Google should worry less about iOS and more about Windows 8 tablets

Google should worry less about iOS and more about Windows 8 tablets

Summary: Have you used a Windows 8 tablet yet? If Google wants enterprise traction for Android, it has more to learn from these devices than it does from iPhones and iPads.


Windows 8 officially launched at the end of this week and it looks to be a solid OS, both for enterprises and consumers, launching Windows into the age of touch. Almost simultaneously, Apple released an updated 10" iPad and their iPad Mini. Google will most likely be releasing flagship 10" and 7" tablets on Monday. If tablets are your thing (and, increasingly, they're a lot of people's "thing"), then life is good.

I've talked to a lot of people looking towards better approaches to BYOD as well as formal enterprise deployments of tablets and, with the launch of several Windows 8 tablets (I'm not talking Surface, which is a consumer-only play that I fully expect to go the way of the Zune and Kin devices), the degree of competition in this space just increased drastically. When I interviewed Google's Chief Android Developer Advocate (and one of the key architects of XML and a driving force behind open sourcing Java at Sun Microsystems), Tim Bray, over two years ago, he told me that he "hopes for at least 3 major competitors in the market driving innovation and providing consumer choice over the next several years." He just got his wish.

In fact, on the tablet and enterprise fronts, I would argue that Google has much more to fear from Microsoft now than it does from Apple. The Apple faithful are going to use Apple products. They're going to push BYOD with iPads and iPhones and few will be swayed even by the coolest of new Windows 8 tablet and hybrid devices. Android users, as a group, though, tend to be a bit more pragmatic and brand loyalty doesn't run nearly as deep. And these new Windows 8 tablets (again, I'm not talking about Surface), are really cool. Just when you thought innovation in the PC space was dead, these devices running full-blown Windows, natively capable of hooking into Active Directory, and able to run any Windows application (not just apps, but actual Office 2013, Quickbooks, Firefox, Minecraft, or whatever) come on the scene.

I spent a fair amount of time with Dell's Latitude 10 enterprise tablet and walked away wanting one. Not just because I like toys and gadgets. I'm a Google fan to the core - Why would I want a Windows tablet? Why indeed. Because it's useful. Sure, the UI is actually quite nice and performance is remarkably good for an Atom-powered machine. In fact, the experience and graphics are as smooth as anything my iPad or Nexus 7 can dish out. But the ability to run any Windows software I want, dock it and have a full-blown Windows PC, and then grab that Windows PC and shove it in my bag makes it significantly more useful than my iPad. Add support for a Wacom stylus and suddenly, the issues inherent in writing and drawing on a tablet also go away, making it as useful for visual communication as for productivity, web surfing, or entertainment.

Android convertibles/hybrids have also been less than satisfactory to date, but the 12.5" XPS 12 really shows the flexibility of Windows 8, as well as the hardware innovation that has been lacking in this space for so long. Again, this computer dispenses with the novelty of a convertible and makes it really useful as a business machine. It's not often that I get excited about anything with Windows on it; for businesses, though, these are just two examples of portable computing devices that make Android a much tougher sell. Particularly for companies that have invested substantially in Microsoft infrastructure (and that's a lot of companies), the ability to manage both of these without any third-party software through Active Directory is a deal-closer in and of itself.

Android isn't going anywhere. Windows 8 tablets and hybrids aren't for everyone. In the best case scenario, we're going to see Google pushing a lot harder for fast, efficient, business-friendly hardware/Android combinations. However, devices like Dell's or slick tablets/convertibles from the likes of Lenovo and HP are going to give Google a run for its money.

Speaking of money, the one downside to these devices is price. Traditional laptops with comparable performance can be had for much less. However, for many people, those inexpensive laptops will sit side-by-side with a tablet on a desk or in a messenger bag. With Windows 8 Pro tablets, the right docks or convertible solutions just might find those bags getting a lot lighter. Why have two devices when one can be a great tablet and a solid PC at the same time?

Of course, Google is in the enviable position of potentially winning regardless of the OS businesses and consumers choose. As long as we keep using Google for search and Chrome as our browser, they get to deliver their bread-and-butter ads. However, Google is going to need to make a much stronger case for Android tablets in the enterprise now that Windows 8 tablets have arrived.

Topics: Windows, Android, Google, Tablets

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • I was against now im for the windows 8 Tablet

    Loved them tried the full windows 8 tablet and they are a big advancement in the right direction. I just saw one on sale at staples today market down to $6++ something but it is full pc now ill just use one device
    • ZDNets annoying behaviour

      For the past week, ZDNet can't be panned or zoomed on. some Android devices. This never happened before.

      This is due to a flaw in their QA or QC departments, or could be intentional on their part. Regardless, it would be nice to see it addressed.

