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Waiting for Windows?

Last week saw the iPads second birthday. With the third generation iPad 3 expected later this year and with Apples latest profit announcement, coupled with a corporate vision to see it become the defacto ‘standard’ for schools and colleges, it is hard to see its dominance being curtailed any time soon. This should be a very worrying time for Microsoft.

Late to market with their windows phone they have since struggled to make in-roads into the crowded consumer mobile space. Despite a strong platform and a vibrant developer community, you can’t help but feel they still have a long way to go. But that’s just the phone market.

Tablet Market or iPad Market?

The jury is still out on whether a market for tablets really exists. We do know however, that there is a market for iPads. Lets assume that there is indeed a market for tablets and that it is set to grow over the next few years. With some analysts predicting staggering numbers of tablet sales in the near future, it seems like a safe bet. The question is: Where is Microsoft?

Well, for a start, they are nearly three years and three generations behind. And they have seen first hand just how hard it is to enter a market already dominated by Apple. The rather odd thing is, they don’t think they are entering that market!

Kings of the Enterprise

Microsoft is the undisputed king of the enterprise. Windows takes pride of place on most of the worlds laptops and desktops. Things are a little less clear cut in the server space, but Microsoft has a very healthy slice of that pie too. Right now, they are working on Windows 8 which is expected to hit the street in sometime in the later half of this year. Working closely in conjunction with various hardware partners, Windows 8 is expected to storm onto a new range of dedicated tablets and burst into the enterprise. Uncompromising in their vision, they see a tablet and a PC as essentially the same thing. As undisputed kings of the enterprise, there are many in the Microsoft camp who don’t see the iPad as a threat at all. Microsoft owns the enterprise; when windows 8 is released Microsoft will own the enterprise tablet space…which is all they are really after. This will bleed into the consumer space and hey presto! No worries.

I honestly believe this is how Microsoft sees things. Here is what I see:

  • I dont see a Windows tablet. I probably wont see one until the end of 2012.
  • A new, immature and untrusted OS from Microsoft.
  • Large numbers of businesses still using XP and loath to tryout virgin tech.
  • Consumer tech bleeding into the enterprise, not enterprise tech bleeing into the consumer space.
  • Enterprise adopting the iPad at an alarming rate.
  • A jobs market where .net developers are harder to come by
  • A jobs market where Mac and iOS developers are in increasing demand.
  • Many many consumers switching to Mac, especially younger ones.
  • Relatives who already own or are considering an iPad.
  • An even stronger Apple ecosystem that continues to defy competing models
  • A beast of a company that wants to makes its own formats and its own hardware the standard across schools and colleges.
  • A. Very. Clear. Strategy.

The point is that it doesn’t matter if you like Apple or loath them. It doesn’t matter if Windows 8 is as good as it claims to be. Microsoft have got a mountain to climb and a beast to tame. If they think they can just walk back into the enterprise like nothing has happened after three years of silence…

The Year of the Tablet

I don’t dislike Microsoft. Quite the opposite. As a developer, their tools and platforms are still some of the best you can hope to work with. I own a windows phone (and an iPhone and an Android Phone….shhh!) But while I remain to be convinced about Windows 8 and its bold new UI, I find that perhaps I simply remain to be convinced, period!

For companies asking questions about tablets my advice would be: don’t wait. Don’t wait for a new and untested OS on new and untested hardware. Develop your tablet systems now using the familiar and trusted iPad, or perhaps an equally mature next generation Android device. But don’t wait for for something unknown. You have probably waited too long already.

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