Can Microsoft upset the Apple cart?

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The software giant’s move into tablets with the launch of the Surface indicates it is taking the fight to the market itself with the power of Windows 8 behind it

Microsoft last month finally entered its name into the tablet market, with the launch of the Microsoft Surface. Tablet launches are not uncommon. HTC, Motorola, Samsung, LG and Sony have all made attempts to take on the might of Apple, which still has a 70 per cent hold on the market with its iPad range.

On the surface, there is little to suggest Microsoft will be able to upset the Apple cart. After all, its Windows operating system (OS) is already being used on tablets today, with the likes of HP and ViewSonic – who have hardly set the market alight.

The software giant clearly sees the need to make its presence felt on a greater scale, and is now prepared to delve into producing both software and hardware.

Apple is without doubt the benchmark here. While Microsoft has remained in the background for so long, leaving the hardware side to others, Apple opted to do the lot itself and is reaping the rewards.

Microsoft’s last quarterly results, published in April, showed profits stood at $5.11 billion. Impressive, yes – but eclipsed by Apple, whose profits doubled to more than $11.6 billion during the same period.

With the tablet market expected to grow at the expense of laptops, and to a lesser extent PCs, Microsoft needs to make its mark, fast.

It clearly no longer wishes to rely entirely upon lesser knowns in this space – who, with the utmost respect to them, do little to promote its brand in this space today.

And the analysts are encouraged by its actions.

According to one firm, Windows 8 will hold a 20 per cent share of all tablets purchased by 2017.

Presumably this will be a mix of its own branded models, as well as others. And if Windows 8 proves popular, then it may start to turn the heads of the Motorolas and HTCs of this world, who at present look no further than Android.

Of course, there is a risk, too. This strategy would certainly create a rivalry with its Windows partners – many of which feature in the PC, tablet and laptop market and who have provided the bulk of its revenues for the past 37 years.

And, if its tablets are a success, will it look to do the same with PCs? And what about handsets – Nokia anyone?

Mobile has always been the weak link for Microsoft. Entering the tablet market may just be the kickstart that it needs.

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