Why Microsoft Won Tablets
Full disclosure: It's around 4am local time and I've may or may not have had a couple glasses of wine (I don't remember), but I'm thinking clearly....I swear.
I'm not the biggest fan of Windows 8. (see here) As a primarily desktop-mouse and keyboard user, I really hate how they are essentially forcing me to interact with Metro, an interface that is really only meant for touch. I don't like having to go back and forth between the two paradigms. It feels frustrating and jarring.
When you think about it, it really isn't even the same operating system. You can't run desktop apps in metro or vice versa. And both environments have their own separate settings menu and default browser. They really are two different OS's glued together.
It's not that I don't like Metro. I actually think the UI of Metro is terrific. The concepts that Microsoft has introduced are amazing/mind blowing. But as someone who prefers using a mouse and keyboard as opposed to a finger, I wish they were separate.
Having said that, Microsoft is doing the right thing and they've made the right decision. By combining their Tablet OS with their Desktop OS (as much I personally don't like it) they are ensuring success in the Tablet space.
Right now, the Tablet market isn't really much of a market at all. It's the iPad and that's pretty much it. No one else has come close to enjoying the same sort of success as Apple. At best, some Manufacturers have been able to settle into a niche (like Amazon), but lets face it, Cupertino couldn't care less about that. There are two reasons no one has been able to threaten them: performance and developer support.
The performance of the Touchpad was really bad. The playbook was okay, but has it's issues. Android tablets have mostly disappointed in this category as well. Some have come close like the Transformer Prime, but nothing compares to the iPad.
Everything that I've seen from Metro on Windows 8 indicates that it has great performance. Everything is smooth. I installed the consumer preview on a netbook and it was snappy. We've seen how Metro has had great performance on Windows Phone, I don't think it will be any different on Tablets. Granted, I don't think I've seen W8 run on an ARM tablet, I don't feel any reason to worry about it. I have a strong feeling that W8 Tablets will meet the performance level of the iPad.
Ballmer himself will tell you, it's always about developers, developers, developers! No iPad competitor has been able to get real support. HP got nowhere. The Playbook couldn't really even get support from its Email department. Android Tablets have fared a little better, but again the iPad is soo far ahead.
The biggest reason none of these competitors have gotten developer support is two-fold. On one hand, Developers can't waste time on supporting platforms that have barely made a dent in the market. And on the other hand, Tablets won't be able to make said-dent if they don't have any developers making compelling apps for their platform. It's a Catch-22.
However, by combing its desktop OS and Tablet OS, Microsoft solves that fundamental problem.
Think about it. There were well almost 400 million PC's sold last year. Lets say that Microsoft just moves half of that with W8. That's around 200 million PC's that when turned, boot into Metro and see the Windows Store, which only offers and sell's Metro apps. In contrast, Apple has sold around 75 million iPads all-time. Even though most of those 200 million devices won't be tabets, those aren't numbers any Developer (at least those that want money) can ignore. Microsoft is still giving developers an enormous customer base to go after.
Before it's even officially launched, Microsoft is in command of second place. Just look at the apps that are available in the consumer preview. Android Tablets don't even have half of those apps. It's really sad and as an Android fanboy myself, very very depressing.
Like I said, I'm not the biggest fan of Windows 8 because it feels like they're combining to oppositie operating systmes. But by combing them, they can leverage their massive current and future user base to in effect, bully and cheat their way into tablet dominance. The iPad will still reign for a few more years, but with the abundance of worthy competitors combined with various form factors, it will fall to second place.
Then again, maybe I'm crazy and should go to bed.