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Micropad to kill iPad?

© December 2010 Anthony Lawrence

Microsoft is said to be about to announce an "iPad killer" soon.

If the report referenced above is accurate, it will sport a slide out keyboard. Wow, Microsoft, that's innovative!

Microsoft isn't about to manufacture hardware, so this will come from Dell, Samsung and other folks.

Realistically, Microsoft needs something far more than an iPad killer. They'd need an Android killer, which means a far less expensive machine and that means cheapening up. Given that, my expectation would be a junky machine running Windows 7 (although there are rumors of Windows 8) with a lousy battery life, hardware reliability issues, and of course, just as prone to viruses and malware as Windows 7.

The early gossip suggests expensive, too, with estimates of $549.00. That's iPad pricing territory.

Of course that's all just speculation. These things could be really good, or at least good enough that everyone will think they will be able to compete. If they are, I would expect to see my Microsoft stock soar to new heights. I'll then immediately dump all of mine, because my bet will still be that Microsoft won't be able to compete in this market and that this will be Microsoft's swan song.

These tablets are the future. There are still stubborn old coots who don't believe that, but that is reality. At the end of the day, it always comes down to software and Microsoft developers can't begin to compete with the army of IOS developers and the even bigger army of Android develepors.

If there is an iPad killer, it will be Android, not Microsoft.

And yet, I'm not even sure about that. There are plenty of cheap Android phones and while they have cut into the iPhone market somewhat, Android hasn't killed the iPhone yet. The biggest reason for that is, of course, apps, and the biggest problem for Android is the same problem that Unix always had: platform fragmentation. That is the ray of hope that Microsoft sees: if Android developers tire of limiting themselves to a weaker, one size fits all approach, Android could get squuezed out between Apple and Microsoft and the world returns to harmony once again.

Yeah, anything is possible, but if these things have a lesser battery life, weigh more, are just as expensive and are vulnerable to Win 7 malware, they are going nowhere. This will be another Microsoft Bob or another Windows 7 Phone at best.

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Thu Feb 10 17:35:46 2011: 9290   ClintJohnson


My take on it is that the current tablet OS is going to be relegated to a niche market along with the eBook readers. The next year will usher in hardware that can run a full operating system that will allow users to use full applications while maintaining the form factor that they have become attached to. There will be a price premium at first but as they drop under a $1,000 it will begin to make a lot more sense to use a full computer rather than a lobotomized one.

If Microsoft wants to slap down the iPad they won't do it with a me-too tablet device but with a full Windows 7 tablet in the same form factor that can run at least 6 hours (and allows for battery changes). Give it the same touchy feely finger interface but also include stylus interface to allow more than a chimpanzee level of interaction with the device; they don't need an integrated keyboard, just a USB and Bluetooth interface with an optional thin keyboard that also acts as a screen cover.

The low power CPU/GPU chips have gained enough speed and processing capabilities to allow us to comfortably use OneNote, Painter, Manga Studio EX, Photoshop, Illustrator, Alibre Solid Modeling... real applications rather than being happy with iFart apps.

The iPad is a consumption device that has found a market - but I was really disappointed that it wasn't running Mac OS so that I could actual create with it as well. I like the comfortable consumption side of it but I hate the crippled creative side of it. I think that Apple has become so invested in iOS that they will be reluctant to bring a MacOS device into the frey. Microsoft doesn't have much of a tablet market to cannibalize and so can bring their strengths to the fight unfettered by the bean counters crying about then chipping away at their profit center.

Even if 90% of the users spend 90% of their time just looking at something that other people have created on a machine running a full OS- they can still be sold on having the ability to create themselves. To truly replace the laptop, it needs to be able to do everything that the laptop can do... the iOS and AndroidOS most emphatically cannot do that.

Tablets such as the iPad and the Xoom will be relegated to the sub $200 arena where their hobbled nature won't be so painfully compared to MacOS or Windows 7 on the creation side of things. At least I hope Microsoft will drag Apple kicking and screaming into bringing out an actual tablet computer.

Thu Feb 10 17:38:43 2011: 9291   TonyLawrence


Your argument is exactly why the pundits said the iPad would fail miserably.

It didn't. Windows 7 Tablets aren't needed or wanted.

Sat Feb 12 23:26:22 2011: 9297   ClintJohnson


As long as there is a large price differential between the eReaders/tablets and a similar machine running MacOS or Windows there is a real market demand for the lesser device.

People accept the limitations of the iPad because they have no choice; but can you honestly tell me that you wouldn't opt for the full OS device if there was only a $100-200 price difference between an iPad running iOS and an otherwise indistinguishable device that was running MacOS X?

Most people who have an iPad still have a desktop and/or laptop to do their primary work on. Some time in the next two years, the hardware will catch up and allow for a device with the form factor of an iPad to perform the role of both a desktop/laptop and a tablet/eReader. Just like the laptop has eaten into the desktop market, this TabletPC will eat into both the tablet and the pc market.

There are far more consumers than creators and that has been the impetus behind the iPad success. If people can be convinced that they want or need the ability to create as well as consume, then the next generation of tablets with full OSes will be a success.

I personally have trouble understanding why so many people are so enamoured of such a technologically crippled device. Right here and right now it is useful but every time I use one I fight down my frustration at the limitations and wait for the day when I can do everything on an iPad form factor that now requires a laptop that is twice or thrice the size and weight.

Sat Feb 12 23:31:29 2011: 9298   TonyLawrence


It is because you don't understand that it isn't crippled at all.

Sat Feb 12 23:49:59 2011: 9299   ClintJohnson


The iOS is severely compromised and limited as compared to MacOS or Windows 7- how else would it be defined? When it can only do a minor subset of what I need it to do then I can only see it as a technologically crippled device that is a stepping stone to a fully functional device.

