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Stuck in the PC mold! Microsoft reads up Tablets wrong

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on January 14, 2011

One in five Americans plan to buy a tablet computer within the next three years. That’s great news for Apple, RIM, HP Palm, Motorola and others who have placed their bets on tablets. That however is horrible news for Microsoft. For every Tablet that sells, one laptop sells less. With every laptop that sells less, Microsoft looses a customer. And Microsoft has no alternative tablet where it may hold that customer. It feels like Microsoft is all set to repeat its smartphone blunder over again.Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform might do very well on a tablet, much like Apple’s iOS moved from the iPhone to the iPad, but Microsoft isn’t even considering that strategy right now. Instead, the company is betting on Windows 7–its PC desktop operating system–with perhaps a few new user interface elements layered on top.

Mr. Ballmer reads the tablets wrong. Horribly Wrong!

Mr. Ballmer reads the tablets wrong. Horribly Wrong!

Reports suggest that Windows tablet (rumored to be running a step up Windows CE OS, possibly called Windows 8 ) will actually see the light of the day in 2012. One hopes that by the time Microsoft comes along with its Tablets, it should get a foothold in the crowded tablets market. Currently the field has been left wide open for Apple and possibly Android to run away with significant leads. Goldman Sachs has already sounded alarm bells for Microsoft suggesting that the company’s revenue growth would slow from 12% in 2010 to 7% in 2011. HP is counting on its acquisition of Palm to boost its position in tablets –a major vote of no confidence in Microsoft’s tablet plans. WinMo 7.0, Microsoft’s latest salvo in the Smartphone OS space has been well appreciated but has not given any indication that Microsoft would increase its smartphone market share above 10% any time soon.

The CES gave little hope that Microsoft sees Tablets as a major category yet- Microsoft would continue down the same old path of customizing desktop Windows for tablets. It is not attempting a fresh, interesting, new mobile OS and moving it up into tablets. Making the core version of Windows work better on tablets is not the same as creating a specialized tablet group. Porting Windows to ARM processors, redesigning other prominent Microsoft applications like Office so they work better on touch screens, or any of the other steps that would suggest Microsoft is taking the tablet market seriously.

Will History overwhelm the Wintel Platform?

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on December 3, 2010

For as long as I remember, Computers meant Windows and “Intel Inside” to me. This was called the “Wintel” platform because the Microsoft Windows operating system and Intel processors were virtually synonymous. In an era of rapidly increasing mobility, though, Intel and Microsoft are facing an uphill task. Their de facto dominance has been challenged and are now faced with potential irrelevance. Both Microsoft and Intel are fending off competitors in their core markets, while also struggling to establish a presence on smaller, mobile platforms.

History doesnot favour Wintel
To many, this is the history of computing revisited. Each wave of computing had its share of Goliaths (Large and Powerful incumbents) loosing out to Davids. There was mainframe first, which was dominated by IBM, then came the mini computer dominated by DEC in the second wave, then came the third wave with workstations dominated by Sun and Apollo, then the PC which is where Wintel had a free and undisputed run. Now it’s the mobile architecture that is going to be the main computing platform at least on the terminal side with the cloud backing it as the Data dump.

Android driving Windows Irrelevant
Android is also subtly shifting our understanding of the purpose of an operating system. Android is a means to an end for Google. The better Android is and the more it lets us do, the more of our data Google can potentially get access to. And data is Google’s raison d’être. By way of comparison, Windows is an end in itself–a dead end. Microsoft gains little benefit from Windows other than the income from software licenses, which is starting to sound like a very old-fashioned way of thinking in this age of mobile devices and data clouds. Windows Mobile 7.0 and its suit of services have been launched and have received some traction. However, challenging the Android would be mean WinMo 7.0 would have to play at a different level altogether.

ARM severely challenges Intel
What smartphones and tablets have in common is that they are almost universally built using ARM processor technology rather than Intel. ARM also powers the next big category of products: Tablets, EBooks and Internet TVs (Google). It is not that Intel is unaware of the benefits of the ARM architecture on mobility platforms. The tablet processor architecture unveiled by Intel codenamed Oak Trail–is a system on a chip (SoC) that promises to consume 50 percent less power while also enabling full HD video playback. This however is not expected to go into production until early 2011. In the mean time, ARM steam rolls establishing very key strategic partnerships that would take it to the next level.

Both Microsoft and Intel have been late to react to subtle shifts in the landscape which have suddenly cascaded into a all embracing powerful wave. Both these powerhouses are making and effort to re-orient and re-invent their businesses. However, the falls of greats in computing history is a telling story.

One thing is for sure, though–the fight for market share and market relevance will be good for business professionals and consumers because it creates competition which will force all parties to be innovative in their designs, and appealing in their pricing in order to set their smartphone or tablet apart from the crowd.

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Tablets Disruption: Enter Iconia!

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on November 24, 2010

Even while the comparison between Android powered Samsung Tab and Apple’s iPad are still doing the rounds of press and blogosphere, Acer delivers the “Touchpad” a completely new Tablet form factor, one with dual screens. The dual touchscreen ICONIA as it is called is powered by the Windows 7 and is extremely close to Microsoft’s dual screen Courier tablet, which has supposedly been shelved by Microsoft.

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The ICONIA lends a certain “ccol” factor to the design and has a virtual keyboard to mange tasks.Instead of a start button, it features the “Acer Ring” which will appear “by placing five fingers on the screen and making a grab gesture.” The “touchbook” comes equipped with a bunch of Acer developed applications including the TouchBrowser, TouchPhoto, TouchMusic, TouchVideo each enhanced with the gesture library. Likewise it includes the apps SocialJogger, My Journal and Scrapbook.This beauty is due release in Q1,2011 and can be a serious competition to the single form tablets.

The Pics are enticing enough and for one I am not sure if I should postpone my iPad purchase till Q1, 2011!!!

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