Google’s Android leads the smartphone market [53%US market share to Apple's 34% according to Comscore] because it has many hardware suppliers and Google has periodically released a reference standard of hardware. The same strategy now applies to the tablet market.The resulting cornucopia of designs has lead to a rich and wide selection of smartphone and tablet hardware for users to choose from. And there has been a great deal of innovation in Android smartphone and tablet markets. In the latter case, just take a look at the Asus Transformer line of products, the Acer Iconia and this website stock full of innovative Android hardware designs.
Android Advantage 1: Microsoft has followed the Google hardware design strategy. Doing a reference design for the Windows RT ARM market with its Surface tablet/ultrabook yet leaving plenty of room for its hardware suppliers to innovate in all aspects of the PC market – All-in-one, desktop cubes, laptops, notebooks and convertibles have been some of the designs. Here are two more promising Windows 8 PC hardware designs.
Lenovo has a stock of 3 convertible laptop designs. The 360 Yoga laptop is above; here are the other 2 convertibles.
Lenovo Twist pivots in the center with Core 3 CPU, upto 8GB Lenovo Lynx is a snap on, snap off tablet with Atom dual core CPU
All three convertible feature 3 basic viewing modes – “tent” for cramped viewing, “stand” for movie watching or Internet browsing and standard laptop mode for productivity work with keyboard and trackpad or stylus or mouse. See here for more views. The bottomline is that like Google’s Android, Microsoft is fostering a wide and innovative set of hardware designs – not doling out Apple Perfects which increasingly either miss the boat or are not so Perfect – antenna problems continuing, scuffy body, camera image color streaking, Google Maps out- Apple maps with gross errors in, etc.
PCWorld describes the Sony Tap 20 best- A Windows 8 all-in-one that’s also a humongous tablet.
PCWorld’s Lloyd Case underlines the importance of novel PC designs to Windows 8:
Sony’s latest desktop effort is one cool example of the experimentation in form factors we’re starting to see with Windows 8 hardware. Yes, manufacturers will be shipping stock clamshell laptops and ordinary desktop PCs with ten-point multitouch as an option, and PCWorld will be reviewing many of them as they come out. But if Windows 8 is to be truly successful, products such as Sony’s Tap 20 will be key.
Finally CNET captures the innovative design frenzy around Windows 8 with this overview article entitled “the the weird, innovative world of Windows 8 hybrids”. And CNET is just covering the hybrid laptops. In sum, Microsoft is playing catchup and maybe a leap ahead of Apple and Google in tablet and PC hardware design with relish and vigour.
Android Advantage 2: A Full Power OS
Apple deliberately crippled the functionality of iOS relative to other OS to accomplish 2 tasks. First, true-multitasking was limited to Apple privileged tasks and generaly not made available to developers. The result is lower and better power consumption but at the cost of full multitasking. In a smartphone multitasking is not as important because the user is devoted to one task- phone conversation or game playing or watching a movie or browsing an image gallery, etc. But their are not a few times when users would like to drag and drop between , copy and paste among, run side by side 2 or more apps. In can be done in some privileged iOS but not in general
The second iOS simplifications has been the filesystem and control settings. There is no file explorer like in MacOS or Windows in iOS. Almost all file management is taken care of by the Apps or iOS. Likewise, the settings for control of the iPhone or iPad are much more limited in iOS compared to Android. The trade-off is simplified learning curve versus more user control and customization.
In contrast Windows 8 is following the Google Android lead in offering a full OS with extensive customizations while taking it a step further. Full and familiar multitasking is available to Window 8 developers. This means copy and paste, drag and drop, plus side by side apps operations still work in Win8 Desktop mode and can be done easily in Metro mode with tools like Snap Screen , Hubs, and Live Tiles .Then with the Charms and other control setting just a touch or click away it is easy to get at customizing not just the OS but all Windows apps. This is true because stored with every Windows 8 app is all it operational settings and custom options which are just a tile tap away.
In contrast to Windows 8, iOS devices from iPod thru iPhone to iPad are primarily media consumption machines – games, movies, image galleries, music lists, audio or visual books, Web browsing, etc. Windows 8 with convertible tablets, is offerring a hybrid – delivering both desktop equivalent productivity and tablet-like media consumption.
