Microsoft may be left behind by the growth of the tablet market.
In a few years, Apple has managed to make a space for itself at the center of the smart phone market. While Google’s has joined the fray with the Android operating system more recently, their results so far are impressive and they’re on track to carve out a good market share for themselves.
These are two touch-based operating systems that are now building a customer base that’s comfortable with their interface, and a large market of apps designed to work with them. Where’s Microsoft? Even Steve Ballmer has admitted that they’re well behind in the battle for customers in the smart phone market.
The real problem for Microsoft is that this isn’t going to stop at smart phones. Apple has already begun selling the iPad – a tablet PC that uses the same iOS software that runs the iPhone – with great success. Recently, both Dell and Acer have announced that they intend to produce and sell a new line of tablet PCs.
What operating system have they chosen to support them? Android.
This isn’t the first time that a company has tried to make a market for tablets, and all the previous attempts failed, but that was partly because no one was doing a very good at creating the touch interface required. Now that both Apple and Google have successfully done exactly that, the tablet PC has a real chance of becoming commonplace.
More importantly, the iPad is attempting to build on the success that Amazon’s Kindle has had in persuading consumers to accept the idea of ebooks. With ebook software already available for Linux, it’s likely that Android-based tablets are going to do the same. This means that there’ll be an entire product niche of tablet-style personal computers that are designed to do well at displaying text. It won’t be a large jump from there for users to expect to have rich capability at creating and editing documents as well.
There’s still time for Microsoft to mount a meaningful response, but there’s also an opening here. If Microsoft’s Office doesn’t become the office software of choice for the tablet market, another company could grab a decent chunk of market share away from them.