While Android continues to go gangbusters in the world of phones, it’s a slower climb to the top in the world of tablets - the iPad still has the majority share of this category. And while it is creeping closer to a fifty-fifty split between the iPad and Android devices, it’s possible that that moment may be derailed thanks to the imminent launch of Windows 8
The key to Windows 8 - and why it may be disruptive to Android’s grown in the market - is that it’s an operating system designed to work on both tablets and desktops, using a similar interface on both.
That’s important, because even though many of us are going increasingly mobile, computer sales have not exactly cratered: people still need desktop and laptop machines for work, and for doing more complicated tasks that tablets and smartphones just can’t do.
The dominant player on the desktop is, by far, Microsoft. When it releases a new version of the Windows operating system, it’s a given that a good number of people are going to upgrade. That means that, ready or not, a lot of people are going to end up with Windows 8 and its very tablet-centric user interface. That could very well prime a number of people who have so far limited themselves to the desktop experience to start considering tablets.
The imminent launch of Windows 8 also means that a lot of hardware manufacturers are getting ready to launch a new batch of hardware with Windows 8 already onboard, both desktop and mobile. And with the mobile devices, you can bet your boots that there will be convertible devices that can function either as a tablet or as a notebook: some will come as dockable tablets, and others will hit the market at notebooks with screens that spin around.
If you’re having a sense of deja vu, you may have been around for the first wave of Windows-based tablets. But unlike that earlier batch - which required a cumbersome battery-powered stylus for tablet input - this new batch will be multitouch-enabled, just like the iPad or Android tablets. Plus, many of these models will be less expensive than the earlier batch which were, to be fair, full-on notebooks. And the new Windows 8 tablets will come with an operating system that deeply integrates tablet functionality, rather than something that was more of a bolt-on to an earlier operating system.
For what it’s worth, I recently got my hands on a soon-to-be-released Windows 8 tablet, and it was pretty slick. It doesn’t feel like a compromise experience to me, like previous Windows tablets did, and I would certainly have no qualms at all using one.
That’s not to say that say that Windows 8 is bound to succeed in the tablet world. Despite being available for a while now, Windows Phone is still a peripheral player in the smartphone world. And people may get their hands on Windows 8 and ultimately decide - as with Windows Vista - that it’s a dud, killing its momentum after the initial rush
But it would be reckless to count it out too soon, for a number of reasons.
First, Windows 8 tablets are going to be hitting the ground running thanks to big support from the aforementioned major players in the computer hardware biz. You’ll see Windows 8 on many devices from companies like Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer and many more such companies. And because of that, Windows 8 devices will be everywhere you look, even if not all of them will be touchscreen-enabled.
Windows 8 tablets will also have the Microsoft name behind them, which is not something to take lightly when it comes to enterprise integration - large companies that have been nervous about allowing Android devices on-site may feel far more comfortable adding Windows-based tablets into the mix. Plus, there’s the fact that Windows 8 machines accommodate multiple user accounts (and management of those users from a security perspective), making the devices far more flexible than either Android or iPad devices when a single device needs to be shared inside a department.
In the end, it’s possible that Android may still take the same share of the tablet space as it has in smartphones. But with Windows 8 entering the mix, it may be about to get a whole lot harder to get there.