Microsoft is struggling to claw a place for itself in the competitive smartphone market which is currently dominated by Apple (iOS) and Google (Android). But will Redmond have an easier time breaking into the lucrative tablet world?
Sure, it will be difficult for MS to loosen Cupertino's iron grip and seriously challenge the sleek iPad with its intuitive UI and hundreds of thousands of apps.
Still, Android tablets have yet to hit critical mass, mostly because the popular mobile operating system wasn't initially designed for use on anything but smartphones.
Of course, the Android paradigm is slated to shift in early 2011 with the introduction of Honeycomb, which is reportedly optimized and primed for a wide-range of tablet form factors.
And as Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg points out, now is a "wonderful opportunity" for Microsoft to plant a Windows tablet stake in the ground.
"[Yes], MS has been working very hard at putting a square peg in a round hole," Gartenberg told Bloomberg.
"[But] now that Apple cracked the market no one wants to get left behind...[Clearly, Steve Jobs] did this year what no one had done in the previous 10 - crack that space between the PC and the phone."
However, Capital Advisors CEO Keith Goddard expressed skepticism that Microsoft would be capable of catching up with rival Apple anytime soon.
"[Really], by the time Microsoft gets it figured out everybody will already own an iPad... That train has left the station."
Yet, Michael Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, believes that Redmond could successfully challenge Apple and Android if the company focused on coding a sweet and sexy tablet UI.
"Current Windows tablets are what I call Frankentablets - part laptop and part tablet. They do neither role well," Cherry told Bloomberg.
"Microsoft should leave Windows in the PC environment, where it works best, and focus instead on scaling up its mobile-phone software to work on the bigger screen of a tablet."
My take on it all?
Yes, it will certainly be difficult for Microsoft to challenge Apple with Win7-based tablets, even if they boast a tricked-out UI running on a good ol' Windows kernel.
Of course, no one is denying that software is an essential ingredient for tablet success. But perhaps Microsoft should also consider leapfrogging ahead of Apple and Google in terms of hardware and specs.
And if that means adopting an ARM paradigm rather than the traditional Wintel model, then so be it.
Indeed, a tablet that offer a 50% boost in battery life, increased performance, seamless multitasking and support for serious emulation (VMware anyone?) would definitely be a formidable contender in the lucrative mobile market. [[Microsoft]]