Microsoft launches assault
THE writing is already on the wall.
In just four years, tablets will be more popular than laptop computers, and by 2017 they will outsell their full- sized counterparts by more than 23 million devices worldwide.
Research also predicts consumers will snap up more than 80 million tablet computers this year alone.
So it’s little wonder that Microsoft is eyeing off the tablet as the computer of the near future.
The company has, perhaps, left its run a bit late but it’s planning to launch its own tablet technology in a big way this year – not just with hardware but software too.
Its new operating system, Windows 8, is designed to look the same on a tablet as on a desktop computer and, at its Office 2013 Consumer Preview launch last week, the company issued tablets, not laptops, to analysts to test the programs.
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer says the software giant has to make its products tablet- friendly.
‘‘ The industry continues to move and change and advance dramatically, and certainly our pace of innovation and new production introduction has been at an unprecedented rate,’’ Ballmer says, citing the company’s upcoming tablet computer, Surface, as an example. But Telsyte analyst Rodney Gedda says it’s a move that’s been a while coming for Microsoft and one the company could not afford to ignore, lest Apple and Google run away with the market.
The new Windows 8 software is expected to be released on computers in October, with the Surface tablet computer to follow in Australia by next autumn.
It became clear Microsoft’s newest Office suite would be part of its tablet offering last week, with all major programs from Word to Outlook and even PowerPoint available for portable touchscreens and traditional monitors alike.
Microsoft Office’s corporate vice- president PJ Hough says the company’s new focus is simply about moving its software to wherever consumers want to use it.
‘‘ That used to be sitting at your desk, but that’s not the case any more,’’ Hough says.
‘‘ We’re getting work done in the airport, we’re getting work done in the car, we’re getting work done on the train and at school, we’re getting work done at home.’’
Gedda says it’s not surprising Microsoft has opted to make Office more internet- savvy, given both the popularity of tablets and the rise of Google and Dropbox.
‘‘ There’s definitely a competitive play here: Microsoft can’t just sit back and allow cloud vendors to eat its lunch, whether that’s Google or Dropbox or even Apple and its iCloud.’’