Microsoft Surface Could Reshape Mobile--If It Works
The Microsoft Surface tablet drew some interesting commentary from an unexpected source: Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt. Surface, according to Schmidt, could have dramatic implications for the mobile marketplace. But only if it works as well as Microsoft is hoping it will.
As Schmidt's remarks suggest, Microsoft is not the only player with a lot riding on its upcoming hybrid tablet device. Its mobility competitors, Apple and Google itself, will face a more complicated ecosystem if Surface takes off.
Another party with big stakes in Microsoft's hybrid tablet is the IT community at midsize firms. Surface promises to take Windows out on the road, revitalizing an operating system that business is familiar with. And, more broadly, Microsoft Surface is making a bid to bring enterprise-strength capabilities to the consumer-centric mobility world. This could be a very big deal.
As Shara Tibken reports at CNET, Google's Schmidt made his remarks on Surface during a wide-ranging interview in New York. Currently, said Schmidt, Microsoft does not rate as one of the Big Four firms--Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook--that are dominating the consumer landscape.
But all of that might change if Surface lives up to its expectations. "Let's see what this new set of products does," said Schmidt, adding that some "smart, well-run companies" have failed to offer appealing, state-of-the-art devices. He went on to say that Microsoft created a "structural monopoly" thanks to Windows for PCs. But--not surprisingly--Schmidt questioned whether this model was appropriate in the mobility era.
The IT-ification of Consumer Mobility?
In response, Microsoft might say that its focus with Windows has never really been on consumers, but rather on business. In the PC era, consumers just sort of came along for the ride. The mobility era started off the same way; the BlackBerry was a business device. But thanks largely to Apple's iPhone and iPad, mobility has become far more consumer-centric.
With Surface, however, Microsoft is offering what amounts to the anti-iPad. (Apple, notably, has sneered at the whole concept of hybrid tablets with laptop-like features.) If Surface lives up to its promise, it will offer a tablet that is not just for "consuming media," but is capable of handling serious work tasks.
We have all heard a lot about the consumerization of IT. The widening gulf between consumer mobile devices and workplace needs, however, casts the idea in a practical device. For how many workplace tasks is an iPad really an optimal device?
Surface is, in an important sense, Microsoft's bid to bring enterprise-strength functionality to the mobility world. For that reason, IT managers at midsize firms, along with the rest of the IT community, have a big stake in its success or failure.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.