Microsoft: Will it be too late to tablet party? Not with Office optimized device

Microsoft: Will it be too late to tablet party? Not with Office optimized device

Summary: Microsoft's tablet strategy hasn't been much to get excited about, but there's a compelling case to be made that the software giant can play catch up---especially in the enterprise.

SHARE:

Microsoft's tablet strategy hasn't been much to get excited about, but there's a compelling case to be made that the software giant can play catch up---especially in the enterprise.

The company's challenges are clear: Microsoft has to match Apple's iPad and excel in other areas. That's a tough chore and other tablets---Android devices and RIM's PlayBook---have fallen short on features and price. In fact, the only unknown here is whether HP can deliver a compelling iPad competitor. Meanwhile, Microsoft doesn't have the tablet ecosystem locked down and big partners like HTC and Acer are using Android.

But despite Microsoft's best efforts to screw up its tablet prospects, the company can be a solid player in the market. Microsoft seems to be getting some lucky breaks as iPad challengers stumble.

In a widely publicized research report, Citi analyst Walter Pritchard made the case that Microsoft can make a go of tablets. Here's his case and my thoughts:

Microsoft's success will depend on how well Android fares in tablets. Should Android tablets surge Microsoft will be facing the same situation it does in smartphones---a nice product but too late to matter. My take: The tablet category will be huge and the Apple challengers will be a fragmented lot. Microsoft could make a play.

High prices give Microsoft some breathing room. The overall view is that a market of 50 million tablets is insurmountable to Microsoft, which needs a tablet soon. Pritchard, however, notes that price matters. The longer tablets sit in the $500 to $800 range the more time Microsoft has. As long as Microsoft enters the market before tablets fall to an average price of $250, the software giant has a shot. My take: There's something to Pritchard's argument, but can Microsoft really play the cheap tablet game? Microsoft doesn't have to play the app game that much with tablets. Pritchard argues that the number of killer tablet apps is limited. A tablet optimized version of Office may be all Microsoft needs. Pritchard said "Office capability could differentiate the Windows tablet from the competition." My take: Office could be the killer tablet app. Gaming too. Microsoft has both categories covered.

There's always the enterprise. Microsoft's enterprise relationships could work nicely in the tablet market. Consumers may hold back, but corporations are going to be looking for integration with existing Microsoft infrastructure. Pritchard said:

We believe enterprise customers are accustomed to managing Windows devices. It is feasible to foresee Microsoft extending its Systems Center management framework to tablets. This would enable companies to update software, patch, back-up and trouble-shoot a Windows tablet. These functions would be necessary on a corporate-owned tablet, no matter which OS it uses. Thus we believe the advantage is heavily in favor of Windows here.

My take: Microsoft has the enterprise chop to extend its PC domination to tablets for business customers. Bottom line: Microsoft has a decent shot at the tablet market, but it's going to need Office to pull businesses in. Consumers are likely to remain skeptical.

Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Tablets

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

54 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Microsoft: Will it be too late to tablet party? Not with Office optimized device

    From personal experience, I can tell you that the iPad makes an excellent device to bring along in meetings. While others are scrambling around with papers, I and a few other of my colleagues bring along our iPads, follow the meeting take down notes etc. There is however one little shortcoming. Not all documents render properly in Pages or Numbers. IMO, this is where MS should focus its efforts. Office for iPad. If they decide to go for the whole shebang (OS and office apps) they'd better hurry up. Others aren't standing still.
    MG537-23482538203179240121698430309828
    • Consumption device, but we need input

      @MG537 I also use my iPad in meetings. But the iPad has one fatal flaw. It's a consumption device. What I lack in a meeting is a device for input, for taking notes on. A lap top, with it's screen, become a barrier. What I need is Microsoft to produce a tablet device optimized not for office, but for OneNote. The UI needs to be optimized for a tablet, but I need the ability to write on it, to record with it, to make notes. Don't lose the consumption capabilities, but implement the input capabilities. This is where Microsoft can differentiate itself and regain a lead position.

      The other tablet companies have simply tried to make an iPad and failed. You can't just emulate an iPad and hope to succeed, you need to differentiate yourself.
      elroyjetson_z
      • RE: Microsoft: Will it be too late to tablet party? Not with Office optimized device

        @elroyjetson_z They haven't failed yet and they're not trying to emulate the iPad, they're looking to make something better and in many ways they have succeeded.
        slickjim
      • OneNote is one killer app

        @elroyjetson_z

        OneNote is already an amazing app. With a good tablet interface it could be a killer app for tablets.

        I honestly think Windows will be the killer app though. Think about it, a tablet that can switch between a touch oriented interface designed for tablets and a desktop interface when it's "docked" so it could take on the role of your office PC. To me, that's where Windows 8 could dominate. And after a few years smartphones would be able to do the same.
        LiquidLearner
      • RE: Microsoft: Will it be too late to tablet party? Not with Office optimized device

        @elroyjetson_z
        Apologies, I'm going to be that guy.

        Why are you taking it to the meeting, then? To check e-mail? I wonder if a criterion for a non-essential meeting is that people can bring distracting consumption devices.

        (Last night I did some Class diagrams on my iPad outdoors [OmniGraffle]. Light weight, long battery life, and I got some creation along with my consumption.)

        I just looked up OneNote in the App Store. Free, but not adapted yet for the iPad. Made by Microsoft.

