After a long road, Microsoft is finally ready to
enter the tablet market in earnest during 2011 with a number of Windows 7 tablets running
on Intel Atom system-on-a-chip processors. To date, Microsoft has
only released one high profile Windows tablet -- the
HP Slate 500 -- and by "high profile" we mean "sold 5,000 units
Microsoft obviously hopes for much bigger things,
with rival Apple selling
millions of iPads each month. But it has its work cut out for it
with the impending release of the Apple
In an attempt to counter the iPad's sizable market
lead, Microsoft is planning to attack it where it's weakest -- on the business
side. The company has been passing about a slide deck to its
partners entitled "Microsoft Commercial Slate PCs".
The slides brag that Windows 7 can do things that
Apple's iOS 4.x can't do well, such as "provide remote assistance",
"deploy LOB applications", and "secure corporate IP".
Clearly Microsoft plans on leveraging the fact that Windows 7 is a more
secure OS, is richer in business software, and (with the help of Intel's chips)
offers superior virtualization/networking capabilities.
report by Seattle's TechFlash pointed out that if
iPads were factored in to computer sales reports, Apple would jump ahead of
Dell to become the world's second largest seller of personal computers.
But its new campaign just might work to some
extent. Many businesses have clearly been interested in the tablet craze,
but have been wary of handing out hard-to-manage iPads to the staff. If
Microsoft plays its hand right and manages to offer a decent selection of
affordable options, it may just win these slow adopters over. The only
big risk is the fact that Windows 7 tablets are expected to get worse battery
life due to the fact that they use Intel, rather than ARM processors.
The real question for Microsoft is what to do
next. The company has to focus on developing a next generation Windows
operating system focused on the tablet, and has to try to efficiently offer
legacy software support for its newly
adopted ARM architecture CPUs in order to close the battery life gap with
its rivals. But it also has to consider whether a full-fledged Windows
environment is well suited for its next generation tablet OS, or whether it
would be better off adopting its non-traditional Windows Phone 7/Zune OS in a
larger form factor.
Microsoft's plans for this year is looking
increasingly clear, but its long term plans are far less so.