According to recently released data from International Data Corporation (IDC), worldwide media tablet shipments rose by a whopping 303.8 percent (year over year) in the second quarter of 2011 to 13.6 million units. Based on this strong performance and an improved outlook for the rest of the year, the leading market research firm revised its shipment forecast for 2011 to 62.5 million units from 53.5 million units. Needless to say, the Tablet market is growing and growing big. The figures look a lot more astonishing when we look back and see that iPad, the most dominant player in the market, was launched in 2010. A young, swiftly expanding market should have been fiercely competitive with players grabbing each other’s throat and a long list of enthusiasts waiting for a toe-hold in the market. However, a brief overview of the industry in terms of market share occupied by major players shows a different picture. According to IDC report, Apple iOS enjoys 68.3% of worldwide market followed by Google Android at 26.8% and RIM at 4.9%. The message is loud and clear- the industry seriously needs a few more good players for its own good.
Microsoft recently showed a detailed preview of its next operating system, for desktops and tablets, Windows 8 in its annual conference for developers. The preview was filled with “No compromises” and “Windows reimagined” taglines visibly displaying the software giant’s serious attempt to regain consumer interest and confidence. While Microsoft rules the roost in the desktop OS space but its past endeavors to be a serious contender in the mobile computing space has still remained a dream. And, experts believe, this time Microsoft is making a real-good effort to make a mark in the Tablet industry. According to Mark Moskowitz, analyst at J.P.Morgan “To this point, offerings from the Android camp and RIM have been underwhelming”. Further elaborating the analyst notes that, “an entry from Microsoft could help re-shape the tablet market. Apple’s iOS is currently the leading operating system in the tablet market. Google’s Android OS has succeeded in the smartphone space, but has been less stellar in tablets. As a result, Windows 8 has the opportunity to capitalize on Android’s slow market penetration in tablets”.
So, what causes for such optimism in the market for Microsoft?
With Windows 8, Microsoft has done a good job…
Metro interface, two touch keyboards, ‘SkyDrive’ cloud service, online app store, ARM processors (found in most tablets and smartphones), task manager, Near Field Communications or NFC support, Skype, Xbox Live, and Kinect integration- Windows 8 surely has a long, versatile set of features to impress. Microsoft’s experience in operating system, interoperability with Windows 7 apps, user’s familiarity with Windows on PCs and a sleek tablet can attract a lot of users looking for powerful alternative to iPad. Further, with these specifications, Microsoft can also expect encouraging response from enterprises. Sarah Rotman Epps of Forrester echoes similar sentiment in her blog “If Windows 8 tablets hit the market in 2012, they’ll be competing against third-generation iPads—no easy feat, and we expect Apple to maintain at least 70% market share into next year. But Microsoft will be a contender. What’s more, they’ll have a product that can compete across devices, and a foothold in the post-PC future.”
She further adds “As it relates to tablets, a well-formed Windows 8 will pose serious problems to Android. Consumers prefer Windows to Android on tablets by a wide margin: 46% of US consumers considering buying a tablet prefer Windows on that tablet, compared with 9% who prefer Android, according to a Forrester study conducted in January 2011.”
Microsoft is resourceful…
Many are asking, isn’t it a little late for Microsoft to throw the hat in the ring. That’s true but as the market condition shows there is still the space for a serious player. Albeit, it has less time in hand. What’s going in Microsoft’s favor is that it is highly resourceful that can match-up with the likes of Apple and Google. It is the second most valuable brand, is cash-rich and therefore can and will spend all to solidify its position in the industry. Moreover, with Windows Mobile hardly encouraging, figures declining in the desktop space and Apple giving it tough time in PC+Tablet market, it very well understands that it has to hit big in Tablets or be a mute spectator in the future. So, it will not hesitate to acquire companies much like Google and smartly play the hardware trick. Plus, it already has Nokia in its side and there are rumors that Nokia is planning a Tablet with Windows 8.
Vendors showing interest…
Microsoft introduced Windows 8 developer preview in a Samsung Tablet. Dell has also found the new OS pretty encouraging and has gone public with its plan to place its bet on both, Android and Windows 8. Further, what could tilt the favor towards Microsoft is how the Google-Motorola dynamics plays up. If, as expected, the future Android versions go more suited to Motorola devices then we can see a few more vendors joining the Windows 8 bandwagon, giving it a huge boost in the market.
While the early signs are encouraging and future-outlook looks positive but it isn’t hunky-dory yet. Windows 8 has made a set of promises in its preview which still needs to be actualized. The tech giant’s many such attempts in the past have fallen flat as it failed to design OS in context with the devices.
So, will Microsoft succeed this time? Will the Tablet industry get a serious player that can give Apple or at least Android a good fight in near future?
The Windows 8 is expected to go public in 2012. We will wait and see!