Microsoft failed to make tablets work with Windows for PEN Computing twenty years ago, so why are some people saying that it is set to dethrone the iPad later this year? Can Windows 8 really prove to be a commercial threat to iOS?
I still have my Compaq Concerto from 1992, which is generally accepted as the first ever mainstream Tablet PC. It ran Windows for PEN Computing Version 1, which was actually just Windows 3.1 with some rather rudimentary pen input add-ons included. Although I have sentimental reasons for hanging on to the world's first real commercial tablet, I will readily admit that it sucked elephants through a straw and the reason why was that damn-awful PEN Windows OS abomination.
So when a press release hit my desk this morning which loudly and proudly promised to explain why Windows 8 is going to be, and I quote "fierce competition" for the iPad, I was all eyes. Especially since I am more used to getting press releases which proclaim how the latest Android-powered device or Android OS iteration knocks the socks off of the Apple tablet.
Ever since the bad start with PEN Windows, Microsoft has never quite managed to cut the mustard as far as the tablet computing market is concerned. So why should Windows 8 be any different? Karl Volkman of SRV Network, Inc. (a Microsoft Gold Certified partner, it should come as no surprise) reckons that Windows 8 may "beat the iPad in some ways" and goes on to highlight three key features of the new OS by way of example.
1. Windows 8 is more customizable
Volkman suggests that because Windows 8 lets you personalise tools and tiles on the Start screen by moving and naming them, along with the ability to save your favourite websites and tools to the screen, it allows your Windows 8 powered tablet to be more personal than the iPad.
I have to say that my iPad 2 is pretty personal to me, what with my custom wallpaper and my custom folders holding all my apps in named (by me) categories. Many of these being, of course, online services and sites which I have saved to my tablet desktop using the not at all complicated process of selecting 'Add to Home Screen' from within Safari whilst browsing the web. I really don't think that Windows 8 will worry the average iPad user in this regard. If it's a customisable competitor you want then surely Android is your man. If it's an even more customisable iPad you are after, then there's always the jailbreaking route to ultimate personalisation.
2. Internet Explorer 10 is the fastest Internet browser
Volkman insists that Internet Explorer 10 is super speedy and that means websites will load in seconds, and clicking out of unused sites will also be faster.
Well whoopee-blinking-doo, to be honest. Internet Explorer 10 may well prove to be fractionally faster than Safari or any other tablet browser client, but I hope Mr Volkman is sitting down as what I am about to say may come as something of a shock: websites already 'load in seconds' on my iPad 2 using iOS 5.1 and a 11Mbps broadband connection, or even the much slower 3G connection when I am on the move. Websites that I have finished with can be clicked out of in, well I have never actually bothered to measure the amount of time it takes as 'blink of an eye' is quick enough for anyone surely? Safari on iOS may not be perfect, but speed has never been an issue with me in all the time I've used an iPad. Security is, and Safari rates pretty highly in this regard. Internet Explorer on the other hand...
3. Windows 8 can hold more devices
And finally, Volkman puts forward the argument that using the Devices function enables Windows 8 to easily access multiple files and add-ons in a single domain as his final compelling reason as to why Windows 8 will prove 'fierce competition' to the iPad.
Try selling Windows 8 on the back of this functionality to your average consumer and watch them drop into a coma right there in the store. Try convincing existing iPad owners that this is the missing functionality they have been waiting for and watch them not flock to switch to Windows 8 in their droves. Are you serious? This pretty much smells like straw clutching to me now.
With the iPad 3 hitting the shelves before Windows 8 even wakes up, replete with that gorgeous new screen resolution and much faster graphics processor, I have to admit that I cannot see Apple quaking in its boots at the prospect of any Windows 8 powered tablet nor, to be honest, can I see many prospective purchasers being tempted to turn towards Windows 8 instead of iOS. Indeed, surely Android remains the biggest threat to the iPad, and Windows 8 is unlikely to change that in any meaningful way.