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Here’s the problem and why I believe Microsoft has made this commitment. Eleven years ago, Microsoft ‘introduced’ a new computing paradigm by developing a Tablet Edition of Windows, claiming that within 5 years nobody would be computing on a conventional laptop or desktop any more. Now, I’ll grant that it was an optimistic claim at the time, but as we can now see with Apple’s iPad, they weren’t that far off from the truth once people started seeing the benefits of tablet computing. However, eleven years ago quite literally nobody paid attention to Microsoft’s concept and didn’t develop to it. True, several brands did maintain a few tablets or convertible laptops that used the touch interface–mostly poorly–but the software developers ignored the paradigm entirely and continued to write traditional mouse-&-keyboard apps.
What Microsoft failed to do then was attempt to drive the paradigm–push it the way they once pushed Windows 95 and later versions. They expected the ‘market’ to take the ball and run–but nobody even picked up the ball. So now Microsoft is saying, “If you won’t do it, we will” and is putting themselves at the forefront of Microsoft’s tablet philosophy rather than waiting for someone else to do it for them. Sure, ASUS has a tablet–their best-selling one is a glorified netbook with a removable keyboard. That’s not what Microsoft wants. Microsoft wants to out-Apple Apple and to do that they need to leapfrog Apple, not just say, “Me, too.” Apple has iOS on its iPad, Microsoft will have its version of iOS in WinRT BUT, they will also have a slate-style tablet that runs the full version of Win8Pro as well. Microsoft is trying to show how to build a tablet that people want instead of simply copying somebody else’s concept. Apple succeeded by not listening to the traditional market with their designs and Microsoft has seen where the traditional market doesn’t even know what it wants–until it’s already out there.
Let’s go back a bit in history to see some paradigm shifts:
* “Trains will never succeed: the speed will just suck the breath out of its passengers and kill them!” — How many people ride trains today?
* “Get a horse!” — How many people drive cars today?
* “If man were meant to fly, God would have given us wings!” — How many people fly today?
* “Desktop computers are a fad; they’ll never replace the mainframe!” — How many desktop computers do we have today–something like 1.3 billion in everyday use?
Every time a new technology has come out, there have been mass denials of that technology. But individuals and businesses have persevered and despite the hate then and now, those companies have proven the technology not only works, but works better than anything before it. These companies claiming that Microsoft is only hurting itself are, in essence, hurting themselves instead by denying that Microsoft is doing something right by doing it differently. Those companies don’t want their apple cart (pun intended) upset by a sea change in their primary OS’s platform. Their already meager profits are going to fall through the floor unless they can redesign–and that, quickly–to a platform that will leave them behind. Windows on the internet has fallen to only 50% of website visits compared to the mobile OSes of which–despite Android’s massive supposed market share–iOS commands. Tradition is failing in the tablet market and Microsoft is forced to break with tradition in order to regain relevance.
And yes, while I’m well aware that Android supposedly owns almost 70% of the smartphone market, iOS owns more than 70% of the mobile OS market when it comes to hits on commercial websites by most analyst reports. Android as a whole has still not managed to surpass iOS in the tablet–non-phone–market even three years after the introduction of the iPad. It took only 2 years (and lots of 2-for-one offers) for Android to pass iOS in the smartphone market. At least for now, Android is proving it can’t really compete on a level playing field. If Android takes much longer, Windows Surface may just drive the final nail in the coffin around Android’s tablet efforts.