Got an Apple iPad at Home? Get Ready for Windows 8!

Surprising innovation from Microsoft changes the tablet-computing market.
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Got an Apple iPad at Home? Get Ready for Windows 8!

Sep 19, 2011 3:45 PM, by Jason Bovberg

Surprising innovation from Microsoft changes the tablet-computing market.

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Are you one of the millions of people for whom the Apple iPad has transformed the way you go about your personal computing? Particularly for those people whose computing needs are fairly modest—after all, this otherwise cool device is missing many of the necessities of a true computing experience (like USB support, a disk drive, multitasking capabilities)—the iPad is a convenient, sleek way to play, surf, and communicate. In short, it has about all we want in a cool computing device for simple multimedia in the home. Who knew tablet computing would so suddenly come into its own after so many false starts? Leave it to Apple, right?

And seemingly against all odds, the iPad has surged forward in the public consciousness, tossing up healthy sales numbers, continuing solid growth, and shrugging off any number of promising competitors. I’ve seen strong word-of-mouth for such alternatives as the Research in Motion (RIM) BlackBerry PlayBook, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the HP Slate, the Motorola Xoom, and the Cisco Cius—not to mention the Nook Color, if your home multimedia needs lean toward digital reading. But despite any real advantages among these alternatives, common wisdom tells us that they’re just pretenders.

Such is the hold that Apple has on our consumer consciousness. It’s a remarkable phenomenon; one that I feel is mostly deserved. Apple makes—for the most part—outstanding products that obviously stand apart from the pack, thanks to their stylish, groundbreaking interfaces and fluid usability. But come on—isn’t there something vaguely disturbing about our blind allegiance to Apple even in the event of real usability and vulnerability concerns (e.g., the iPhone 4 antenna snafu, various security worries)? Maybe not—Apple admittedly does so much right that these problems almost seem trivial. The question is whether Apple’s problems will remain trivial as the company continues its remarkable growth, and in the event of Steve Jobs’ departure from the position of CEO.

But this is the reality: Apple has surged forward with an unlikely success story in the iPad. The device has taken firm root in the home, offering an entertaining computing experience for the whole family. I have a friend who routinely hands over his $800 iPad to his six-year-old daughter to play her favorite princess game, and my own daughters’ grandparents are always letting my kids take control of their high-end $1000 iPad model to record video or take photos on its massive screen. (And I can only hold my breath as their little hands awkwardly maneuver the sleek, slippery tablet.) In the space of little more than a year, the iPad has transcended its initial purpose as an AV plaything and become an actual threat to the personal computer—in short, threatening the very way we perform computing at home and at work.

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Got an Apple iPad at Home? Get Ready for Windows 8!

Sep 19, 2011 3:45 PM, by Jason Bovberg

Surprising innovation from Microsoft changes the tablet-computing market.

And that puts the iPad directly in Microsoft’s sights. It’s one thing for the iPad to obliterate its tablet competition—such as it was and is—but it’s quite another to begin to threaten the PC. See, now you’ve just awakened a sleeping giant. And Microsoft really had been sleeping until now. In January 2011, Paul Thurrott wrote that “a year after Ballmer and company promised a strong response to the iPad and explicitly noted it would do to the tablet market what it previously did with netbooks—come from behind for the win—Microsoft's tablet strategy is still in shambles.” But today—just days after the critically acclaimed developer preview of Windows 8—it actually seems as if Microsoft’s “come from behind and win” strategy has some merit.

Last week, Microsoft demonstrated an early version of its upcoming OS, Windows 8, on a prototype Samsung tablet. The prototype had an 11.6in. screen, front and rear cameras, a 1.6GHz processor, a USB port, a microSD slot, and a SIM-card slot. It also boasted HDMI and Ethernet ports and a Bluetooth keyboard. Immediately, it’s a more impressive piece of hardware, with far more tech options than the iPad. But where the device really wowed was the software. Windows 8 is poised to be a game-changer.

I feel like I’ve already had an extended sneak preview of the new Windows 8 interface because I recently moved from Apple iOS to Windows Phone 7. I made the switch because I craved the integration/synchronization potential of the Windows Phone 7 interface with my home systems, which are Windows-based. I now have seamless integration with Exchange/Outlook, Office, and even Xbox. The game synchronization is particularly cool, letting me fluidly access all my gamer-profile information on my phone. Facebook integration is also spectacular. This is a terrific, underrated smartphone.

And now I’m suddenly feeling a similar sense of excitement about the same kind of UI in the home. Windows 8 has really taken the Windows Phone 7 Metro-style live tiles and hubs functionalities to the next level. It’s really a beautiful interface—intuitive, colorful, and responsive. It offers fabulous opportunities for customization and personalization, letting you to pin people, web pages, RSS feeds, and more alongside your apps. And from what I’ve seen, Windows 8 is also more colorful, even more intelligently designed, and more flexible than its phone counterpart.

Microsoft holds a market share of 90 percent for desktop OS. And now Windows 8 marks the OS’s first concentrated attack in the tablet arena—a tablet arena that, thanks to the accomplishments of the iPad, is encompassing more than just multimedia. What I’m saying is that in a world dominated by Windows households, Windows 8 holds a ton of promise for both traditional PCs and tablets. And with my Windows Phone in hand, I already know it’s compelling and innovative. And surprise—it’s from Microsoft!

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