        With all the millions of potential licensees getting iPads and other larger screened mobile devices every month, holding back the app in order to leverage adoption of an os-to-come, just seems to be leaving money on the table.

        It may be a fad; I do see that argument from the folks who like to stamp it only a consumption device. If it's a fad, it might be over by the time Microsoft's os comes to market. If it is a fad then today is truly the day to have something to sell. It would have been better to have something to sell yesterday.

        It also leaves a vacuum. If there's demand for functionality, if there's an obvious use case, many developers are working on it, and it doesn't take a company of Microsoft's size to bring effective, useful apps to a young platform. Indeed, I think the big boys are at a disadvantage, because Jane in accounting ran the numbers and it doesn't look like a billion dollar sector, and Jane is absolutely correct.
        DannyO_0x98
      • RE: Microsoft: Will it be too late to tablet party? Not with Office optimized device

        @elroyjetson_z <br>Onenote is great but I personally need the rest of it.<br>Basic MSOffice, Sharepoint and Outlook.<br>Say what you want, but these tools have become the backbone of my work.<br><br>and no, there is nothing available on the iPad today that even come close. <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/plain.gif" alt="plain">
        rhonin
      • RE: Microsoft: Will it be too late to tablet party? Not with Office optimized device

        @DannyO_0x98<br><br>Are they holding back or is the ability to activate the full functionality require access to API's that Apple does not allow?.<br><br>Browse some of the development forums out there and that seems to be a common issue with iOS; not that it can't be done, but it can't be done in a way that satisfies Apple.<br><br><img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/sad.gif" alt="sad">
        rhonin
      • RE: Microsoft: Will it be too late to tablet party? Not with Office optimized device

        @ elroyjetson_z

        That's exactly what I need too. The iPad isn't it, and none of the existing competitors is either.
        WilErz
      • RE: Microsoft: Will it be too late to tablet party? Not with Office optimized device

        @elroyjetson_z get a HP Touchsmart tm2 tablet/convertible that is great for meetings. Full laptop for typing, convertible tablet for pen input and touch. 9 hours of battery life, HDMI out, 4G ram, Windows7 Pro 64 and 500G HDD. WiFi or get a 3G stick and for $799 beats the crap out of the iPad
        bvonr@...
      • RE: Microsoft: Will it be too late to tablet party? Not with Office optimized device

        @LiquidLearner
        What???
        Are you taking us back in a time machine more than a decade? What are you suggesting that wasn't being attempted decades ago?
        camcost@...
      • Byte

        @elroyjetson_z

        Fail like Wp7 !!!!
        Sultansulan
      • You do know that you can already get that TODAY...

        @LiquidLearner
        The Asus EEE Slate EP121 has Windows 7, a 12.1" display, Bluetooth kb, 4-5 hrs battery life and can go from a docked solution to a tablet format pretty much instantly... It also comes with a stylus for those times when you need one of those.

        No need to wait for Windows 8...
        Wolfie2K3
      • RE: Microsoft: Will it be too late to tablet party? Not with Office optimized device

        @elroyjetson_z I agree fully - an instant-on OneNote write on tablet is what I'm waiting for
        nbarry
      • They did that

        @elroyjetson_z I saw Microsoft demo that years ago - OneNote was created with tablets in mind; its just that they never had one take off.
        Mac_PC_FenceSitter
      • I agree, I need to input

        @elroyjetson_z
        I agree, this is the only reason I have not bother buying a tablet yet. While I like the idea of one, right now the functionality I want and need is not there.

        @DannyO_0x98
        Your not thinking of it as an actual practical consumption device. For example I am working on a Masters now, one of the things I need to do is simply be able to take notes and review them. However, the iPad totally sucks for this. Sure I could type note however, when your doing advanced math, writing math formulas as fast as the professor and keeping up in class, the iPad can't do this. Droid tablets either. Instead it is more efficient to carry around a pad of paper and pencil with you. Sure if I was sitting outside with all the time in the world to try to figure out how write out Matrices and space them all out properly sure that would be fine. But in a meeting or on campus taking notes the current tables suck.
        BOUND4DOOM
    • RE: Microsoft: Will it be too late to tablet party? Not with Office optimized device

      @MG537 Why would they do that? If they were smart they would sell copies of the OS that ran on Tegra 2 based machines.

      Of course, the Windows 8 interface is honestly, the worst looking of the bunch and the color scheme sucks!
      slickjim
      • RE: Microsoft: Will it be too late to tablet party? Not with Office optimized device

        @Peter Perry - what are you talking about? nobody has yet seen the Win8 UI.
        bitcrazed
      • Facts don't matter

        @bitcrazed

        Why let little facts like that get in the way of saying Microsoft sucks? It's Microsoft, so you don't need facts.
        LiquidLearner
      • RE: Microsoft: Will it be too late to tablet party? Not with Office optimized device

        @Peter Perry

        <i>Of course, the Windows 8 interface is honestly, the worst looking of the bunch and the color scheme sucks! </i>

        Well, you obviously have not feasted your eyes on the Windows 2017 interface. MAN is that ugly. ;)
        SlithyTove
      • RE: Microsoft: Will it be too late to tablet party? Not with Office optimized device

        @Slithy Tove
        Oh come on!!!!
        Vectored Mauve 2D is not THAT ugly.......

        Well maybe...... :D
        rhonin