It’s no secret that Microsoft is dominant in the PC industry. According to some estimates Windows (in all its various flavors) account for about 88.6% of the PC market, Mac OS X has almost 7%, and Linux has 4.5%. While I make no secret that I prefer Mac, it doesn’t surprise me that Windows is still so popular.

The simple truth of the matter is this: The PC market is driven first by price, then by usability and choice. Linux may be the cheapest and most diverse, but of the three it is also the most difficult to use for the average user. Windows on the other hand may be more expensive than Linux but it is far simpler to use and there is still plenty of choices to choose from. Macs are very easy to use, but they are the priciest and there is the least diversity of their line (less choice of specs, etc.). True, you may feel that Macs are very hard to use or that Linux is by far the simplest of the three to operate, but we’re talking about the general populous and what they think: Linux is too hard, Macs are too expensive, Windows is just right.

Everything is about to change.

I’ve said that the tablet computer is the future of computing. The average user will use a tablet computer for all of there needs. Desktops and laptops will still be used by those who need more computing power or screen real estate, but make no mistake tablets will reign (unless the real estate heavy programs can be elegantly reworked into a smaller touch-screen, cloud-based system). So what does that mean for Microsoft?

Right now there is only one tablet on the market (the iPad) with another tablet coming soon (basically Android though not exactly), and even more coming later. It is obvious that Microsoft is working on comparable tablet software of their own but their making a lot of mistakes. The Zune (or Zune OS) isn’t ever going to make it the way the iPod/iPhone has, but if Microsoft is going to make a tablet computer they have to follow the same rules Apple created. A tablet has to boot instantly, be incredibly simple, and feel like it is a “touch based” OS (not a “mouse based” OS that has been tweaked into a “touch based” OS. For the record this doesn’t mean that Windows as it is can’t be that system, but if Windows is to be a “touch based” OS has to feel like it’s a “touch based” OS).

It would surprise me greatly is Microsoft didn’t have a tablet computer within a few years (the “tablets” they have now don’t count, they don’t boot instantly and they don’t have a “touch based” OS, I’ll let you make up your mind if their “simple” or not). So yes, Microsoft will have a Windows 7 mobile tablet (or something like it) within just a little while. My question is whether it will succeed or not. Once again, it would surprise me if there weren’t a lot of Window’s tablets out there once they become available. I don’t think, however, that they will dominate the tablet market like Windows dominates the PC market. Why?

The first iPad I saw in the wild belonged to a professor of mine. I couldn’t guess his age if I wanted to, but if I had to guess I’d say he was in his late 50’s. The second iPad I saw in the wild (if you can call church “the wild”) belonged to a woman in Sunday School who had to be in her late 60’s (I don’t know her she was only visiting). She was using the iPad to look up scriptures (isn’t that awesome)! My point in mentioning these sightings is this: the people who have iPads now are the very people who are most afraid of change. Now, I know for a fact that my professor is a Mac guy, and I have no idea where the woman’s operating system devotions lye, but I can tell you from the numbers that many of the people who bought an iPad were middle aged or older and statistically speaking most of them use Windows. Will this trend continue once someone releases a Windows table? I don’t know, but I think it will. I think that before Microsoft finally has a tablet that’s been done right, it will be too late for them. By that time, Apple and Google will dominate the tablet market, but that doesn’t mean that Microsoft will disappear into nothingness. (My ten year prediction for the tablet industry: Microsoft 20%, Google 40%, Apple 40%.)

Microsoft’s future is in Microsoft Office. Microsoft already makes more money on Office than it does on it’s OS sales. Moving Office to the cloud is a good move for them. It is really the only move for them. While I certainly don’t prefer Microsoft Office (iWork is so much easier) people are used to it and it will be available soon enough to be a part of the tablet revolution (as long as people are willing to do their editing in a browser). Google Docs (while superior in some ways) still has a long way to go before it will rival Office Online (or Microsoft partnered with Facebook).

None of my predictions mean a thing if Microsoft can figure out how to do things right. If they release a real tablet by Q1 2012 they have a chance. I’m just guessing that they won’t have a decent tablet by then. What do you think?

Google Docs is improving rapidly. And with a price tag of free, it beats Microsoft office any day IMO. Microsoft has proven to me again and again that they can't get things right, and they don't care about user experience.
Mark Richardson on 2010-04-27 08:29:03.0
Mark, I agree completely, I never use Microsoft Office (online or otherwise) but I think for the foreseeable future people will stay with what is comfortable (offline) and when they do move online they will go with what is familiar (Office Online). It goes without saying that there will be many people who migrate to Google Docs as soon as they migrate to the cloud, but if Microsoft has a future, I think it is in its Office line.
Mahon on 2010-04-27 09:49:22.0
This latest version of office really boils my blood. In their attempt to innovate they screwed over the whole menu system that we've all been comfortable with OUR WHOLE LIVES. Now I have no idea where to find stuff. I just don't get how the same company that created the Microsoft Surface, can also have such crappy office software.
Mark Richardson on 2010-04-27 10:26:41.0
Well, you have to remember that Microsoft's biggest strengths aren't in software production, design, or anything software related. Microsoft's biggest strength is marketing. Microsoft's business strategy is to buy a product from someone who already has it and then market it. At least that's the way I see it.
Mahon on 2010-04-27 12:55:30.0