Microsoft and Google have had some interesting announcements to make at their respective keynotes this month. In addition to introducing the world to the first Microsoft-produced Windows computer, Microsoft has made a bold statement in just how important the tablet market is to its long-term business strategy.
Likewise, Google partnered with Asus to great a budget-friendly tablet that wipes the floor with current contenders in its price range. These contenders including the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, both of which are running on forked versions of Android 2.3 Gingerbread. With 4.1 Jelly Bean coming out, it’s clear that Google hopes to fight fragmentation through forcing the hand of tablet makers to allow a more pure Android experience and keep current with the latest versions of the mobile operating system.
Indeed the tablet market is heating up, even now in its third year to market. Netbooks, arguably the second biggest craze in the past five years short of the tablet, are hard to find in the wild these days. In fact, these ultra-compact budget-friendly miniature laptops have all but vanished in the computing world. Will tablets suffer the same fate? All indications this week point to a strong and growing tablet market in the years ahead.
Microsoft Windows 8
Windows 8 is built for tablets. Yes, it could be argued that the existence of the classic Aero desktop indicates that Microsoft isn’t ready to dive in to the new world where apps reign supreme over programs, but there’s no question that Microsoft is betting the farm on future hardware being based in a touchscreen era. Touching your laptop or desktop’s screen is obviously not the preferred way of communicating with your system, but for tablets, it’s the only way to go.
Microsoft unveiled the Surface tablet, an innovative combination of form and function where the keyboard is also the cover and a tablet runs on a full-fledged Ivy Bridge processor. Unlike the first tablet computers backed by Microsoft, the surface has every bit as much style and mobile presence as any other tablet computer running iOS or Android.
The Microsoft Surface is the software giant’s answer to the enterprise market’s need for a tablet that is truly capable of keeping up with the demands of its corporate user. With all the power of a Windows laptop, the Surface delivers all the established security and networking power of Windows to the tablet for the first time.
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and Nexus 7
Google made some stunning announcements during the first day of the 2012 Google I/O conference. In addition to introducing a media streaming device, it also announced a new tablet that delivers high-end processing capability to a size and price of a budget tablet. In fact, the Nexus 7 is priced on-par with what is really an Android-powered eBook reader and media device.
In just a few years, tablets have gone from oversized media players to quad-core computers with advanced graphics processing and hundreds of thousands of apps made for virtually every need the user may have.
In Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, Google concentrated on improved optimization and user experience. Everything from the way a user is notified to the speed of transitions between apps has been given a once-over by Google developers.
Could the Future Be Run on Tablets?
One of the more intriguing things Microsoft revealed about the Surface tablet was its ability to act as both a tablet and a laptop with the help of the keyboard cover. The Surface, much like the Transformer Prime, has a lot of appeal to folks that want to enjoy the benefits of a touchscreen device, but may not be ready to give up a tactile keyboard in the process. Either way, it’s a sign pointing towards a future where we’re transitioning away from desktops in favor of mobile devices.
Phones and tablets are beginning to come out that can be plugged in to larger monitors and used as if they were more full-featured desktops. This is the case with the professional version of the Microsoft Surface, allowing the users to connect the device to a larger desktop monitor through HDMI and take advantage of the Windows 8 Pro desktop environment.
The Evolution of the Desktop OS
The mobile operating systems are advancing to a point where they may well conceivably overtake what we know today as a desktop-class operating system. Windows 8 has already evolved into that type of environment. Apple’s OS X is also picking up some features (such as Launchpad) from iOS.
It would be foolish to believe that desktop and mobile operating systems won’t eventually merge into single products.
There are plenty of advantages to going with the all-in-one route as well. Users would only need to learn how to use the operating system once, which eliminates the jarring polarizations between today’s mobile and desktop operating environments. Perhaps this is the heart of Microsoft’s long-term strategy.