The iPad established the tablet market nearly two years ago. Competition has come in the form of a BlackBerry tablet called the PlayBook, the webOS based TouchPad, and a plethora of tablets running Android, but none are proving up to the task. When you think tablet, you think iPad, just like when you think MP3 player, you think iPod.
Michael Dell said last week at the Dell World conference that he thinks Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system has the best shot at giving the iPad a run for its money.
Microsoft tried to launch the tablet market back in 2005 with Windows XP Tablet Edition, but hardware was bulky and it required a special stylus. Performance was mediocre and the cost gave many people pause. Even though Vista and Windows 7 support the tablet form factor, those platforms don't have meaningful market share in the tablet space.
Windows 8 should change that, though to what extent is anyone's guess. If you've seen Windows Phone 7, Windows 8 is immediately recognizable. Gone is the start menu. Instead, the desktop is covered with live tiles, similar to the home screen of Windows Phone 7. While a lot of effort has gone into making sure this platform will work with traditional laptops and desktop machines, its real strength will be the tablet form factor.
[ At Web 2.o Summit Tuesday, Michael Dell hinted HP's Pain Is His Gain. ]
It appears Dell is so pleased with the progress Microsoft has made in this area, his company plans to ship Microsoft tablet devices in the third quarter of 2012. Dell's focus will be on the business side of the tablet market, which makes sense. A Windows-based tablet will need to establish a foothold somewhere and Microsoft has extensive relationships with the enterprise.
I am sure Microsoft will make a holiday consumer push when the tablets ship, but it will be the underdog against the iPad in the consumer market. In the enterprise though, it will have an advantage over the iPad. The key will be the platform will have to be a stellar performer. If there is the slightest hint that it operates as a PC sans keyboard, it is game over. Based on very early previews, Microsoft seems to be on the right track.
Think the iPad will have a serious contender next year, or will 2012 end the way 2010 did and 2011 will, with the iPad dominating and everything else just being, well, something else?