After this weeks CES keynote, it’s clear to me (as if it wasn’t before) that Microsoft and Apple are heading in two different directions. Apples response to the operating system, as proven with their preview of OSX Lion, is that they want to make the desktop as simple as iOS which runs on iPods, iPhone and iPad devices. Bringing the app-mentality, app-launcher and app-store to the desktop is clearly their main priority. “Form over function” always seems to be the unofficial mantra coming out of Cupertino.
Microsoft, on the other hand, has something totally different in mind. Whereas “form over function” is Apple’s mantra, “function over form” could be Microsoft’s. They want Windows on every device, which is clear after their announcement to make Windows ARM-compatible. The problem with this thinking is that they tried this before and failed (remember “Windows Everywhere”). In their own words, and I’m paraphrasing, they essentially said in their Windows Phone 7 unveiling that consumers didn’t want a copy of Windows on their handheld devices, which is odd, when you consider that Microsoft spent last years and this years CES touting Windows 7 as their tablet solution.
I’m not trying to make a case that Microsoft and Apple should be heading in the same direction, in fact, I believe just the opposite. I don’t want my desktop “dumbed-down” with a tablets OS, as Apple believes. I also don’t want Windows 7 on a tablet/phone device. I think the answer is very clear and literally right in front of Microsoft. Nearly everyone agrees, even those who don’t particularly like Windows Phone OS, that Microsoft has its tablet solution staring it in the face, yet they deny it anyway. Microsoft has said time and time again that they have no plans to port the Windows Phone OS to a larger form factor and the CES keynote reaffirmed exactly that position. There is clearly a disconnect between Microsoft and its followers, with regards to their choice of a tablet OS.
Maybe Windows 8 on ARM will be the perfect OS for both tablets and PC’s. But Steve Sinofsky said himself that we may still be two or more years away, so is Microsoft really planning on sitting out of the tablet market until then? By stubbornly pushing Windows 7 as a tablet OS, I believe they are doing just that.
All is not lost and the sky is not falling in Redmond. While Apple clearly has the lead in the mobile markets, many still forget that Microsoft owns almost every other market that exists. They are clearly doing some things right: the outstanding growth and maturity of Bing, the revamp of Windows Mobile, Windows 7, Xbox/Kinect, Office, Cloud-based computing and, while it is slowly losing ground, Internet Explorer is still one of the dominant browsers out there. Also, do not forget that Microsoft is not only in the game with today’s technology, but they are heavily investing in their future with motion and voice control-computing.
Even with their sucesses, with Microsoft’s continuing push to get Windows 7 on tablets, have you completely lost faith in their ability to provide a positive tablet experience or are you willing to drop money and battery life for the advantages of a full-featured desktop OS on a slate?