USA Today has this good piece on Microsoft's complicated history with tablet computing. Just goes to show that having the idea is not enough -- even when you are Bill Gates!
Microsoft has been doing the tablet thing since at least 2002 and with its announcement this week of the new Surface, has a credible competitor to the iPad. Here is a pretty good treatment on Engadget covering the launch event. It is hard to get too excited without a deliver date or price. And when Steve Sinofski had to trade out his frozen Surface for a new one -- the pain was palpable.
Despite the long drawn out history and the incredible lead Apple has already established, this is going to be a very intereting fight. There are two contrasting views that I can think of: Consolidate or Extend.
Apple Wins if it Continues to Extend
Apple has done an amazing job of getting customers to extend their personal computing infrastructure to yet another device. We have all walked down the isle of the plan and seen an iPad at every other seat -- and practically every seat in first class. We know however that while many of these people may no longer travel with their PCs, they still own them. If Apple can continue to extend to the iPad -- Apple wins.
Microsoft Wins if Consolidation Happens
Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system, that hits the market in the fall, will be optimized for tablet devices -- including the new Surface, to be built and sold by Microsoft itself. Clearly Microsoft is positioning this device to be both the tablet and the PC. To the extent that Microsoft can consolidate the market back from PC + iPad to a Win 8 PC only -- Microsoft wins.
Either way, this will be very interesting to watch.