      In the mean time there are two solutions

      1) Just dump ZDNet and look for info elsewhere.
      2) If your device allows, simply request the desktop version mode.
      • Not only Android devices

        I am having problems on my iPhone too (iOS 5.x). This morning I receive a lot of "URL not found" errors when clicking on links (writing this on my PC).

        ZDNet has the worst software I have ever seen from a company. Which is sad given their focus on technology.
        • Same here!

          My iPhone (yes I do still have one) cannot scroll through webpages at all on and the webpages were horrible in loading up. The experience was a horror story. I had to switch to my desktop.
          Free From Apple
          • Funny

            Both my iPhone and iPad display the site correctly, zoom properly, etc.

            Might be something else :)
          • Such as?

            "Might be something else :)"
      • Based on others' responses to you,

        combined with the number of browser platforms and the non-certified status of HTML5, fragmentation is alive and well.

        ZDNet, as with all companies, may or may not have good programmers, or they might outsource the work, the workers might be apathetic, I could cite a couple dozen reasons encompassing the gamut. Stuff most people wouldn't think about...
        • I don't have nearly as many problems with other web sites.

          Nothing even close to the issues I have with ZDNet. I've been complaining about ZDNets forums (even took one of those surveys they shove in your face) for quite some time. And nothing ever improves.
      • ZDNet thanks for the promt fix

        Site is working correctly now.
  • a very honest article!

    I just loved reading this article. It puts forth very practical views about changes in the technology space and how it is fueled by the Microsoft's new OS. Also, adding to your article, from what we can see is, it's not about who enters which hardware form factor space (as in tablet space, etc.). Things can still be defined by who came into technology or software space first!
    • Good but right? Hmmmm,....

      In the mobile arena (smartphones and consumptive tablets) Google is rapidly becoming the leader with iOS second and MS / Rim distantly trailing. Google should be watching Apple.

      In the mobile arena (creative devices - aka "notebooks") MS and OSX are the leaders with Google continuing to grow via Android and Chrome. Google should be watching MS and Apple.

      Not sure where Chris is leading toward.... The surface falls more into the "notebook" arena than the current "tablet" arena.
      • It's a tablet that comes with a keyboard

        As opposed to a tablet that has third party keyboards...

        If "tablets" are described by their CPU's power, Windows 8 devices can be both netbook or tablet.

        Google should be watching MS, especially as MS figured it out long ago about group policy and other forms of control. BYOD can only go so far...
  • I Would Say Google Is Worried About Neither

    Google is not lying awake at night worrying about what Apple or Microsoft might do next; instead, it is firmly focused on better serving the needs of the actual users of Android. You see how each new version of Android follows this pattern of improving usability, flexibility, functionality, interoperability etc, rather than merely responding to what other platforms are touting as their selling points.

    Microsoft, in particular, would do well to follow this approach, rather than being obsessed with tryng to mimic Apple.
    • .

      Are you on smack?

      You are so far up Google's ass its unreal....

      Do you think Google give a damn about its users - no
      Do you think MS gives a damn about its users - no
      Do you think Apple gives a damn about its users - no

      Anyone who says otherwise is a moron...... A companies objective is to make money... As much money as it possibly can... and if somebody came over to Google and said... i will give you 1 trillion pounds to give the finger to all your customers they would do it in a second.... Don't think otherwise because that would be stupid.
      • Re: Are you on smack?

        Let's see:

        Responding to a calm, measured, factual post with a hysterical ad-hominem ... check.
        Symptoms of being out of touch with market realities ... check.
        Inflated sense of the validity of their own opinions ... check.

        Your diagnosis, Doctor?
        • Other people can say the same thing in return...

          How is the person you're responding to incorrect? You said "check" a bunch of times, but you really didn't go into any detail, convincing or otherwise.
    • Googles users

      For Google, the customer is the advertiser, because those people give them the Monet. Both the consumer and the OEMs are the 'subjects' whose value Google sells.
      Make no mistake about this.
  • Google did. Its answer is Chrome Book at half the price of MS tablets

    Chrome Book can rapidly upgrade to a more powerful machine that runs enterprise software with enterprise controls at half the price per user of Windows 8.
  • Glad you are finally seeing the light Chris

    However, you need to start thinking as Windows RT as the future and the others as providing support for legacy applications in the same way Window incorporated DOS. All those "consumer" Surface RT models will run all the new applicatioons as developers move from Win32 to WinRT. I ordered two Surface systems for both personal and business use as well as test devices for porting our Win32 applications to Win RT.

    Yes the old desktop applications will be with us for some time, but all the useful ones will move to Win RT as the development environment is still Visual Studio and you get to compile for both Intel and ARM.

    As for Google, frankly, who cares?
    • Who cares?

      I'd think everyone should care. At some point, everybody gets affected by what others do...