Back when the iPad came out in April 2010, I showed mine to a friend who didn't like it. "This thing is nothing more than an iPod Touch with a bigger screen."
"Yeah?" I thought, "that's why it's so brilliant!" The iPad is just a big iPod Touch. They didn't try to make it into a laptop. It's not your primary device. It's just like a phone with a really big screen. The same is true for Android tablets. Android is a phone OS. Android tablets are like Android phones with really big screens.
Contrast that with how Microsoft approaches the tablet. I got my first Windows tablet more than ten years ago. It ran Windows XP. It was a laptop, except I could touch the screen. (And I could fold the screen around backwards so I could use it standing up.)
Do you see the difference here? To Apple and Android, the tablet is a phone-like device with phone-like capabilities running a phone-like OS. To Microsoft, the tablet is a full on desktop computer that you can touch and use standing up.
So when I read all these stories about how Microsoft is planning to go after Apple and Android with their Windows 8 tablet plans, I have to step back and say, "Wait.. wha?? These are two totally different things. Apples & Oranges." And to be honest, if Microsoft thinks that a Windows 8 desktop OS running on a tablet can compete with an iPad or Android tablet, man… good luck with that.
But wait, isn't Microsoft getting serious about tablets with Windows 8?
Whenever people talk about what's new in Windows 8, the first two things that they mention are (1) There will be a multitouch-based UI option called "Metro," and (2) there will be versions of Windows 8 that will run on ARM-based microprocessors instead of only running on x86 chips like today. (ARM-based processors are what most smartphones and tablets use today, including the iPhone and iPad.)
So if Windows 8 has a multitouch UI and runs on ARM, it's easy to see how people would think it will compete with iPad and Android tablets. (And certainly Microsoft wants you to think this. Hell, they might even think that themselves!)
But think about it. Windows 8--even the ARM version--is a full desktop OS. It needs 16GB just to install! It has a registry. And DLLs. And user profiles. And a page file. And fifty million drivers for who knows what. And different file systems. And RAID. The Windows 8 desktop OS supports multiple displays and multitasking and up to 600 logical processors and 4TB of RAM. And you're telling me that this is the OS you want in your tablet?
Those are the characteristics of the OS that you want on your primary computing device. But how many IOPS and FLOPs does that thing need just to start up in the morning? When Microsoft says that they want to focus on the tablet with Windows 8, what are they talking about? Do they really think a $500 ARM tablet running a desktop OS can compete with the phone-derived OSes that run todays iPads and Andoird tablets?
Wouldn't Windows Phone 8 be the better tablet OS for Microsoft?
More importantly, why isn't Microsoft taking the same approach and going after the tablet space from the phone angle? Wouldn't a better Windows 8 tablet be one that was derived from the Windows Phone OS instead of the Windows desktop OS?
There's a reason that the iPad doesn't run desktop apps. There's a reason it doesn't have "real" multitasking. (And these are the same reasons that an iPad doesn't get viruses, runs super fast and cool, lasts ten hours per charge, and only costs 500 bucks.)
So Microsoft: What the hell? What are you thinking putting the Windows desktop OS against the iOS and Android tablets. Do you really think that the Windows application ecosystem is strong enough that people will want all their Windows apps. (I mean really, hasn't everyone already gotten iOS versions of all the apps they need anyway? Well, unless they use Microsoft Office. ;)
But really, a traditional Windows app running on a tablet doesn't have a good user interface anyway. So if developers have to rewrite their apps for Metro's touch-based interface and they have to recompile their apps for ARM, I mean at that point wouldn't it be just as easy to rewrite the app for a tablet-sized Windows Phone OS to have a better experience?
I have no idea what Microsoft is thinking. I know that a lot of people would buy a tablet that was "just a Windows phone with a big screen." There's the killer opportunity. But if moving the desktop OS to the tablet form factor didn't work in 2001, and if it isn't working today when tablets are all the rage, why does Microsoft think it's going to work in 2012?