When I was growing up, a PC, by definition, had to be running on Windows. Back then, you would require a certain amount of training before being able to use a PC. Then came the age of mobile communications. Besides, connecting hitherto unconnected masses, it also empowered them with a device that could do some amount of computation – calculator, contacts store, mobile games etc. Meanwhile, the largest players in the PCs' making game were locked in a race to build the smallest computing device.  Apple's Newton platform is a notable example.

 However, the effect of exponential developments in mobile communications gave new dimensions to the ever-changing definition of a true personal computer or a tablet. Remember that these were the 1990s to early 2000s – the age when internet began truly catching up with the masses, worldwide. Also, this was the time when Bill Gate's words "A PC on every desktop" were being realized. While for a user in the  enterprise segment, mobility gained priority besides productivity - a normal mobile phone user's expectations increased from just being able to communicate to doing a little more - however, he also expected to be able to use such a device without undergoing any training. In such a market, where non-enterprise users far out-number enterprise users, enterprise-level productivity isn't the buzzword anymore. Being able to use the internet, view multimedia content, games and occasionally being able to create documents or presentations are just about all that such a user would be interested in. And so designed the tablets of today.

The solution would have been to design a smartphone which can run full version of Windows. However, the state of technology had not reached a stage that could facilitate design of a practical device of such kind. During the gradual development, we witnessed the growth of Mobile OS platforms and the advent of smartphones. However, as with everything else, technology progressed and by the beginning of this decade to present times, we now have high-end smartphones that can fair well against entry-level PCs in computing power, even though may not still be able to beat them. Meanwhile, tablet  computers remained terra incognita to majority excluding a few for most part of the past decade.

The first true attempt to make a tablet computer (the kind of device that will do it all) was however made by Microsoft! (Circa 2001).

 And the first Windows OS to run on a tablet wasn't Windows 8. It was Windows XP Tablet PC Edition! A Microsoft Tablet PC was a personal computer powered by Microsoft® Windows® XP that was geared for ink-enabled, pen-enabled, and speech-enabled applications. However, the numbers weren't that great because – first, the cost of such a device was always very high, and two, there weren't very many "apps" that demonstrated the "tablet-ness" of the device.

Broadly speaking, in terms of IT usage, there are four classes of users – one, the novice (who would use a device for internet, games and multimedia), the student (internet, games, multimedia & applications for learning), the power users (gamers, engineers etc. running power crunching applications) & the regular enterprise user (Office applications).

The market for novice users far outnumbers the other three. It is very important to understand that the above classification is with  regards to IT and so in a non-IT enterprise, the majority of employees will still be considered novice. Essentially, a "novice" is a mobile user who is choosing to use a smart device as is the trend. And then the regular enterprise user who would use a device for Office Applications or its alternatives in other platforms. Android and iOS devices are more than sufficient to meet these capabilities. However, when the applications become power-hungry, Windows is probably the only OS that can do it all – given that most PC applications do not even have a version for other OS platforms.

Windows Phone platform is fast closing the gap in terms of number of available apps in  comparison to competing platforms. However, when it comes to tablets, now that they have started running full version Windows, the platform is a treasure trove of applications (Consider the fact it can run applications that were designed for previous versions of Windows.)
I have experienced this first hand with my Windows 8.1 tablet which runs my favorite game, Rise of Nations, like a charm. This is the same piece of software that was designed  run on Windows 98 and XP.

Windows 8.1 is significant here because for the first time, developers will be able to build universal Windows apps for all Windows devices. (Phones, Tablets & PCs)

 

Essentially, Microsoft's approach has introduced a new class of devices to the market. These are called hybrids – the kind of computing devices that will become "Tablet When You Want it, a Laptop When You Need it", the kind of devices which can run your old legacy applications while also providing you with an interface for the modern 'apps'. Also, there are very many choices of devices from OEMs like HP, Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo etc. besides Microsoft's own Surface line. Then there is Office – An application which has alternatives of which none is as productive as the Office running on Windows platform.

 But lastly, Microsoft is a platform that has a long-term sustainability. With its past and its all-in approach pushing Windows 8 and Windows Phone, it is guaranteed that its platform will continue getting better. It is also guaranteed that there will be long term support available for the software that you purchase today. Remember Windows XP, which was designed in the last millennium, went out of support only this year. While Microsoft continues to make profits, beating forecasts, the share value is  also on a stable trend and recently upwards.

While productivity has been the most important pitch for Microsoft's devices, it is also the company that created the brand Xbox. And for now, Microsoft looks all set for the future.

 

An article by Anshuman Mansingh. The author is a Technical Consultant with Microsoft's Services division, working on Business Productivity Infrastructure Optimization solutions. Most people skip the disclaimers – Thank you for taking time to read this - just so you know, the views presented in this article are strictly personal sans representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.