustrate the desire of the company to drive this area of the industry forward. In 2002 Windows XP was released for tablets and was used by Acer, Samsung, HP, and more. Then nothing serious was heard from the mighty Microsoft concerning tablets until now.
Monday Microsoft unveiled their new tablet Surface and started a buzz felt by Twitter, Facebook, and the Internet news feeds. The software giant was no longer content simply offering operating systems to tablets but now had a solution to directly compete with Apple’s dominating iPad, the various Android products, and the Kindle Fire.
Curiously late to the game Surface caused many techies to immediately roll their eyes and remember the halcyon days of the Zune music player as it was quietly released and crushed by Apple’s iPod, or Bing struggling to capture any market share from Google’s internet search traffic dominance. With that in mind the question became how could Surface differentiate itself in the relatively mature Tablet market? Amazingly Microsoft, the company that was trying to push a stylus in the early ’90s, equipped Surface with a keyboard.
Surface has a built in stand and a roll out “Touch Cover Keyboard” that instantly turn it into a device similar to a laptop. While this sounds a little crazy given that a laptop would seem to be a better laptop than a tablet, this does open up possibilities that are unique to Surface. While the iPad and its contemporaries are fantastic tools to surf the web, read books, or do a little shopping they are not top of mind for document creation. The touch screen is a powerful tool, but using it to write a term paper or create business documents would be tedious. The 3mm thick keyboard can be rolled out and placed into position just like a traditional desktop or laptop layout and easily overcomes the touchscreen limitation. Surface will run Windows 8 and have built in applications for document creation.
Surface may offer users more freedom and a greater choice when it comes to tablets, but the market shows that isn’t always a good thing. Android’s open platform has attracted many developers excited to offer the public apps without bowing to Apple’s strict standards and financial demands, but this has led to a fragmented market that further limits small developer’s ability to reach a wide consumer audience. This also hinders consumers that can’t get their favorite app on their favorite device. Should Windows 8 stake a claim in this the water gets murkier.
Keyboard or not, no tablet has been able to threaten Apple’s position in the tablet space, and many have tried. Every add-on and configuration has been floated out to the public with new operating systems, thinner design, and every type of port the user could imagine. Some tablet offerings may have even been superior to the iPad, but none of them could get any traction. This is because Apple not only makes a great product; they know how to sell it.
Apple has never been known as the cheapest product on the market because they never really tried to compete strenuously on price point. Apple is known for, and rightfully so, as a producer of solid, reliable products that are easy to use. iPads are not only easy to use, they are easy to buy. Your choices are 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB of storage. Other than that you need to select black or white. That’s it. While this may appear limiting it makes life a lot easier for a consumer that doesn’t know the ins and outs of every version of Android or what apps they have access too. The interface has one button and a screen. Once you figure those two things out you are done.
Microsoft can make solid profits in the tablet space without unseating King Apple. 50% of the market is made up of various hardware manufacturers offering the Android OS or other solutions and they certainly don’t have the consumer loyalty that Apple instills. However if being the market leader is the goal, Microsoft may be disappointed in four months when Surface is said to be released.
- Windows RT operating system
- Nvidia ARM CPU
- 9.3mm thick
- 676 grams/23.85 ounces
- 10.6-inch ClearType HD Display
- 31.5 watt hour battery
- Ports: microSD, USB 2.0, micro HD video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
- Storage options: 32GB and 64GB for Windows RT
- Front and rear-facing “HD” cameras