Intel and Microsoft Beg to Differ With Apple and Google on Post PC Era

Given the potential synergy between Intel and Microsoft, the iPad may not be remembered as this era’s dominant product after all.
One of the difficulties in competing with any dominant vendor, especially Apple, is in getting around the perception that only the winning company has a good idea.

Currently, while we talk about “the Tablet market” only the iPad is trending, which suggests there may not be Tablet a market at all, we are simply seeing the effect of Apple’s wonderful marketing. Apple has done this successfully before with the iPod, which was the MP3 player market because no other company was able to capture more than 10% of it after the iPod hit its stride.

Learning from this would suggest a competing company shouldn’t contest the iPad but the entire idea that Tablets, particularly based on Cell phone processors, are the next big thing rather than a short term blip.

That is exactly what Intel and Microsoft are doing. And this effort has a vastly better chance of being successful than if Intel had focused entirely on creating a competitor to the iPad. Let me explain.

One of the difficulties in competing with any dominant vendor, especially Apple, is in getting around the perception that only the winning company has a good idea.

Currently, while we talk about “the Tablet market” only the iPad is trending, which suggests there may not be Tablet a market at all, we are simply seeing the effect of Apple’s wonderful marketing. Apple has done this successfully before with the iPod, which was the MP3 player market because no other company was able to capture more than 10% of it after the iPod hit its stride.

Learning from this would suggest a competing company shouldn’t contest the iPad but the entire idea that Tablets, particularly based on Cell phone processors, are the next big thing rather than a short term blip.

That is exactly what Intel and Microsoft are doing. And this effort has a vastly better chance of being successful than if Intel had focused entirely on creating a competitor to the iPad. Let me explain.

Fighting From Your Strength

Apple, Microsoft, and Intel have all historically knocked out every company that tried to compete with their dominant platforms by forcing those companies to fight on their turf. Apple defined the MP3 player market, Microsoft the PC operating system market, and Intel the PC processor market. And every losing competitor generally lost because they couldn’t be a better Apple, Microsoft, or Intel. This was particularly pronounced with the DEC Alpha and Transmeta Crusoe processors. They were both forced to emulate x86 to compete and even though both processors had significant performance advantages for their time, emulating x86 took away this advantage and both failed.

ARM, on the other hand, has largely evolved unchallenged because rather than going where Intel was, it went where Intel generally wasn’t. It did this first on smartphones and most recently tablets that were so thin, light, and power efficient that Intel’s parts couldn’t compete. In short, rather than fighting on Intel’s chosen battlefield, the ARM, vendors picked fields of battle that favored their architecture.

Apple bounced off of Microsoft Windows until they repeated the same market approach to the one they used with the iPod and ran at Microsoft with the iPad. Microsoft’s unwillingness to counter with Windows phone made it virtually impossible for Microsoft to compete with a product in the weight and efficiency class of the iOS and iPad.

Google’s attempt to create an iPad clone running Android has largely failed so far because Google is fighting on Apple’s chosen field and applying a fraction of the marketing skill and funding of Apple. The end result is that Apple is beating both Microsoft and Google soundly.

Ultrabooks and Windows 8

However, in Intel’s case, Intel is preeminent in Notebook computers and they have chosen the Ultrabook configuration over Tablets as their major push back against the iPad. This isn’t to say they won’t have pure Tablets too, just that they recognize that touch screen-only products have severe content creation issues and people don’t want to have to carry both an iPad to consume stuff and a laptop to create it.

Users don’t want to carry 2 or 3 products -- they want one device. And while Intel and Microsoft are approaching this market differently, their technologies will dovetail nicely. It is worth watching the Windows 8 demo because it is beautiful on the screen. However, those observers on-site at the All-Things-Digital Conference found the move to Office in Windows 8, suggesting that everyone at Microsoft isn’t on the same page, which could severely limit the success of this product. This may be the first product that truly bridges the touch screen, keyboard, and mouse, suggesting that future Ultrabooks will be getting touch screens.

Wrapping Up: Microsoft and Intel Going where Apple Isn’t Yet

Notice the word “yet.” Apple has now been put on notice and Intel’s move to create laptops in the iPad/MacBook Air’s range, coupled with the Windows 8 UI and user experience, creates a real threat to Apple.

However, Apple eats threats like this for breakfast and, I expect, Steve Jobs will address this threat at least partially next Monday at his Keynote. Still, the PC market is Microsoft and Intel’s to lose and they are the entrenched vendors. If they blur the lines between tablets and PCs by creating a compelling blended product, the iPad could become redundant. This would force Apple to compete with a touch laptop and that would put Apple right back on Intel and Microsoft’s chosen field of battle, giving them the long term edge.

And that, my friends, is exactly their goal. Now if the two companies can cooperate long enough to realize it.




Tags: Google, iPad, Apple, Intel, tablet


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