June 15, 2012

Will Microsoft’s Tablet Become The Next Zune?

Michael Harper for

You know, there may be something to this whole iPad thing.

It might be the elegant and pleasing design, it might be the simple user interface, and it might even be the powerful internal components yet long-lasting battery life. No matter how you shake it, the iPad is nothing but a shattering success, earning it up to 62% of the entire tablet market as Apple´s sold some 13 million of these little miracle tabs in the last quarter.

While there have been some feeble and meager attempts at competition, no company has yet been able to come close to Apple´s level of success. After all, their number 2 competitor, Samsung, only sold 1.6 million of their tablets in the last quarter. So what is it these competitors are missing? How is it that only those in Cupertino seem to know how to build these things?

The answer may very well be in their tight integration and closed doors. From design to OS to build, Apple has a tight hold on the entire process, and while every other company has dismissed this kind of integration, they´ve also yet to create a worthy competitor.

Similarly, Apple´s iPod took what little music player market there was by storm and eventually beat out all of the competition. Not only has the iPad crushed what little competition there was, they´ve practically created a tablet market all of their own. Now, in a move reminiscent of Microsoft´s attempt to beat the iPod with their late (in more ways than one) Zune, Microsoft is rumored to be making their very own tablet to finally, once and for all, take on the iPad and get a foothold in this market.

Though they haven´t officially thrown their hat into the ring, they promised a “major” announcement Monday in Los Angeles concerning their tablet strategy. All Things D is reporting the story, as Sources Familiar With the Matter are saying Microsoft has seen the light and have realized they need to manufacture their own tablet.  Such a tablet would be of Microsoft´s own design, right down to the hardware and software. The sources also said Redmond could use ARM or traditional PC processors.

While moving their tablet business in-house may result in a well-built tablet and the first true iPad competitor, it could also make for some very awkward times between their long-term partners, such as Acer, Dell and HP. Should Microsoft decide to adopt this strategy, it could be a complete shift for the company who has–with a few notable exceptions– always been a software company first. They are, after all, most known for their Windows OS and Office suites. If the relationship between them and their partners becomes strained, Microsoft had better hope their new, unified tablets sell very well.

Their latest version of Windows, Windows 8, will bring desktops and tablets together under one OS. As such, they´ve been enlisting the help of each of these partners to build compatible machines and have them ready to go whenever Microsoft gives the signal. With Google and now Microsoft creating their own hardware, these manufacturers have run out of channels to sell their devices.

As for their answer to Apple´s iPod, Microsoft officially killed the Zune last week  during the E3 convention in Los Angeles. Though it only lived for nearly 6 years, it never made any dent in the market and never managed to reach the high standards Apple had set at least 5 years before. Now, 3 years after the iPad arrived and started kicking ass and taking names, will Microsoft be able to learn their lessons and tackle Apple head on?