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Microsoft Fears the iPad

The doomsday forces are out again. Microsoft is in peril, trouble, turmoil, danger...and this time, the threat is the beloved iPad.

Yes, the iPad is invading the enterprise, or so worries Microsoft. To her credit, Mary Jo Foley posted an internal Microsoft slide show about the iPad without predicting impending doom in Redmond. The Microsoft presentation is aimed at partners and is intended to show them how to compete against the dreaded interloper from Apple that is suddenly moving from living rooms into cubicles.

Other observers have not been so staid in their reactions to Microsoft's slide deck. Hints at the iPad ripping enterprise market share away from Window are dropping like gentle snowflakes now, but we have to wonder whether there's a blizzard to come.

There's one thing the pundits are consistently getting right: Microsoft has a lousy (read: no) tablet strategy. And positioning the complexity of Windows against the simplicity of the iPad -- one of Microsoft's tactics -- is a bad idea and shows how far Microsoft has to go before it begins to understand the appeal of the tablet. To be fair, we at RCPU also have a ways to go on that front -- we're still not convinced that tablets are anything special. But people seem to like the look and simplicity of them, two factors that Windows just can't deliver on a tablet right now.

So, the iPad is here to stay. It's grabbing consumer market share, and folks are starting to bring it to zwork, thereby planting seeds for it in the enterprise. But the notion that the iPad is on its way to forcing PCs out the office door is premature at best. Observers keep asking whether companies and users will still need PCs once they have the supposed beauty and simplicity of the iPad at their fingertips.

The answer is of course they will -- at least for now. The iPad is not a full enterprise machine. It's not meant to be. Maybe it will be someday, but for now it's still (for instance) immensely easier to type this document on your editor's Windows XP netbook than it would be on an iPad. Oh, we know, there are keyboards for the iPad and what not, but it's still not ready for the enterprise prime time. It's a machine for consumption and display more than for production.

That's not to say that Microsoft can sit around and continue to blow hot air about tablets without producing anything useful. It's obvious that for whatever reason, people love the iPad and the tablet concept in general. This has caught Microsoft totally off guard -- although how, we don't know. Even as tablet skeptics, we could see the popularity of these things coming just from the hype they generated.

Redmond needs to come up with a product -- not slides -- that can take on the iPad among consumers and in the enterprise. And it needs to do better than it did with, say, the Zune. Something closer to the Xbox would be nice. But the time frame for battling the iPad isn't quite as tight as some in the pundisphere would suggest -- Windows, even Windows XP, has quite a while longer to live in the enterprise.

Do you use an iPad for work? Could you replace your full-featured PC or laptop with it? How and why? Answer at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 01/26/2011 at 1:23 PM


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Reader Comments:

Wed, Jan 26, 2011 Walter Adamson Melbourne, Australia

I enjoy RCP and your many insights but I'm not sure I entirely agree here. Not that I am a doomsayer on Microsoft, in fact I think they have the best cloud strategy out there, which is due to their on-premise + cloud capabilities. Sure the iPad is limited, but it's not about the iPad. It's about the whole ecosystem and especially the apps store. The apps store has many business productivity apps, and those apps are often web-enabled on a "PC" as well. They don't require Microsoft they just require a web/browser-capable PC - the dreaded Google OS for example. Even the Windows Live experience caters to this. So I think that the iPad ecosystem will have a much more profound and deeper penetration, and conversion, of the enterprise market then might be apparent today. Isn't it kind of glaring that everywhere you go to meetings, with the exception of IBM, that so many iPads appear in the room with the execs? Walter @adamson http://xeesm.com/walter

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