Microsoft bids for buzz with Windows 8 beta-tablets. Is iPad vulnerable? (VIDEO)
Analysts say iPad cannot be dethroned, but at a conference in Anaheim, Microsoft showers enthusiastic software developers with Windows 8 beta-tablets. Let the app-writing begin.
Dave Wolf is walking around Anaheim a bit starry-eyed â€“ and itâ€™s not because heâ€™s headed to Disneyland. The software application executive is in town for the Microsoft BUILD conference for software developers, where he was one of the 5,000 in attendance who had an â€śOprah momentâ€ť on Monday.
â€śThey gave us all tablets with the new Windows 8 installed,â€ť he says, referring to the latest update of the firmâ€™s familiar operating system, which came out in a professional preview version on Tuesday. â€śThis is something weâ€™ve all been waiting for,â€ť says Mr. Wolf, vice president of strategy for Cynergy, a software firm.
Indeed, while it may have become the norm for Apple to capture the cultural spotlight for its latest release, itâ€™s been a while since Microsoft has garnered that kind of buzz.
But the blogosphere is alive with interest â€“ and the first of these beta-tablets is already for sale on eBay, notes Wolf with a laugh. The big question on everyoneâ€™s mind is whether this will give the software giant the jump it needs to compete in the consumer marketplace so dominated by Apple products.
Software developers are enthusiastic â€“ good news for Microsoft, which is looking for them to write the applications for the new operating system due out in 2012 â€“ but many analysts are shaking their heads, pointing to Appleâ€™s overwhelming lead.
â€śDespite the early buzz about Windows 8, Microsoft will never do anything that will kill the iPad or any other Apple product,â€ť says Mike Manzo, chief marketing officer of Openet. At this point, he adds via email, the Apple OS has too much momentum and its usability has become too important to users.
â€śIâ€™m sure that Microsoft has been crafty in the feature set, but nothing will get them past the â€ścoolâ€ť factor that Apple has. At least not for some time,â€ť he adds.
Microsoft seems set on winning battles of the past rather than creating a new future, says Steve Wunker, author of â€śCapturing New Markets.â€ť
[Editor's note: The original version of this story misstated that Mr. Wunker was the author of â€śHow Smart Companies Create Opportunities Others Donâ€™t," which is the subtitle of the book.]
â€śWindows 8 would have been an effective platform had it been introduced two years ago,â€ť he says, â€śbut Apple has won the tablet game,â€ť adding that even Googleâ€™s Android, â€śwhich is a slick system, is a distant second, and few of Microsoftâ€™s strengths in the enterprise translate into the tablet realm.â€ť
Rather than try to win a war it has already forfeited, Microsoft should be building new ways of expanding the computing market, he says.
â€śAfter all, Apple didnâ€™t try to beat Microsoft where that company was strong, but instead it created its own market with the iPad,â€ť he notes, adding, â€śMicrosoft should try to do the same.â€ť
But some who have actually worked with the new system say they are pleasantly surprised.
â€śIt really is like no other OS Iâ€™ve seen,â€ť says Mr. Wolf, â€śitâ€™s pretty unique.â€ť
He points for example to the Metro user interface, with its â€ślive tiles,â€ť which provide live data right on the interface. â€śYou donâ€™t have to click into them to get the weather update or your Twitter feed,â€ť he says.
â€śIt is extremely impressive,â€ť he says. He cautions against writing Microsoft out of the tablet game, noting that while there may be 25 million iPads sold to date, he points to the half billion or so Windows users.
â€śThatâ€™s a pretty healthy installed base of people familiar with and ready to transition into the next operating system,â€ť he says. He suggests that the exclusiveness and closed system of software and hardware that has given Apple such success may work in the short term, but in the long run, people want more flexibility.
Simon Buckingham, founder of Appitalism, the largest app store on the Internet, says the field is open.
â€śItâ€™s not too late at all,â€ť he says, noting that Apple may have taken a good lead, but he points at the many competitors who are still struggling, from Googleâ€™s Android to Blackberryâ€™s Playbook. â€śThereâ€™s plenty of room for another tablet option,â€ť he says.
The market will benefit from another serious competitor, points out Bryan Gonzalez, of the Social & Digital Media Technology Labs Entertainment Technology Center at USC.
â€śApple reinvented itself with pressure from the marketplace,â€ť he points out, adding, â€śeveryone benefits when these major companies have competitors nipping at their heels.â€ť