Two days ago I was talking about products soliciting strong opinions. A decade ago Microsoft was an opinionated company. People loved to hate them and other people were in love with them. Just the mention of Microsoft could solicit a fight among friends. But the last decade hasn’t been kind to Microsoft. As the market fight has shifted from desktop to mobile, the world has stopped talking about Microsoft. Marco Arment said something quite profound about the difference between the two companies:
Apple’s products say, “You can’t do that because we think it would suck.” Microsoft’s products say, “We’ll let you try to do anything on anything if you really want to, even if it sucks.”
Enter Windows 8. Enter the Windows 8 RT tablet. Enter the punditry suddenly discussing Microsoft again. In fact, it isn’t just the technorati discussing them. I haven’t heard this much discussion of Microsoft among the Apple community in ages.
Here’s the bottom line for the new Windows tablets: they are worth a discussion. The devices are interesting, the keyboards are interesting, the development tools are interesting. It is the first Windows computer in 10 years that would make me look twice at Microsoft’s world.
The Apple community wants to make this a battle between Apple and Microsoft, between Windows 8 and iOS. But that’s not what Microsoft is doing here and I understand that completely now. For Microsoft this is a battle between Windows XP and Windows 8. This is a battle between the old world of CRT monitors and the modern world of portable computing. Windows 8 is meant to be the next generation computing device for the 1 billion Windows installed base; not the competitor to 100 million iPad and Mac computers. It doesn’t need to have a million apps today and doesn’t need to have the perfect Office installation. It needs to have enough to keep people paying attention, talking about Microsoft, and make those who were going to upgrade stay with Microsoft.
Window 8 RT is a very interesting device. It does more than enough to make those who primarily want a notebook computer pay attention. I think it is going to be a big success and will keep Microsoft among the technology elite for the foreseeable future.