In an earlier article, Windows 8 Tablets: The Future of Computing, I outline my thoughts of tablets as the next generation all-purpose computer. One of the disadvantages in the current generation of tablets is they do not address interface devices beyond the touch screen. Windows 8 takes tablets to a new level with an excellent touch-based interface, along side the full desktop experience. This leaves Google’s Android OS far behind in functionality and Apple’s iOS further still. However, it is possible that Google has another player in this space. It would allow them to compete head on with Microsoft and, together, push Apple completely out of the tablet market.
With attention on Android, Google’s other OS is often forgotten. Google released Chrome OS in 2010 during the peak of the netbook boom. The concept was to sell an entirely web-centric operating system with all apps and data hosted in the cloud. As interest in netbooks waned in favor tablets, so did interest Chrome OS. Google never stopped production of Chrome OS and on April 12, 2012 they released an update which has some interesting new features: windowed apps and touch screen support. It’s very likely that the people at Google understand the potential of tablet computers as Microsoft does. Chrome OS could be the next evolution in Google tablets, breaking it free of the confines of present-day Android. That would mean two major competitors in the desktop-class tablet market, which begs the question: Where does this leave Apple?
As current leader in the tablet market, Apple is making no obvious move to compete with this new generation of tablets. The New iPad is only 2 months old. A Newer iPad is months, if not years, away. Apple’s recent dividend payout indicates no serious R&D investment. iOS6 rumors circle around Google Maps and Siri. There’s no indication of any major shift in Apple’s strategy. The iPad, for the foreseeable future, will remain a content consuming device. It’s designed for movie watching, book reading, game playing, web browsing and not much else. There’s no concern for writing, designing and other content producing tasks that people will begin to associate with tablet computers.
As Windows 8, and potentially Chrome OS, change the concept of a tablet. People will begin to consider a Windows tablet as a replacement for their Windows computer. Google can offer a compelling alternative, with its linux base and growing suite of web-based apps. Windows 8 and Chrome OS both have compelling smart phone counterparts in Windows Phone and Android. These offerings will make the iPad feel more like an e-reader, on par with the Kindle and the Nook. There’s certainly a place for such devices on the periphery of the computer market. But they will not hold the same status of “tablet” in the minds of consumers. Whatever future holds, it’s clear that Microsoft and Google will offer us many interesting choices. Very soon you’ll be carrying your entire computer setup with you, no bigger than a tablet.