It’s obvious that Microsoft knows that tablets are the future for consumer computing. They’ve invested and continue to invest heavily on the platform, both in hardware and software. The win they’re courting is the creation of an ecosystem where consumers seek out the triple crown of technology exclusively from Microsoft – a Windows phone, Xbox media in the living room and a tablet for everything in between with consumable media being bought through the online Microsoft store. But in their hustle to push Windows 8, the touch-friendly device OS, onto everything, including laptops and desktops, have they considered that growth in tablets will cannibalise sales in PCs, the device of choice for business?
I’m not sure how many of us here live in the corporate world, but if you do, you’ve probably see more and more folks marching into meetings with tablets instead of lugging their laptops, or heaven-forbid, paper and pen. Tablets are certainly coming for the office. The last hurdles are getting the Office Suite on them and an acceptable keyboard for actual typing. The Office solution is pretty much here with Microsoft pledging to have a full, cloud-enabled version available on RT, as well as Office365 already out there.
The other part is a bit tricky, because it’s not just about the keyboard, it’s really about satisfying two opposing situations. Those situations are portability that’s better than a laptop and the comfort of working on a full-scale desktop. Inherently, tablets are portable. Combine this with some sort of clever Bluetooth keyboard and you have everything you need for bouncing through meetings. Out of the two situations, the second is perhaps the more common business environment. Can you imagine sitting at your desk with a tablet and case/keyboard?
It seems that computer manufacturers are starting to figure this out. Acer, Samsung and even Microsoft are toying with tablet dock concepts. While the world really hasn’t seen the Microsoft effort, the sort of dock device they need would have the capability to run a proper desktop monitor, have close to a full-size keyboard and have the capability to dock and remove on the fly. These specifications shouldn’t be that hard to hit, especially since each capability exists in one form or another already.
The concept listed above should really force Microsoft to get a move on. With firms increasingly migrating to cloud services for a variety of reasons including ease of upkeep and implementation, the prospect of moving to ARM-based machines will become even more appetising. Couple this with the bring-your-own-device trend’s capability to push off IT purchases onto employees and it should send a chill down the spine of Microsoft’s Windows business unit. The cash cow is in jeopardy.
You see, most of the new things Microsoft has been working on is bankrolled by the heretofore rock-solid business-end of Windows sales. While home computers have been dwindling and where a machine like Asus’s giant Android tablet/all-in-one seem like a good idea, the business world is still buying Windows laptops and even desktops. If Surface takes off in the corporate world (and who wouldn’t want to pack a tablet instead of a laptop for business travel), the tablet will be chewing away income from the established market. The sad thing is that if Microsoft doesn’t sell tablets into the business world, Android will. This makes their only choice to either eat their own market for lunch or have someone else eat it for them.