Microsoft is planning a secret event. This Monday at 3:30PM Pacific Time, the software giant is supposedly set to launch their own brand of tablet. According to The Wrap, Microsoft’s hush-hush event is so secretive that the venue hasn’t even been announced.
If the rumors are true, and they probably are, then Microsoft will undoubtedly be showing off the first tablet to have the long-awaited Windows 8 mobile operating system, called “Windows RT.” For months now, the tech industry has been speculating, estimating and practically frothing at the mouth about Windows RT, which uses an ARM microprocessor.
All of this fervor over the next big tablet release reminds me of six months ago when Amazon released its low-cost touch screen Kindle Fire. The country went nuts. Everyone was saying it was sure to be an iPad killer. After a decidedly strong Christmas launch, the Kindle Fire started to peter out. By the end of the first quarter, market analysis was showing that Amazon’s tablet fell from second to third in top tablet sales, dropping to only four percent of the market share.
Will Microsoft fall to the same fate? Will the world get Windows Fever for three months and then just go back to the iPad? Maybe, but Microsoft has something going for it that the other tablet makers do not.
Software. Microsoft has the most popular software in the world. If there is anything that tablet makers have learned over the past two-and-a-half years, it’s that technical specs don’t matter as much as a well-made operating system. Tablet makers have thrown everything but the digital kitchen sink at consumers when it comes to what their device can do, but the iPad’s sleek operating system and enormous app store is what the buying public wants.
In this way, Microsoft’s new tablet may be what consumers want. The Windows operating system is the most popular, widely used operating system in the world. Everyone, even Mac users are familiar with a Windows layout. Microsoft even has its own app marketplace. Currently they only offer phone apps, but that will probably change when the new operating system is released. The Windows app store can’t compete with Apple’s infrastructure, but if the operating system is easy enough to navigate, it won’t be long before developers are scrambling to make Windows-compatible games and productivity apps.
Another important card that Microsoft has up its sleeve is a mobile version of Office. So far, the iPad has not had the convenience of a full-featured version of Word, Excel or PowerPoint. But, if Microsoft releases the popular productivity apps exclusively on their own branded tablet, they would capture a large portion of the business market that has been waiting to buy a tablet until Office is compatible with it.
At this late in the game, I don’t think Microsoft will be able to overtake Apple in the tablet arena. The iPad’s popularity has grown to mammoth proportions and that train is not slowing down. However, unlike the fizzle of Amazon’s Kindle Fire, I think that Microsoft will be able to maintain a steady stream of consumers that will eventually be strong enough to at least compete in the same arena as Apple’s iPad.