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Return Of The Mac . . . er, Microsoft, Tablet Computer!

Earlier this year, earnings reports from 2011 revealed that Apple had become the world’s most profitable company.  Exceeding the profits from Exxon-Mobile, Apple Computers reached the zenith of both the tech sector and the business world.  Ever since, every major player in the tech industry has worked to chip away at the exceptional market dominance Apple possesses in almost every niche in which it competes.  While some manufacturers hope to sue Apple out of the number one spot, others are simply offering Apple more competition.  Part of Microsoft’s strategy is to more directly compete with Apple products in markets it had ceded.  With that, Microsoft is re-entering the tablet computer market!

It is important to note that Microsoft’s plan to compete against the iPad represents a return to the tablet computer market.  It was not a lack of corporate vision or market desire that kept Microsoft from competing against the Apple iPad for the last few years.  Instead, Microsoft made a good attempt to launch the tablet computer market over a decade ago . . . and they failed.

In 2001, Microsoft created a set of industry standards for the tablet computer, then called the tablet PC.  Because Microsoft was leading the innovation race, the software giant dictated to hardware manufacturers the specifications which would earn them the right to call their new tablet computers “Microsoft Tablet PCs.”  Some of the specifications included the devices being pen-enabled and running using Microsoft’s Windows XP Tablet PC Edition operating system.  By 2002, the first Microsoft Tablet PC tablet computers hit the marketplace.

Arguably, the Microsoft Tablet PC failed because the line was far too broad.  Microsoft’s specifications for the tablet computer were so broad that different manufacturers were able to meet the qualifications with radically different products.  Booklet, slate, convertible, and hybrid tablet computers were all classified as Microsoft Tablet PCs; there was no ubiquitous design, no stand-out that defined the tablet computer in the mind of consumers.   Alternatively, because laptop computers were just starting to become more affordable, some argue that the market was simply not ready for tablet computers when Microsoft made the attempt.  Some even argue that the pen interface Microsoft utilized contributed significantly to the failure of the first tablet computers.

Obviously, the tablet computer market has changed significantly, in no small part because of Apple’s successful branding of the iPad.  With new standards and ideas on exactly what consumers expect, Microsoft is launching its own line of tablet computers.  In the upcoming weeks, it will be fascinating to see how effectively Microsoft’s new tablet computers may compete against Apple’s established iPad.


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