Windows Tablet 7 Coming, but When?

By quickly transforming Windows Phone 7 OS into a Windows Tablet 7 OS, the company could have the right product. But it must act fast.
Posted October 20, 2010

Mike Elgan

Mike Elgan

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Prediction: Microsoft will ship a tablet OS based on the Windows Phone 7 platform.

This belief is not based on statements by Microsoft, inside information or even wishful thinking. It's based on what Microsoft has done in the past.

Here's the standard Microsoft pattern:

1) Some innovative competitor launches a new platform.

2) Microsoft takes a wait-and-see approach rather than jumping in.

3) After years of Microsoft doing nothing, the competitive platform grows a new market too big to fail.

4) Microsoft then launches a huge initiative resulting in a more powerful, feature-rich and backward-compatible alternative (which is also far more expensive and bloated).

5) Microsoft tries to outspend its competitor with marketing and promotions.

6) Once it is clear that Microsoft's approach has been rejected by the market, Microsoft comes around and relaunches a new approach that's a lot more like its competitor's.

7) After a few version tweaks, Microsoft finally ships a great product. Unfortunately, by this time, it’s too little, too late. Even with a great product, Microsoft can’t achieve its original goal of being a dominant player in the market.

This pattern has been followed by Microsoft in music players, search engines, cloud-based office suites, ultra-mobile computers and multi-touch smart phones.

The same pattern is also playing out in the tablet business. But it might not be too late for tablets.

Microsoft's great-but-too-late multi-touch smartphone, Windows Phone 7, goes on sale today. It's not clear that Microsoft is even working on a Windows Phone 7-based tablet. All noise from Redmond indicates that Microsoft intends to continue slogging on with expensive, bloated desktop PC-based pen tablets.

If Microsoft's history is any indication of its future, Microsoft will admit failure and launch a multi-touch tablet based on a cell phone operating system in about two years, which will be too late to make a serious dent in the market now dominated by Apple and very soon to be two horse race between Apple and Google.

How Microsoft Can Succeed In the Tablet Business

Microsoft has an opportunity to occupy a unique position in the coming massive multi-touch tablet market. The key to understanding that position can be found in the current war between Google and Apple over "open" versus "integrated."

In a conference call this week, Apple CEO Steve Jobs slammed Google's Android platform by saying that, although Google calls their approach "open," the better word is "fragmented." Apple's iOS platform on the other hand, isn't so much "closed," as Google characterizes it, but "integrated."

Jobs' position is that Android comes with too many user interfaces and on too many handset models. As a result, users themselves must serve as "systems integrators."

Google hasn't responded to the jab in any meaningful way. But if they did, they would probably say that the Android approach provides vastly more choice — both for hardware makers and for users — more flexibility and more freedom from the whims and dictates of a single company.

Microsoft's opportunity is to create a touch-tablet ecosystem that offers the choice, flexibility and freedom of the Android market with the universal compatibility and interface predictability of the iOS market

In fact, jobs even faintly praised Microsoft during the call — or at least contrasted Microsoft favorably against Google — by saying that "on Windows... Most PCs have the same user interface and run the same apps."

And that's true. Microsoft has done a better job on Windows with standardizing user interfaces and offering application compatibility than Google has done with Android.

By extending this core competency to a new Windows Phone 7-based tablet operating system, Microsoft could offer users the best of both worlds — a welcome alternative to both Google's "fragmented" and Apple's "closed" approaches.

Next Page: Windows 7 tablet -- time's running out....

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Tags: iPad, iPad apps, Windows 7, tablet, tablet computers

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