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Did Microsoft Just Beat Apple To The Punch?

by on September 20th, 2011

It’s so rare to talk about Microsoft on this blog that I secretly think there’s a little script that scrubs out any mention of our little friend up in Redmond, WA. But regardless of any devious gremlins that live in the blog, there was a lot of news that happened at last week’s BUILD conference that took place in Anaheim, the biggest of which was the announcement of Windows 8. And it’s big news, even to us iPad users.

What is Windows 8 and why’s it the bees-knees?

Simply put, Windows 8 is the next version of Windows slated for release next year. What’s so special about it (and what makes it relevant to us here at iPadinCanada) is that it’s designed to be something of a hybrid OS that bridges desktop and tablet computing.

Wait. What?

From early previews of Windows 8, it appears there’s both a “Classic” (i.e. Desktop) mode and a “Metro” (or a Windows Phone 7-like) mode that live beside each other in the OS. Users can effectively jump from one view to another, while the apps will adapt to the OS’s current view.

Isn’t that potentially confusing?

Well, yes. Possibly, but here’s the up-shot. Windows 8 was designed with both desktop and mobile computing in mind. Rather than with iOS and Mac OS X, Windows 8 offers the potential of swapping how you use a single device instead of having 2 physically separate devices. This gives Windows a huge advantage over OS X in this field, especially when most day-to-day tasks require both the power and functionality of a desktop interface, as well as the intuitiveness and ease of use of a mobile interface.

But It’s Microsoft! Do they even stand a chance?

Granted, Microsoft hasn’t had a lot of big wins in the mobile space in spite of general approval of the Metro UI in Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8. Still, it’s hard to ignore their strong relationships with PC manufacturers in much the same vein that Google has for their Android devices. In fact, there are plenty of touch-capable desktop and laptop PCs in the wild that could potentially make full use of Windows 8. Or the platform would allow hardware makers to embrace new ideas like Dell’s Inspiron Duo. Windows 8 sounds pretty good now, but I’m sure it could shake things up quite a bit with some solid hardware support like that.

But what does it mean for Apple and the iPad?

It seems like Microsoft came in strong with their vision of a hybrid desktop-mobile computing experience, and effectively beat Apple to the punch in bringing the full mobile experience to the desktop. At the end of the day, though, it’s hard to say what will eventually pan out. Windows 8won’t be available till at least Q3 next year, so there’s plenty of time for both Microsoft and Apple to make changes to their existing OSes. While iOS 5 is more or less set in stone now, there’s still the potential for greater convergence with iOS 6 and maybe an OS XI. What we do know, however, is that it’s definitely too early to count Microsoft out of the tablet game just yet. Apple may have established itself as a strong leader, but Microsoft is looking at leap frogging past Android with something that Google may not be able to fight off.

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