Apple’s keynotes draw people in because they know that in the hour and a half between start and end, they are going to see an innovation be shown for the first time. Even if 10% people don’t think the products will be competitive from a spec point of view, the other 90% of the market remembers the innovation. While specs are argued on, it’s the innovations that people take away with them and dream about. They see how that new product can fit into their life and solve their problems.
When Microsoft first showed the world Windows Phone 7 and it’s new user interface, did they put themselves into a corner when it comes to it’s eventual re-entry into the tablet market?
When Apple announced the iPad, everyone was familiar with iOS, but the tablet had never been done like that before. It was the innovation then. And when Microsoft announced Windows Phone 7, the hardware was expected, but the user interface was the innovation that time around.
If Microsoft one day introduces a tablet computer running a Windows Phone 7 type OS, what will be the innovation then?
Consumers will have seen WP7 before, and consumers will have seen tablets before.
If it’s not hardware and it’s not software, then there are only a few things that remain.
Apps aren’t innovative, but brining out the big guns of applications like Microsoft Office to the tablet could be. If it promises tablet productivity that goes beyond the scope of Pages, Numbers, or Keynote for the iPad, then some audiences will see this as an innovation. From a business point of view there’s a lot more to Office than Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that people would like to use on a tablet.
I think the real opportunity will be the Ecosystem. With all the services and platforms under Microsoft, there’s a good way for a tablet to extend each of those services in a unique and integrated way beyond the scope of what Apple is capable of. But like all tablet reviewers have been saying, it will require more innovation than putting Windows 7 on a tablet.
This would also be positive for Microsoft products and services as a whole. Lesser known services that are not really popular or not marketed fully will be dragged into being A-grade services because of their strategic position of pushing the tablet.
The competitive landscape in this possible future will require any company with desktop, smartphone, and tablet devices to work beautifully together.
The three big assumptions in this story are that:
- Innovation really is what’s rewarded.
- Microsoft would want to use the Windows Phone 7 UI as the core concept for a new tablet interface.
- Any company needs consistency across it’s different devices as to not overwhelm consumers with a new learning curve for each new product they buy. For example, next summer users who buy either OS X Lion, or an iOS device (iPod, iPhone, iPad) will to an extent only have one interface to learn, thereby reducing buying friction.