Apple did what Microsoft was unable to accomplish: make the tablet PC a commodity rather than a geek’s toy for niche markets. The huge success of the iPad allowed Apple to capture in upwards of 90% of the tablet market, but two years later it has been sinking in terms of market share, losing most of its share to Android tablets. Likewise, the iPhone has been suffering a similar fate, now with the Galaxy S III outselling the iPhone 4s and Android now consuming 75% of the smartphone market share.
The johnny-come-lately, Microsoft, has been been pimping Windows 8 and its little brother, the Windows Phone 8. The verdict is still out as to whether or not Microsoft will be able to capture a substantial portion of either the tablet of smartphone market with its new operating systems. Nevertheless, Microsoft’s historic strategy for success has never been one of innovation, rather one of letting the other guys duke it out and then come behind them with a new product that soars to the top of the charts as with DOS, Windows 3.1, Office, and Xbox. Whether or not Windows 8 will follow this pattern is yet to be seen.
Android’s success is related to its openness, cost, and portability, with cost probably being the largest factor. After much reservation and deliberation, I decided to buy a tablet. A trip to Fry’s Electronics revealed a diverse tablet market with anything from an $85 to a $500 tablet among Android tablets alone. My budget prevented me from buying anything in Apple and Microsoft camp, so I didn’t even bother. I was impressed with the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, a Samsung tablet loaded with lots of feature: A forward and rear camera, IR transmitter, SD port, dual-core processor, 1 Gig of RAM, Bluetooth and with a dock (purchased on eBay for $6) HDMI out — all for less than $200.
The difficulty that Microsoft and Apple are going to have is in addressing the sub $300 range for tablets. As of right now, neither company has any products that are competing with Android tablets and smartphones. Microsoft’s saving grace may be businesses that replace aging Windows 7 and Windows XP machines with Windows 8, but this remains to be seen. A recent survey showed that most companies have no plans to roll out Windows 8, but it’s too early to tell.
In any case, the goal isn’t to make an iPhone killer or iPad killer anymore, rather it is to make an Android killer. Apple and Microsoft are the one’s playing catch-up now.