Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pad vs.PC

In the past year, the iPad has inspired other companies to produce competing tablet models. The Android operating system for Smart phones provides the development platform for applications to make them competitive with the iPad. Samsung makes the Galaxy-S pad, Dell has the Streak tablet, and of course there are others. Amazon's Kindle is also a competitor for the iPad, although it isn't an Android-based tablet PC.

Between the iPad and the Android-based tablets, sales have shot up, at the same time as regular laptop and notebook PC sales are dropping. This cannot be good news for Microsoft, which dominates the operating system market for laptops. nearly every laptop sold includes a cut for Microsoft, which has obviously been shocked into action. There is now a version of Windows 7 for Smart phones, introduced earlier this year. Microsoft will be trying to catch up with Android. If Microsoft manages to extend the reach of the Windows 7 Smart phone IOS to tablets, it will be difficult to capture a significant share of the tablet market. It could well be the beginning of the end of the near-monopoly status of Microsoft's Windows operating system.

This can only be a good thing. Microsoft has enjoyed market dominance for too long. Apple has had some success in cracking the OS market with its Macintosh, and when Apple introduced the iPod, iPhone and iPad, they changed the market forever. When Google introduced the Android OS for Smart phones, it opened up a competitive market where Microsoft was not competing. Being based on the Linux open-source operating system, Android is an attractive platform for smaller developers. There are no royalties to be paid to the owner of the underlying code.

Perhaps the greater availability of Android apps will propel the acceptance of Linux as a reasonable alternative to the Windows and Macintosh OS/X platforms in the desktop and laptop market. There are a great many applications available for Linux, and the distributions are free for anyone to use, if they want. How Microsoft can get away with charging nearly 200 dollars for an operating system is amazing, since Linux is available for little to no cost at all. And most standard applications on Windows have reasonable substitutes on Linux.

Some have surmised from the explosive sales of tablets that we are seeing the end of the laptop as we know it. I personally doubt that we are seeing much more than a sales spike of a fad or fashion, which will drop off as soon as the gadget lovers all have one. Laptop PCs still have their functions, which include better file storage systems, and the availability of really powerful software applications that are available on desktop PCs. The question is whether people will replace the laptop extension of their PC with a tablet extension of their telephone. The answer is yet to be seen, but my bets are on the laptop.