Android can be skipped Windows8 to be true competitor iPad.

Sunday, March 4th 2012. | Software News

windows8tab2_1He was referring to the new Samsung Android tablets cannibalising the older ones, but let’s take that comment even farther. The first tablet demonstrating Windows 8 at MWC was a Samsung one. Sure, Samsung is playing the field, and it has made Windows tablets before. However, it only goes to show that if you’re not the one vertically integrating the software and hardware, it’s a free for all, as far as where tablet hardware might evolve next.

The iPad isn’t going anywhere; it has huge popularity, a massive app catalogue and dominating market share going for it. However, that spot at No. 2 seems wide open. Android tablets have been far from compelling thus far, leaving the doorway wide open for Windows 8 tablets to stake a claim that no other Windows tablets have previously been able to capture. However, for Windows 8 to succeed as a true iPad competitor and bury Android tablets, the battle will have to be fought on several fronts.


Android has a boatload of apps, but a less-than-ideal centralised storefront and way of monetising them. Microsoft’s currently middling collection of Windows 8 apps can’t compete yet, but, in time, and with enough development effort, Microsoft could showcase those apps and sell them in a more polished way than Android does.

Enterprise and corporate

iPads are candy to the corporate landscape for two reasons: they’re sexy; and they’re secure and stable. They’re not perfectly geared towards productivity, but they’re close enough. Android tablets have come in so many varieties and so many operating-system variants that it numbs any corporate adoption. If Microsoft can settle on a few tablet designs from OEMs and a unified, stable OS (promising security features to boot), it could be seriously attractive to businesses.

Backwards compatibility

The ability to run older Windows applications (for x86 tablets, not ARM) is hugely important. We remember sitting through tons of meetings with vendors who explained why their ugly Windows tablet of old was used by businesses that ran older software and enjoyed cross-compatibility. Running Microsoft Office, in its real-deal form, is bigger than most people realise. OnLive Desktop is a cloud-based service on the iPad and Android that runs Windows 7 remotely, chiefly for its Microsoft Office applications and its retention of features like red-line edits. A Windows 8 tablet could do that.

True keyboard/mouse compatibility

The iPad can’t use a mouse. Android tablets can, but to a limited degree. Stand up a Windows 8 tablet and pair a keyboard and mouse, and a true mobile computer could be set up. We’ve seen that before on Windows 7 tablets, so what’s the big deal now? Well, back then, those Windows 7 tablets excelled at keyboard/mouse connectivity, but were lousy with UI, battery life and touch-based apps. Windows 8 aims to address those problems this time around, although it remains to be seen how Intel’s tablet processors will perform.

For all these reasons — especially the business market — I can’t help but imagine Windows tablets rising up to finally overtake Android, and creating a Microsoft-Apple battleground for the next decade. On the consumer side, I expect Android tablets to get squeezed by cheaper and more brand-friendly “super e-readers” like the Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet. Google’s Andy Rubin may plan to “double down” on tablets, but Microsoft seems ready to do the same. Android phones may own half of the smartphone landscape, but there have been only 12 million Android tablets sold, compared with more than 48 million iPads in 2011 alone. Opportunity is there for the taking to be No. 2, and, if Microsoft swoops in and takes that market away from Android, then Google will have no one but itself to blame.

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