Microsoft have been unveiling Windows 8 at //BUILD/ and the keynote from Steve Sinofsky was, to say the least, inspiring. //BUILD/ was about revealing Windows 8 to the developer community, showing them what it is, where it’s going and what they can expect as it launches, in its various guises.
I’m interested (here) with what Windows 8 and the Metro UI, first seen on Windows Phone 7, means in the tablet space. Or as its more accurately known, the iPad space. What really interests me here is the idea that it might be a year until we see a Windows 8 tablet, assuming this is correct, it would appear to be a catastrophic case for Microsoft, surely the tablet wars will be over in a year?
Well, perhaps that might play to Microsoft.
Right now there isn’t much of a tablet war. We have Apple’s iPad dominant and nothing looking remotely likely to get close, much less topple it. It’s a great device and it has created the market from the previous failed attempts by Microsoft, among others. The there is Android, Googles smartphone OS hacked for tablets. The first generation of devices has been poor and they are approaching end of life, the first signs of the second generation are appearing and maybe Android will get a second chance. HP killed the Touchpad and, well everyone knows what happened with that. Blackberry launched an expensive toy and cant be considered a contender in my opinion, perhaps their second generation will make up for the first. And lastly we have Amazon, rumoured to be about to enter the game, but with a small, cheaper than iPad, based on old Android, low spec device. I don’t really think Amazon is entering the same game as everyone else, maybe with a competitive device but this 7″ shopping tablet isn’t it.
Then there is Microsoft. Metro, the UI, looks very good, it brings something new to the party, but as has already been pointed out Windows Phone 7 brought Metro to our attention and that hasn’t exactly changed Microsoft’s fortunes in the smartphone space, why would it do so in the tablet space? My thought is Microsoft isn’t looking for it to revolutionise anything. Imagine in 12 months, Windows 8 tablets launch, with a decent spread of apps, using the same basic OS that’s been around for some time on the desktop, laptop and server, slowly replacing the Windows 7 (Vista, XP, etc) systems in use by 100′s of millions. The tablet space, probably still lead by Apple, has settled down, its not a war of innovation anymore, its an established market, moving along the adoption curve. There may have been a few casualties, maybe even a new contender. But when Windows 8 tablets launch across a range of manufacturers the sheer choice of devices, all bearing a familiar badge, sporting a look and feel that has had months to become familiar, may be a very compelling idea in the mind of the Early and Late Majority.
There are clear signs that Apple is trying to converge its iOS and OSX operating systems, Microsoft is doing the same thing. Google is working with Intel, Microsoft is working with ARM. In 12 months there is going to be a lot less that divides tablets than there is today.
If you can’t get into and win the war, make sure you are around to win the peace.