Sat Feb 12 23:55:11 2011: 9300   TonyLawrence


As I said, you just don't get it. Sales prove that.

Sun Feb 13 00:19:29 2011: 9301   ClintJohnson


I guess we will have to agree to disagree for the time being. I see it as an evolutionary branch that is necessitated by the limitations of technology and that it will atrophy as it is replaced by a device that is virtually identical in form factor but that is capable of doing everything that we want it to do.

I wasn't particularly surprised by the iPad sales and fully expect Apple to sell as many as 30 million this year- which is pretty damn impressive when my guess at laptops from everyone comes to about 50 million. They will pretty much decimate the netbook market but I actually expect them to increase the sales of Windows based TabletPCs as people get used to the form factor but chafe at the limitations imposed by a smart phone based operating system. Those Windows tablet numbers will remain in the low single digit millions until they actually produce a small form factor slate that can interface as smoothly by finger as iOS and Android but that allows for full interaction via stylus as well as a wireless/USB mouse and keyboard.

The sales prove a demand for a form factor, not for iOS.

Sun Feb 13 00:31:05 2011: 9302   TonyLawrence


No, it's not IOS per se, but it is what it does and what it doesn't do.

Microsoft will fail in this space as it always has.

Sun Feb 13 01:10:39 2011: 9303   ClintJohnson


You like it *because* of what it can't do? It doesn't make any sense to me and is akin to saying "sure she has the looks of a supermodel but I really wish she wasn't so smart and nice." I have trouble groking that and it may be a blind spot for me that skews my understanding of the situation.

Sun Feb 13 02:53:19 2011: 9304   TonyLawrence


No, for what it DOES NOT do. Doesn't run Microsoft bloatware, doesn't have viruses, doesn't have a 3 hour battery life..

Yes, of course someday these will be as powerful as computers. But they do and do not do quite enough now.

Sun Feb 13 05:36:17 2011: 9305   ClintJohnson


I actually own and use both Mac and Windows systems in my work as well as Linux on a personal machine. I have no trouble jumping from one to the other since there's barely a lick of difference between them other than a few aesthetic choices.

Linux is a little too scattered and that makes it marginally more difficult to get it where I want to go... then it isn't quite like any other Linux system out there and you NEED to be your own tech support. Not recommend it for casual users.

Apple is a fiefdom which locks their world down so you can only work their way. They know what is right and can't conceive that anyone would want to do it any differently. They put a lot of work into making sure MacOS doesn't work on anything but the handful of platforms it knows you should want. This makes for minor improvements in stability.

Windows is in the messy middle, you can bend it around a bit to suit your way of doing things. They put a lot of work into ensuring that it works on as many systems as possible and that makes it marginally less stable than MacOS.

Because Microsoft wants to give you as much freedom of choice as possible, Windows 7 has been built to work on tens of millions of unique hardware configurations. This means that Windows 7 is a little bigger than MacOS- it also means that it can run on systems that are five times faster OR five times cheaper than anything from Apple.

Windows has the largest market share by a very wide margin and so the jackasses who create viruses, malware and other black hat hacks have no interest in any other platform.

The "bloat" of Microsoft's operating system and the hacks are a sign of meeting the needs of the majority of users and are an unavoidable byproduct of a populist system.

These are the social aspects but thousands of hours with each of them through multiple generations has shown me that the technological parameters mean that there is very little actual difference in usability and functionality between them. But we are tribal animals and tend to exaggerate the advantages of our group and the disadvantages of the others.

Sun Feb 13 12:00:50 2011: 9306   TonyLawrence


Ayup. And know we see why you can't understand what I'm saying: you think Microsoft is great stuff.

You've trotted out all the usual Microsoft fan boy babble. Thank you for you non-opinion.

Sun Feb 13 17:22:21 2011: 9308   TonyLawrence


You mistake vitriol for mild contempt.

You don't understand why the iPad is popular and you never will. You don't understand why Microsof is crap and you never will.

Thu Feb 17 17:04:24 2011: 9316   TonyLawrence


Yet another reason Apple wins: (link)

It was just a matter of time..

Mon Jul 1 14:50:25 2013: 12194   TonyLawrence


Well, we've seen the "iPad killer".

Yeah.. that went well.. :-)

Mon Jul 1 19:49:33 2013: 12199   ClintJohnson


It actually is going rather well, thanks for asking.

Microsoft did make a mistake with the Surface RT... it is as good as an iPad, but with fewer apps. Windows RT is a tablet OS and, as I've said before, a tablet OS is a crippled OS that found a temporary niche due to short term hardware limitations.

The Surface Pro should have been their only Surface- they would have kept from confusing people who didn't realize that the Surface RT was as function limited as an iPad, or confusing people who didn't realize that the Surface Pro wasn't anywhere near as limited as an iPad.

So, with a low volume run of version one hardware on a new operating system- eight months for the RT and only five months for the Pro... they have taken about 2% of the tablet market while the iPad has gone from 60% to 40% market share.

Sure, eight months after its introduction, the iPad was selling 4 million units a quarter compared to Surface sales of about 2 million a quarter... but those are still decent first gen sales, and it is just the opening salvo.

The Surface Pro is superior to any iPad. Give Microsoft a hardware cycle or two of fine tuning, and it will be taking a growing chunk of the 200 million tablet sales, as well as a big chunk of the 200 million laptop sales. The iPad will have to be content with a shrinking share of the tablet market.

Mon Jul 1 19:53:54 2013: 12200   TonyLawrence


I can only laugh :-)


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