Saturday, February 18, 2012

Why Microsoft will win the tablet war

Microsoft looks dead in the water with regards to the tablet war. Windows 7, though a stellar OS for PCs, is far too cumbersome for tablets, and Win7 tablets have been non-starters. Windows 8 will run on ARM processors, and has been optimised for tablets - but it is not due to late this year, possibly next year. This gives Apple a massive lead, and even more time to consolidate their market dominance. The only serious competition at this point is Android, which is just starting to get serious in the tablet space.

Given this, it seems outrageous to suggest that Microsoft will one day dominate the tablet space. Still, I think it will. Firstly, history has shown that it is very foolish to write Microsoft off. I remember very clearly in the late 90s that people thought Netscape (and the internet) would destroy Microsoft. Seems laughable now, with Netscape just a distant memory, but people honestly thought that. Microsoft was very slow out of the gates with the internet, and instead messed around trying to build a proprietary public network. But once they realised what way the wind was blowing, they quickly made up ground and continued to dominate the OS scene throughout the noughties. In technology, it is very common for an early market leader to lose what seems an indominatable market position. Hello, Blackberry?

Next, you need to consider the Steve Jobs factor. Jim Collins in "Good to Great" found that rockstar CEOs tend to leave behind companies that struggle without them. With Jobs, you have the typical rockstar CEO with the volume turned up to 11. Apple customers weren't just buying into a product line, they were kinda joining a cult. Can the cult survive the death of it's guru? I'm doubtful in this case.

Lastly, we need to consider the advantages a well designed Windows tablet would have. The same cost dynamics that drove down the price of the original Wintel PCs would be at play, and so we can expect tablets at much cheaper prices than are currently available (my guess is that the magic number is about $250 for an entry level tablet). Business would jump on such a tablet in a way that they haven't with the iPad. The 90% of home users currently running Windows will be more tempted by a compatable machine. And there will be a heap of software (good and bad) flooding the market pretty quickly, free from Apples tightly regulated content regime.

All up, even if the first Windows tablet doesn't get here until 2013, and even if it is not that good, I would lay odds that MS will eventually win the tablet war.


Post a Comment