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Microsoft has a blind spot that prevents the company from succeeding in mobile: It tends to put the right operating system on the wrong device.
For years, Microsoft shoehorned Windows CE, and then Windows Mobile, into mobile phones. The operating system’s user interface was all wrong for a phone. It required a stylus, and involved off-putting user interface elements like a Windows-style Start button with cascading menus.
The user interface would have much better on a tablet device, and the performance would’ve been great. However, Microsoft insisted that partners install full-fledged Windows on tablets.
As a result of this mismatch, both the phones and the tablets failed in the market year after year.
When Microsoft led the whole Ultra-Mobile PC initiative, the company correctly foresaw the coming importance of mobile devices. But by insisting on Windows Vista as the operating system, rather than a cell phone operating system, Microsoft assured failure once again.
Then consumers gravitated to netbooks. At first Microsoft tried to cram (again) an operating system that was too big for the platform: Windows Vista. But netbook buyers insisted on “lite” software, preferring Linux and then Windows XP.
Windows CE and Windows mobile would have enabled pen-based tablets and ultra-mobile PCs to succeed far more than they have done.
Microsoft finally has a right-sized operating system: Windows Phone 7. It’s right enough for phones, but even righter for tablets.Why “Tablets Are Cannibalizing Netbooks”
A Microsoft executive admitted this week that “tablets are cannibalizing netbooks.” This is euphemistic corporate spin.
Let me translate: Apple is destroying Microsoft in mobile. “Tablets” is code for iPad, which owns 95% of a rapidly growing market. The netbook market, which is rapidly dying, is dominated by Windows.
The iPad is winning for many reasons, but one of them is that its iOS is right-sized for the platform. The iPad has a netbook-sized screen, but runs what is essentially a cell phone operating system. By downsizing the OS and the hardware, Apple was able to achieve a low-enough-but-profitable price, zippy performance and amazing battery life.
Had Apple followed the Microsoft approach, it would have launched the iPad with OS X running on it. It would have touted the ability of the device to run desktop OS X apps. But it would have cost $1,800, gotten three hours of battery life, weighed three pounds and it would have been slow.
Google will also succeed in tablets in part because Android is also essentially a cell phone operating system.
There is absolutely no question that for a tablet to compete, it must run a cell phone operating system.
If — despite overwhelming, inescapable evidence and proof for this most basic fact of today’s mobile market — Microsoft fails to put its Windows Phone 7 OS on tablets, then we can safely write off Microsoft in the mobile market.
We can finally say: Microsoft has a fatal blind spot and that it will not and cannot succeed in mobile.
But I don’t think that’s going to happen.What Ballmer Said About Tablets
In a recent interview with Ars Technica, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer hinted that Windows Phone 7-based tablets are in the works. In a discussion about tablets, Ballmer said: “You’ll see some things as you move Windows Phone along.”
Ballmer’s vague statement is vaguely encouraging. But the company will have to do more than just slap Windows Phone 7 on tablets. First, it has to be willing to compete with Android on price.
Second, Microsoft has to be willing to cannibalize existing businesses in mobile operating systems, tablet operating systems and applications. It needs to get behind the mobile tablet business with all its resources, cultivate massive development on these platforms and offer a compelling line of its own applications — sorry “apps.”
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Microsoft warned potential buyers last week that its second-generation Surface tablets were close to selling out, at least at its own online Microsoft Store. On Monday, the company’s prediction appears to be coming true, at least in some small part.
Not to worry, however. So far, it appears only the more expensive versions of the next-gen Surface tablets are affected, and the delays are minimal—just a few days to a week. It’s also not clear whether the same devices being sold at Best Buy and other retailers are also back-ordered. And if you really want a Surface 2 or Surface Pro 2, try visiting a brick-and-mortar Microsoft Store on launch day, Microsoft has said—they may have them in stock.
In any event, Microsoft may be able to make the “sold-out” claim to win some positive PR—if it chooses to.
Microsoft launched the next-generation Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro at an event in New York City on Sept 23, pairing them with a number of new covers and other accessories designed to enhance the functionality of the basic Surface experience.
One preliminary benchmark test indicated that the Surface Pro 2 provided a marginal 9 percent improvement over the original Surface Pro; in our brief time with the new Type Cover, we felt that it was a step back from the previous version.
