You know the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words?” Well, today’s missive can absolutely be best described by the photo of French sculptor Auguste Rodin’s “Le Penseur” (The Thinker). In case you missed it, Steven Sinofsky showed off the latest version of Microsoft’s venerable Windows operating system, code named “Windows 8″ to a snarky Walt Mossberg at the All Things Digital event. The biggest change in Windows 8 (thus far) is the new Start screen and design paradigm that is obviously heavily influenced by the Windows Phone 7 “Metro” UI.
This is all part of Redmond’s tablet and “touch first” strategy, as they continue to insist that the Windows operating system can work just fine on a tablet. Well, that’s the question I’d like to pose to you today. Can this work on a desktop and a tablet? What does this then mean from an enterprise perspective?
As we all know, Apple – the only company to have real success (thus far) in the tablet market made a concerted decision to NOT use its Mac OS X platform for the iPad. Yes, iOS shares the same kernel as Mac OS X, but the user paradigms are very different. If anything, when Apple first launched the iPhone, it was a response to the failing user paradigm that Microsoft had insisted upon with Windows Mobile. Remember that OS? It had a Start menu, a task switcher, a control panel, and so many other things that came from the design and naming principles of the desktop environment. We all know how well that worked.
Then, 18 months ago, after getting its clocked cleaned by Apple and Google, Microsoft announced the Windows Phone 7 platform. Totally new OS (sort of) with a radically redesigned user experience. Although I find the UI incredibly fresh and appealing, the general marketplace is still enamored by iOS and Android.
But back to tablets. Apple made the decision to not use its desktop OS. Google chose to fork its smartphone OS and build a version of Android specifically for tablets (until they merge it back) – forsaking its own “desktop” ChromeOS. HP canned its Windows based tablet to focus on the venerable underdog webOS….and there is of course RIM that bought a brand new OS to power its tablet(s) and called it the core of its “superphone” strategy. So everyone – except for Microsoft – is using a truly mobile OS for its tablets. But there’s a catch…
Look at what’s happening in the ever fragmented Android space. OEMs are developing tablets that increasingly look and feel like laptops….one only need look at the ASUS eee Pad Transformer….it plugs right into a hinged keyboard! For the record, I have on more than one occasion asked when the MacBook Air and the iPad merge into one product line.
So 460 words later, I get to my point – or my question. Some vendors in the mobility space are taking their mobile operating systems and trying to move up into the tablet and “pseudo/quasi – desktop” environment with a heavy cloud influence. Then you have Microsoft taking the contrarian approach of taking the desktop OS down to the tablet environment….with a heavy cloud influence. So where do the lines get drawn? Is the physical demarcation line the screen size (meaning 4″)?
I go back to my theory that the MacBook Air and iPad will eventually merge. What’s preventing OEMs from developing Windows “8″ laptops that then can be separated to become Windows “8″ tablets? Can Microsoft say “he who laughs last, laughs best?” With all the legacy Windows environments in the workplace, this sure sounds like an attractive proposition or the CIO. Provide employees a tablet (corporate liable) because it’s actually a PC. Or instead, is Microsoft repeating the Windows Mobile mistake with one of its cash cows? What is the impact on device management? Is this also a precursor to the merger of mobile device management solutions into other management systems like OpenView and System Center? Do we even care at this point about what the word “mobile” means?