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Don't write off Windows tablets yet

columns Updated: Apr 01, 2014 00:40 IST
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Satya Nadella, the cricket-loving Hyderabadi CEO made what could be called a fine Test debut last week when he unveiled Microsoft's old warhorse, the Office suite, for iPad.

At one level, it was an acceptance of the inevitable for Microsoft as Apple certainly stole the show (and continues to) with its tablet PC. But I would not write off Microsoft's own tablet initiatives as yet. Here's why.

Companies increasingly adopt BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies because the younger generation of workers love to do things their way --and often, that means using a touchscreen tablet or smartphone. In the short run, this means that software-centric companies such as Microsoft have to make their offerings tailored for the "form factor" – as it is called.

However, look hard, and you will find that the real deal is the touchscreen – not Apple or its iOS platform as such. Fact is that Apple stole a march by combing the touchscreen with tens of thousands of apps for both iPhone and iPad with an "ecosystem" that addressed many more needs (not counting its famous failure in Maps).

Microsoft is catching up from behind, as Nadella candidly admitted. Google's own Andorid has also been ahead of Microsoft. But the match is wide open, as they say in cricket, because only the first innings --which we may call the Device Phase – has been played.

The second innings belongs to Cloud Phase and it has just begun. Now consider the idea that Microsoft is a player not only in the "personal cloud" just like Apple, but also could emerge stronger in the "enterprise cloud" in offering software on the Net for small and medium businesses.

Windows devices are getting better and better, and the developers are busy with apps that match Microsoft requirement. Now, I can easily imagine Microsoft offering bundled touchscreen devices of its own (or its key partners that go back to the PC days). Increasingly, the software matters more once the touchscreen has been made mainstream.

In this new phase, the business-friendly software offered at right prices in corporate packages may lead to a big world (Read: Outside US) available for Microsoft to conquer.

Last weekend, I saw ads for a value-for-money Windows tablet by Asus that confirmed my hunch.