Microsoft has a stable of experienced Mac developers which could be given a new mission to create compelling applications for the iPad.
A lot of things can change in a year.
Back in February of 2009, I had advocated that Microsoft should shutter its Mac Business Unit and concentrate on an aggressive campaign towards hurting Apple. I was wrong.
Also Read: Why Microsoft's Killer Instinct Must Return (Feb 2009)
Well, maybe not entirely "wrong" per se -- as the Mac itself is losing emphasis in favor of Apple's other endeavors with the App Store. But it was an analysis based on Apple's current anti-Windows and anti-Microsoft advertising campaigns and marketing strategy at the time, and I was examining ways in which Microsoft could regain some footing and retaliate.
What nobody could anticipate was the launch of the iPad a year later and how much impact it would quickly make on the industry. With over 3 million unit sales in three months, the iPad has become a huge success for Apple and has created a new software ecosystem for a new class of devices -- the Slate.
And the Mac Business Unit? In May of 2010 it was folded into the Microsoft Office group, as part of the reorganization which transpired when President Robbie Bach and Chief Experience Officer J Allard departed the company and created a power vacuum.
Also Read: Beyond Bach's departure: What else changed today at Microsoft? (May 2010)
Where has Microsoft been during all of this iPad frenzy? It's been in bunker mode. Their partnerships on Windows 7 tablets have fallen apart -- HP put their Windows 7-powered Slate on hold, in favor of purchasing Palm and going the WebOS route for their consumer tablet devices.
While there are some new signs of life for the HP Slate, it's difficult to say whether or not Windows 7-based tablets will succeed in the marketplace based upon what seems to be a cool reception to full-blown PC OSes on slate form factors.
Microsoft itself has also abandoned one of their most exciting tablet projects, the Courier, and has begun to regroup its mobile strategy for Slates. Currently, Microsoft has two Slate technologies that seem to be in conflict with each other -- Windows 7, to be used on Intel Atom based systems, and Windows Compact Embedded 7, a technology refresh of the old Windows CE.
This is in direct conflict to their Windows Phone 7 OS, which would seem to be the logical system to use for Slate technology, but Microsoft is not encouraging their partners to use their new mobile OS for this purpose.
Microsoft's partners, such as Asus, have seemingly gotten the message and reacted in kind to this confusing state of affairs, and recently abandoned their Windows 7 Compact Embedded tablet efforts in favor of Google's Android.
So what should Microsoft do? Well for starters, I think they should ditch Compact Embedded in favor of a tabletized version of Windows 7 Phone OS, and unify the platform in the same way Apple has unified iPad and iPhone with iOS.
But in addition to that, I think they need to think about cranking out some iPad applications.
Yes, you heard me, Microsoft should start making iPad apps. And why not? They've already got a stable of people from the former Mac Business Unit within the Office group that already know how to develop in XCode.
They can create a native version of Entourage with no-nonsense enterprise Exchange integration, as well as Word, Excel and PowerPoint for the iPad so we don't have to continue to suffer through iWork or go through other 3rd parties for Office file viewing and editing like QuickOffice. They also can create apps that allow for better tie-in of corporate Intranet applications which use Microsoft technologies, such as Sharepoint.
Make them beef up the Bing app for iOS so that it becomes a totally juiced portal into all of Microsoft's web properties with MSN, and perform optimization on Microsoft mobile sites for Safari such as Windows Live Hotmail. And perhaps, even a full-blown Internet Explorer port for iOS. It sounds crazy, but Opera AG's browser is running on iOS now, and it would be nice to see some other alternatives.
As the great 20th-century prophet Yosemite Sam once said, If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Should Microsoft start cranking out the iPad apps? Talk Back and Let me Know.