Since Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad blazed a trail straight into the heart of the PC market, stealing sales along the way, discussion of the tablet market’s future has always been framed in terms of Apple versus Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). But the iPad-versus-Android battle has hardly been a war. The iPad has trounced the most promising contenders.
Samsung (PINK:SSNLF) has released multiple models of its Android-running Galaxy Tab but has still only managed to take 9% of the global tablet market, according to IHS iSuppli. Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) made more headway with the Kindle Fire, but still holds only about 14% of the market.
Others, such as Motorola’s (NYSE:MMI) Xoom, were complete nonstarters. Even companies like Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), which went with its own operating system, have been crushed. If the past two years prove anything, it’s that the tablet market needs a shakeup to unseat Apple.
Enter Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT).
2012 will see Microsoft realign its Windows operating system with Windows 8 to suit a diversified computing industry. That operating system is made not just to run the PCs of the next few years, but also the next wave of Windows smartphones and, yes, tablets.
Who’s making these devices, though? And what chance do they have to succeed where the Android tab rush failed? Read on:
Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) failed so spectacularly in the tablet market that it almost bowed out of the mobile device business entirely. CEO Leo Apotheker was fired shortly after HP’s TouchPad tablet hit stores last summer, and former eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) leader Meg Whitman stepped up to the plate. Almost as soon as she took over as CEO, Whitman backpedalled on previous HP statements that it wouldn’t release another tablet. She told Bloomberg in February that HP will release its own Windows tablet before the end of the year. The only specific piece of info about this tab is that it will use Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) technology.
Microsoft blood brother and severely wounded leader of the mobile phone market Nokia (NYSE:NOK) has been reticent to enter the tablet market so far. CEO Stephen Elop, a former Microsoft exec, has made getting the company’s smartphone business in place the chief priority. He’s done that by committing to the Windows Phone platform. Word came out on March 12, however, that Elop’s company is ready for the next phase of its mobile computing business. Nokia will release a 10-inch-screen Windows tablet running on an ARM-based processor. Nokia’s low brand value with consumers is a huge hurdle in the tablet market.
Unlike HP, Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) has circled the tablet market cautiously for the past two years. The company made a 7-inch Android tablet, called the Streak, which was sold chiefly to business clients until December 2011. With Windows 8, though, the company is ready for a broader push into both business and consumer markets. CCO Steve Felice told Reuters that Dell plans to release a range of Windows tablets before the year is out. The company needs to be careful with pricing, though, as an expensive device will drown its chances.
A Wednesday report at Digitimes said that Sony (NYSE:SNE) is also joining the Windows tablet rush. What’s interesting about this claim is that Sony has very visibly committed to the Android platform, not just for its own S1 and S2 tablets, but for its smartphones. The company has also tied its lucrative PlayStation brand to the Android operating system, with a mobile gaming platform called the PlayStation Suite developed for bringing its games to machines running Google’s OS. A shift to Windows this year might improve functionality, but it would certainly muddy the waters connecting Sony’s business. Of course, Sony’s never been one to avoid muddying waters.
The Digitimes article goes on to say that Lenovo (PINK:LNVGY), Acer, Asustek (PINK:AKCPF), and Toshiba (PINK:TOSYY) will also have Windows 8 tablets on the market by 2013. Almost all of these companies have Android tablets in the world market. Windows may change their standings against the monolithic Apple, but all of these companies must learn from their failures with Android to stand a chance.