Microsoft is expected to unveil plans for its very own tablet on Monday at 3:30 pm PST, a big shift for a company that has largely relied on software, not hardware, to make its billions. Microsoft is pretty late to the booming tablet industry, and it faces intimidating competition from Apple's iPad — which by some estimates accounts for 63 percent of the global tablet market. Furthermore, Microsoft has a mixed record when it comes to developing its own gadgets, succeeding fantastically with its Xbox video game console, and failing miserably with its Zune portable music player, which once upon a time was meant to compete with Apple's iPod. Is Microsoft smart to build its own tablet?
Yes. Microsoft must offer a complete package: "The time is ripe for Microsoft to offer a tablet of its own," says Melissa J. Perenson at PCWorld. The tech industry has changed dramatically since Microsoft achieved dominance with its Windows software, and the company is struggling to "stay relevant in an increasingly integrated, mobile world." Apple's seamless marriage between its sleek gadgets and user-friendly software has been the key to its success, while Windows has been badly served by outside tablet makers. Microsoft is wise to seek "better control over all aspects of the user experience."
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No. Microsoft could lose its biggest profit source: "Microsoft makes most of its money from Windows and Office," says Ina Fried at AllThingsD, "and depends on an ecosystem of PC makers like Dell, H-P, Acer, and Lenovo to make those Windows-based machines." Hardware makers may not take too kindly to this sudden competition from their erstwhile ally against Apple, and Microsoft could end up isolated in the ever-shifting battle for tablet supremacy.
It all depends on the execution: Microsoft must "draw on its success selling the Xbox gaming console if it wants a shot at" winning market share from Apple, says Aaron Ricadela, Dina Bass, and Cliff Edwards at Bloomberg Businessweek. Microsoft recently unveiled Xbox SmartGlass, a Windows-based app that connects multiple devices and enables users to have a richer multimedia experience. If Microsoft integrates its tablet with the Xbox, the company can create a constellation of gadgets that will offer consumers a genuine alternative to Apple's lineup of iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks.
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