Productivity on a Windows 8 hybrid increases significantly with its attached keyboard, mouse or trackpad or stylus plus full Win8 versions of Microsoft Office with HDMI and USB connections. And Windows 8 hybrids are doing so while matching the iPad strengths – light, thin, fast start-up, long battery life, fast response time but without the artifial restrictions on multitasking and user customization.
Android Advantage 3: Windows 8 will run Android Apps
App maker Bluestacks has developed a Windows 7 app that currently runs any of 400,000 Android Apps. Bluestacks has converted the app to run in Windows 8. AMD has worked with Bluestacks to optimize the performance of the Bluestacks app on Windows 8 tablets and hybrids that use an AMD chip. Bluestack enables the download and installation of apps from the Google Play Store. Bottom line, Windows 8 will have an app library from the get go that is stocked with at least 450 to 500 thousand apps.
Now this situation is not without controversy among Apple, Google and Microsoft. Currently, Apple will not allow their programs or operating system to be run on virtual machines running under Google Android or Microsoft Windows. Their OS and apps look for certified Apple hardware id codes and terminate if not available. Microsoft does not prohibit MacOS machines running a VM to run a legal copy of Windows 7 or, so far, Windows 8. Meanwhile, Splashtop provides an app that allows Windows 8 code to be run in either iOS powered on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod or Android powered tablet [smartphone connection coming].
Now One can hardly expect these situations to continue. Both Apple and Microsoft have made their OS increasingly proprietary. One can hardly expect Microsoft to tolerate the asymmetrical situation that Macs can run Windows but not vice versa. Also, although Google gains with the sale of Android Apps on it Google Play Store they may want an extra cut for apps running on Windows 8. In short look for this situation to change and possibly dramatically after the launch of Windows 8.
With the three Android Advantages plus the the homegrown innovations, Microsoft has staked a claim to a major improvement in client computing. Redmond now supports hybrids or convertibles which will be attractive to a broad class of computing users. Windows 8 will win major customer buys because it supports the consumer consumption mode of media usage as well as the important productivity mode of operation. With its Hubs, Snap Screen, and Live Tiles Microsoft has added key software and interface innovations that will appeal to many customers.
Windows 8 will match most of the winning attributes of Android and iOS devices such as light mobile weight and size, instant start-up, long battery life. But at the same time it will leap ahead bringing to the both the Metro mode and PC Desktop not just touch screen operations but major integration with all four modes of UI operations – multi-touchscreen operations, mouse/trackpad click and movements, stylus click and gestures, and keyboard presses. Desktop users of major productivity apps like Visio, Photoshop, Quark Expresss, Eclipse, Autocad, etc, etc are going to love the new and more productive UI touch++ operations available to them.
People with productivity goals of filling in forms, writing analysis and stories, or doing mathmatical analysis from Excel to Wolfram are going to love the keyboard connected and full touch powered Windows 8 devices. Microsoft has brought PC users kicking and screaming into the NEW mobile touch world of client computing.
But that is the principal Windows 8 caution – kicking and screaming PC users. Now if Windows 8 lands with a Vista thud- many bugs and gotchas like the four steps required to shutdown a Windows 8 machine …. well that will land as disastrously as President Obama’s first debate performance. And the current high price of the Surface RT machine at $499 just matching the iPad with less screen resolution but more memory[2GB versus iPad 1GB] and Office on board[preview edition] – is not a compelling lure versus the iPad and all its apps.
Also Microsoft will not only have to have a superior help system but some of the best possible media or online user guides to Windows 8 including:
a)getting started in Windows 8 interactive user guide;
b) installing, integrating and optimum running of your Windows XP, Vista and 7 programs;
c)advanced control and customization of your Windows 8 experience.
Now if Steven Sinofsky were not the Windows 8 VP, I would expect Redmond to fumble on all three of these user guides – middling quality, missing key features, or just not available. But even with Stephen there, I expect some major fumble or three on user support.
Nonetheless, by copying Steve Jobs and Apples breakthroughs on light, long battery life mobile client computing, and copying Android’s hardware and software strategies and features, Windows 8 is a tremendous PC hardware and software upgrade that very likely will put Microsoft back and likely on top of the client computing game. As a caution on my prognosticator powers – see this political prediction.