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Legacy and enterprise support
Microsoft has got one advantage — or potential disadvantage depending on how you look at it — over Android and iOS in the shape of its massive enterprise legacy footprint. Legacy is a pain for Microsoft: constantly having to make sure your products work with hardware or software released years ago takes time and resources that could go towards The Next Big Thing, but it is, ultimately, worth it in the long run. Nothing will annoy a customer more than realising that the product they bought just two years ago won't work with new features.
iPads are fast becoming the enterprise tablet of choice, but Microsoft has a huge installed user base in this sector that it could play to if it managed to get a tablet right.
Similarly, Microsoft has to make sure that its desktop and mobile OSes play nicely together. Windows is still the most used desktop OS by an eye-watering margin: if Microsoft can get its mobile strategy right to make the two work without any integration headache for the user, Android tablets could really start to look like a bit of a limited option.
Whether or not Microsoft builds a tablet is still up in the air; in many ways it makes little sense for the company to do it itself. But if Microsoft does, it better get these basics right, or it won't stand a chance.
Image credit: Seth Rosenblatt/CNET News