Finally Apple is meeting real competition for the tablet computer market.
Microsoft Windows 8 devices will soon appear. Based on what we’ve seen to date, they could challenge the iPad.
Microsoft’s success is by no means certain. The technology looks good, but Apple has already carved out all the easy sales and has a three-year lead in building up the support structures and networks needed to sustain a product like the iPad. Apple is also established as THE brand.
Bring your own iPad
Apple has keen prices. The iPad is cheap enough for most white-collar workers to afford to buy their own without too much hardship. Some companies buy them by the container load. Others have bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies which have seen their workers buy iPads by the container-load.
Many commentators fret that Microsoft and its partners won’t compete with Apple unless their devices are considerably lower than the iPad.
Ever met someone who aspires to own an Android tablet?
That’s certainly been the case with Android tablets. The Android tablet experience is distinctly inferior to using an iPad and yet the companies making those devices have asked customers to pay at least as much as the price of an iPad for similarly specified devices. No wonder they haven’t sold.
Windows tablets are different. While they can be fun and personal, they are more likely to be purchased as work tools where different price rules apply. Their ease of integration with Windows desktops and servers is important to business customers. So will be their ability to run Windows apps. Most of all, some Windows tablets will sell bundled with Microsoft Office.
Not just about price
So long as Microsoft doesn’t do something silly, price is not its biggest barrier. The main problem the company faces is the overwhelming power of Apple’s first-mover advantage. Even companies that are closely tied to Microsoft in the workplace and server rooms have deployed iPads and they will have noticed their infrastructures have not collapsed.
Microsoft will have to sell its tablet on its functionality and productivity benefits. If it can show Windows 8 helps people get things done quicker or better, businesses will open their cheque books. Customers will happily pay a premium if there’s a clear justification.
And anyway the price isn’t bad
Hat’s off to New Zealand’s own Paul Spain for getting a worldwide exclusive on Acer’s Windows 8 tablet pricing. Spain reports on his Tech Jungle site:
Acer’s Iconia W510 Windows 8 tablet runs on a dual core Intel Atom and 64GB storage starts at NZ$999 incl tax (NZ$868+tax). A direct conversion would make this US$712 excluding tax.
In other words Acer’s Windows tablets cost as much as their Apple counterparts. That’s a start.
Fleet sales are crucial
While some people will choose a Windows 8 tablet, given a choice most will opt for an iPad. When companies give workers a budget to choose their own BYOD device, Apple will win most of the time. Companies that still keep control of buying the technology their workers use will be more likely to choose a Windows tablet. So fleet sales will be the crucial market for Microsoft.
Depending on the size of the deal, Microsoft and its partners can sharpen the pencil when selling large quantities of tablets. I guess these deals will include bundles of software and cloud services. You might see Microsoft give tablet customers extra SkyDrive storage.
Microsoft’s challenge will be to whip up a corp of enthusiasts to champion its tablets and then convince fleet buyers there’s more value embedded in their device than in a rival gadget.