The new iPad has been revealed and it is going to sell like hot cakes. However, the new iPad will be the Apple device that goes head-to-head with Windows 8 tablets when they arrive later this year. Microsoft‘s new OS will spawn an entirely different species of tablet than the Android devices that have so far been Apple’s main competition. And if Microsoft plays its cards right, it could be the one that finally gives the iPad a serious challenge in the market.
So far, no product has been able to challenge iPad. The first “real” Android tablets, like the Motorola Xoom, were largely ignored by consumers. The newer tablets and latest Android upgrades are certainly better, but they’re still hampered by an amorphous ecosystem. Around 200,000 iPad apps are available in the App Store. Google doesn’t give an official count of tablet-specific Android apps in Google Play, but estimates are in the thousands.
Non-Android tablets are no contenders for iPad at all. RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook and HP’s TouchPad, were non-contenders. The Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook are success stories, but they have only managed to carve out a niche market among tablets by selling their devices at a rock-bottom prices.
So far no device has been able to seriously challenge the iPad experience in its entirety. Basically, the tablet market has yet to see its Motorola Droid, the phone that finally showed, along with Android 2.0 software, that the iPhone wasn’t the end-all-be-all of smartphones. Android’s success skyrocketed after its release.
The question is will Windows 8 come to the Rescue of the tablet market? It depends entirely on how consumers respond to the new user interface, the Metro.
The thrust of Windows 8 is that it brings the same UI to tablets and traditional PCs (desktops and laptops). Metro is ideally suited for touch-screens, but it works with a mouse and keyboard, too.
Moreover, if the entire OS, including traditional PCs, is running the same software, then developers have no choice but to design apps for tablets. Windows 8 essentially turns all Windows developers into tablet developers, potentially giving the Windows 8 tablet platform the fuel it needs to expand rapidly and finally give the iPad a real opponent.
There is one possibility of consumers rejecting Metro. If Windows 8 lets any user to turn off Metro and just use the traditional desktop, many developers may simply choose not to create Metro apps and that would affect Windows 8. Microsoft needs to get Metro 100% right if Windows 8 tablets are going to have any hope.
If users like Metro, then the developers will follow, and a real ecosystem will emerge. If not, the iPad will probably be the only tablet to remain unchallenged.