Bill Gates and Microsoft had the right idea a decade ago when they first started releasing tablet PCs to the market. They were clunky, too expensive, and the company didn’t improve them over the years. As a result, they missed the flood when Apple turned the tablet valve to full blast a year and a half ago. Microsoft is ready to jump in, but is it too late?
Next week, Steven Sinofsky, President of the Windows Division for Microsoft, is expected to show an early version of a tablet-enabled operating system code-named (wait for it) Windows 8. There was a lot of excitement when the first of a series of videos called Building Windows 8 was released back in June. The interface seemed very clean and demonstrated the potential to solve some of the current issues associated with iOS and Android tablets.
Based upon the size of Microsoft and the popularity of tablets (nearly 30 million iPads have been sold in a year and a half), they would have easily been able to make it a 3-company race. The problem they have is timing. They’re simply late to the game.
This problem became clear with the lack of success for the Windows 7 Phone. It had nice features, but it was released over 2 years after the iPhone and Android phones were already up, running, and having apps developed for them.
Experts are saying it could take 12 months before Microsoft is able to release a Windows 8 tablet. By that time, there could be 100 million tablets running iOS or Android already in people’s hands. It will be a tremendous mountain for them to climb.
There will certainly be challenges with adoption and conquest. People like what they know and it’s difficult to make them switch once they are already familiar with iOS or Android. However, that challenge can be overcome through strong innovations and a huge advertising budget.
The bigger challenge is in app development. Android has nearly 10X as many apps as Windows and iOS has nearly twice as many as Android. Anyone who has an Android tablet or iPad who also jumped on the HP TouchPad grab last month learned something – there just aren’t enough WebOS apps to make it successful.
It isn’t just Google and Apple that will have a head start on Microsoft. Amazon is expected to jump into the Android tablet market with their own product. With an expected launch before Christmas, they pose a potentially bigger threat than any other Android tablet maker.
Can Windows 8 be successful? With so many challenges to face based upon their late entry into the race, they’ll need a supercharger. They’ll need some innovations that make the software much better than the competition. Being a little better won’t hack it. They’ll need to blow iOS and Android out of the water with technology that will make people think they absolutely must get one.
In short, for Microsoft to succeed in the tablet OS market, they’ll need to be more like Apple… only better.
Here are the videos about building Windows 8: