Will Microsoft Shoot Itself in the Foot with Its Tablet?

2012 – When it comes to competing with Apple, Microsoft and Google are between a rock and a hard place.

According to rumors, Microsoft is preparing to unveil a Windows RT tablet under its own brand name, and one reason Google bought Motorola was to have the ability to build its own smartphones.

Problem is, if Microsoft enters the tablet space with its own hardware, what tablet maker will want to adopt Windows RT instead of Android? Microsoft will have a twofold advantage – it won’t have to pay to license Windows RT from itself, and it can spread development costs across all Windows 8 licensees.

Seriously, what tablet maker is going to want to subsidize Microsoft’s attempt to take on the iPad with its own hardware? And if Microsoft does this, there will also be the fear that someday Microsoft will enter the PC market with its own branded desktop and laptop PCs.

Google is in a similar situation with Android. Even though Android is free, (mostly) open source software, were Google to build its own tablet or smartphone, hardware makers might see it as unfair competition and defect to a alternative operating system.

Just as Apple failed to increase Mac OS market share by licensing its operating system, Microsoft or Google taking on their own customers so they can take on Apple seems doomed to failure. Sure, Apple has been very successful “making the whole widget” since the days of the Apple II, but that doesn’t mean Microsoft or Google can duplicate its success, because both companies have used the very different model of licensing their operating systems.

Worldwide Smartphone Sales, 2007 to 2012

Android and iOS are thriving while other mobile operating systems struggle to survive.

Worldwide, only Android and Apple’s iOS have significant and growing market share. Symbian and RIM are on the decline, webOS never made a dent in the market, and Windows has such an insignificant part of the market that it’s laughable. Although pundits are predicting great success for Windows RT, Samsung’s Bada seems to be the only other mobile operating system that’s growing – and at a very slow pace.

A Tough Nut to Crack

Apple doesn’t have a stranglehold on the tablet OS market, but between iOS and Android, nobody else seems to be making a dent. RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook was a disaster, as was HP’s TouchPad. Windows-based Tablet PCs are just a tiny niche in the PC market.

Were Microsoft to release its own Windows RT tablet, I would expect any manufacturer who was planning on selling a Windows tablet to immediately abandon those plans and look into Android – and possibly webOS, which is now free and open source.

Were Microsoft and Google to build their own tablets, it could be the impetus the industry needs to look a other free, open source mobile platforms – and that could give webOS a well-deserved place in the market.

Just as Apple couldn’t reinvent itself as an operating system company, Microsoft cannot turn itself into a tablet maker without offending every PC maker that licenses Windows.

That said, looking at the mistakes HP and RIM have made in the tablet space, why would we expect Microsoft not to do something equally stupid?

Keywords: #microsofttablet #microsoftsurface #windowsrt #surfacert

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