I can totally understand why the Windows team wants its own tablet. After all, Apple has been running away with the most important device category since, well, the touchscreen smartphone, for years while Microsoft and its OEM partners have been watching glumly from the sidelines. Actually, Microsoft has been developing Windows 8 and Windows RT to compete, so not just watching glumly, building product, actually. But OEM partners like Samsung and ASUS have been developing tablets on Android, not Windows.
Along comes Microsoft Surface, a tablet aimed at "work and play." So why does Microsoft feel the need to compete with its most important partners? Three reasons that CIOs should tune into:
Surface (presumably) sets the bar for other tablet OEMs. PC makers have been racing to the bottom to meet your stringent price requirements while still trying to compete. That of course created the market gap that Apple swooped into with the MacBook Air that your employees love. Microsoft can't let that happen with tablets. So job one for Surface -- and it better be frickin' great -- is to prod partners to make great tablets. So even if partners like Dell and HP are angry about the move, it could pay off in better Windows tablets. And that could pay off for CIOs as you look for a tablet you can manage and more importantly, run Office on.
CEO Tim Cook opened Apple's worldwide developer conference 2012 this morning in San Francisco. The event sold out the Moscone West venue in 90 minutes, a clear indication that Apple's star is still rising rapidly. (Developers are the first to smell a slowdown in momentum and so are a good indicator of the future.)
Here are my quick impressions of what Apple's announcements mean for developers, hence for CIOs and the IT organization.
New versions of its operating systems, OS X Mountain Lion and iOS 6, just one year after the last upgrade. That pace of innovation coupled with the rapid adoption Apple has created with free or low-cost upgrades and App Store distribution means that most iPhones and iPads will be running the new software a few months after it ships in the fall and many existing Macs will also get it. Developers get a single market to code to (unlike the intense fragmentation and dusty versions of Android). CIOs get confidence that the latest security and features will be present.
A significantly upgraded notebook line with faster MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros and a new Flash-based MacBook Pro with a Retina, very high definition screen. (This announcement caused the first unprompted "oooooo" from the enthusiastic developer audience.) Developers will love the powerful machine. BYO computer aficionados will be happy to have even better ultrabooks and notebooks. CIOs will wonder even louder about where HP and Dell and Microsoft are with comparable computers.
Google just bought QuickOffice. I think that means they now get the App Internet and are moving beyond pure Web.
The App Internet is the future of software architecture and the foundation of how people get stuff on their mobile devices (we call that mobile engagement). The App Internet means native (or hybrid HTML5) apps on mobile and desktop devices that use the Internet to get services. It's the native app that makes the user experience good. It's the Internet that makes the user experience relevant to life.
Google has been "pure Web," meaning that they don't want native apps on any device. Of course, they've been moving slowly away from that pure architecture for years now even as its marketing rhetoric has denied it. Remember that when iPhone shipped in 2007 it had a native Google app called Maps on it. And they have readers on their Android devices.
In the meantime, QuickOffice has been growing handily because it gets the App Internet -- any device, anywhere, anytime using a native app. If you want to read or edit Microsoft Office formats on your iPad or Android phone or whatever, you can do it with QuickOffice. That has led consumers and information workers and sometimes entire enterprises (in the case of one life sciences company with 15,000 iPads deployed, for example) to use QuickOffice to access and edit the critical documents they need on their tablets.
What does this mean?
For Google, it means they've woken up to embrace the App Internet as the way to deliver great user experiences on mobile devices.
For Microsoft, it means Google has done another "embrace and extend" play to take keystrokes away from Microsoft Office. And that ahead of Microsoft's purported but unannounced plans to port Office to iPad.