It’s the Software Experience, Stupid!

Ian Sands, Office Labs courtesy Long Zheng

Ian Sands, Office Labs courtesy Long Zheng

In light of the Apple IPad2 announcement, ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley asked the question did the IPad2 hurt the chances of a Microsoft tablet.You could also replace Apple with Google and still ask the same question. A lot of the tech writers say that Microsoft should create a tablet from its mobile operating system and call it a day. Others, argue they want Windows7 on tablets, to access desktop applications.

To answer the question, Yes the IPad2 will make it harder for Microsoft in tablets, just like it is in mobile. You can’t just leap frog the competition and get to the top spot.

The issue is not how do you win in what is called a post PC environment, it is how do you function.

Apple, today, made the argument that their competition will never catch them because they’re concentrating more on spec and hardware than in creating an experience. Apple is banking on three assumption. One, that in a sea of tablets and slates that ape the IPad’s style but not it’s relative ease of use the IPad will stand out. Second, in an environment where the manufacturers will concentrate on speed, ports, and dual cores, the IPad will win out for it’s consistency. Third, that the ITunes ecosystem will be a better experience for both customer and developer.

Apple will be going for the kill in software, ecosystem, and design. And if Microsoft is smart, that is where they should be concentrating their energies.

Microsoft was early in this game. They worked for years on the Tablet PC and later Ultra Mobile PC platforms without getting real traction. The problem was they built a platform with specifications for hardware, screen size, and touch; but the operating system running it didn’t fit.

Early tablet PC by HP

Early tablet PC by HP

If you bought a Windows tablet today it will have the capabilities for pen and touch input, run Flash, have a video camera, and come with or without a keyboard. But you’d have to find the touch applications and games to use it on; there is no application store. Windows based tablets are also not the best touch experiences. And they were way too expensive when compared to newer products. These devices are more for the guy taking stock, then someone wanting to play Angry Birds. And this was after giving Windows more touch friendly options.

It would be easy for Microsoft just to put out a tablet version of Windows Phone, just up the resolution size and Bam!, it be received as well as the Samsung Tab. Nobody wants a big phone. Yes they want a lightweight system, but they also want something new and fresh. The tablets will see in the coming year will resemble the IPad but won’t deliver on the experience. It will not just be enough to out spec the competition.

Alright I admit I like playing with the possibilities than asking the questions so here are my suggestions:

One all those presentations you have shown about future tech, it’s time to produce them. Let’s be frank, Microsoft has shown us the future and Apple and Google have delivered. You need to show and tell and follow up with coming this fall from Microsoft.

Two, the Metro UI needs upgrading. I like the Metro design, but it still in the early stages. What’s needed is a UI that blends the premises of Metro (Hubs, Panorama, and Tiles) but refined. I recommend getting the guys at Office labs see the 2019 video (see below); actually Lets make Metro 2 this UI. Microsoft needs a tablet that stands out from the crowd.

Three, Microsoft’s tablet needs to be a balance between an attention to hardware and experience. Do not just slap a touch interface on Windows like you did with the Origami Experience. This tablet needs multitasking and good basic applications and they have to be easy to use and find.

Four, start collecting the apps now. Flickr has both a Windows Phone and tablet; if you’re not going to put out a tablet this year, you need to at least get people working on them for when you announce. For example, how about this:

Five, you need to get the storefront right. There is a need for one store. One that can be accessed on the web, on the device, and on the Xbox. This store needs to make it easy for people to find and purchase programs. Microsoft Marketplace needs to have a digital locker and make use of Sky Drive and Live Mesh. And all this should be accessed through a Live account.

If I could sum it up simply, the new computer paradigm is about the software experience, stupid.

For Mary Jo Foley’s article go here.


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