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Blog Bytes: Microsoft Trails in Tablet Game

A lot of ink has been spilled, figuratively speaking, over Microsoft's lack of presence in the tablet market. Apple's iPad 2 is set to hit the shelves today, but the first next-gen Windows-powered tablets are not expected until 2012, if the scuttlebutt bears out.

RCPmag.com blogger Lee Pender thinks that Microsoft's delay (which a U.K. analyst says will cost Redmond a whopping $1 billion) might be indicative of a disturbing companywide malaise:

Where is the Microsoft that reacted to the market with urgency, swiftness and debilitating viciousness when it sensed that it might be losing its utter domination of a market it wanted to own?

This Microsoft is different -- big, slow, almost complacent in the face of mounting and genuinely threatening competition. This doesn't feel like a kinder, gentler Microsoft. It feels like an aging, darn near bumbling Microsoft, particularly when it comes to responding to competition in consumer-based product areas.

According to ReadWriteWeb, delaying until 2012 would make Microsoft the perpetual laggard in the tablet race:

Of course the iPad has momentum, and is the market leader. Google's Android platform is in second place. This will likely remain unchanged for many months, if not years. That puts Microsoft in the position of fighting for the number three spot against its own disenchanted partner HP, plus RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook -- and, who knows? -- by 2012, there may be others still attempting to enter this space.

Worse, notes Fast Company's FC Expert Blog, overtaking presumptive market leader Apple isn't likely to get any easier:

While other companies could try to leapfrog Apple in the race to the "mature" tablet, they face a company that has been wisened by failure. The big difference between Apple today and the Apple that lost to Microsoft in the personal computer market over two decades ago is that Apple allows other companies to create software -- now called applications -- for its device. This flexibility represents a large barrier to entry for competitors. It also represents a key to unlocking the potential of the tablet to help us become more productive.

On the flip side, WinExtra thinks rushing a tablet to market does Microsoft no favors:

Microsoft believes that Windows 8 will be the OS that is spread across all the different form factors, including ARM-based platforms, which means of course it would be the OS powering the tablet. If this is the case, the idea of getting a good, solid tablet before 2012 definitely seems like a stretch, and really I'm not sure it would be in Microsoft's, and consumers', best interests to rush out a tablet just to appease the naysayers.

In fact, as the Technologizer notes, the early bird hasn't always gotten the worm:

After all, the history of technology products is rife with major successes that weren't the first contenders in their category -- or even the second, third, fourth, or fifth arrival. Microsoft's DOS showed up years after the first personal computers shipped. Google was a latecomer to the search-engine wars. The iPhone entered what seemed to be a mature smartphone market; the iPad jumpstarted the tablet market that had fumbled along for a couple of decades without any success stories. In each case, lollygagging seemed to help rather than hurt.

But even though Microsoft's tablet prospects are still murky, that doesn't mean Microsoft partners should have to miss out. Check out RCP Editor Scott Bekker's list of 23 Intriguing iPad Apps for Microsoft Partners.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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