Microsoft has made it clear, however, that it hopes the Surface Pro 2 could eventually replace both the desktop and the mobile PC with its innovative Power Cover and a forthcoming docking station, due early next year.
Microsoft has said that the new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets will be available on Oct. 22. (For some items, Microsoft has said that delivery will take place after Oct. 22.) Nevertheless, Microsoft representatives told PCWorld that if the order page is showing a week’s delay, those products are back-ordered, including some next-gen Surface tablets and accessories. That appears to be the case.
A quick rundown of the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 availability, as of Monday:
$449 Surface 2 (32GB): Ships by Oct. 25
$549 Surface 2 (64GB): Ships by Oct. 21
$899 Surface Pro 2 (64GB): Ships by Oct. 25
$999 Surface Pro 2 (128GB): Ships by Oct. 25
$1,299 Surface Pro 2 (256GB): Ships by Oct. 29
$1,799 Surface Pro 2 (512GB): Ships by Oct. 29
Using Microsoft’s logic, then, the Surface Pro 2 256GB and 512GB versions are sold out.
Microsoft said last week that the Type Cover 2 and the Touch Cover 2 were also sold out; the Microsoft Store ship dates reflect that, with a shipping date of Oct. 29 for both. The Surface Wireless Adapter is still scheduled to ship on Oct. 21.
So far, it’s not clear whether or not retailers like Best Buy have backordered the high-end Surface Pro 2 tablets as well; the site is not currently providing a ship date for the new Surface tablets. Moreover, Best Buy currently does not offer a ship-to-store option for the next-gen Surface tablets.
Theoretically, Microosft could use the availability scenario to make the claim that its new Surface 2 and Pro 2 tablets are “sold out,” a trigger phrase that usually provokes additional interest. (That’s a problem that Microsoft didn’t have with the first-gen Surface, which was discounted after it couldn’t sell enough of them.)
But, without knowing the available supply (or demand) or Microsoft’s new tablets, it’s a dodgy proposition. The best metrics for Microsoft’s success will probably be analyst data or Microsoft’s own numbers, if it discloses them.
You have a great product or service, and your potential customers are spread out worldwide.
You might literally have customers in every country on the planet.
Filled with unwavering optimism, you kick off your SEO strategy, but you’re hitting wall after wall.
Your site has no technical issues, you have the best content out there, and you’ve gained quite a few backlinks… but you’re still not winning.
It sounds like you’ve picked the wrong fights.
It’s likely you picked a highly competitive market to cater to. And you don’t have the authority to win – not yet.
You’re competing with big brands that are spending millions of dollars a month on digital marketing and have been going at it for over a decade.
Can you beat them?
Yes, but not with this strategy.
You need to rethink it.
They’re Goliath, and you’re David. And you don’t have a slingshot yet.
You need to pick battles you can actually win, and you need to go into battle prepared.
OK, so how do you go about that?
Let’s start at the beginning, and look at some of the weaknesses these big brands have.Big Brands Aren’t Perfect
First some good news: big brands aren’t perfect.
Speaking from experience, here are some of the weaknesses I often see with big brands:
They have a slow decision-making process, because they need to get approval from a variety of stakeholders.
They’re not great at executing SEO- and content-marketing strategies due to internal politics and the number of people involved.
Their sites are running on legacy platforms, and sometimes they’re even dealing with prolonged code freezes.Play to Your Strengths
Gait: you’re fast and flexible; you don’t have to get your ideas approved by many layers of management. If you come up with a great idea, you can have it online the same day.
Grit: it’s likely that your determination to beat these bigger brands is much stronger than the other way around, as these bigger brands are already in a comfortable position. A smaller brand has little to lose and everything to gain.
Guts: you don’t have to get legal sign-off for every campaign you’re going to run. You can run much more provocative campaigns.
In summary, smaller brands have everything to gain, can run daring campaigns, and can execute much faster than bigger brands because there’s nothing holding them back.Find Topics to Rank for in Markets with Strong Competition
Even within markets where you’re facing strong competition, you can find topics to rank for that haven’t yet been covered by your competition.
Disregard all the “usual suspects” and aim to find long-tail topics that are easily missed because they seem not to be worth pursuing.
Google Trends is highly useful here. Use it to keep an eye on emerging trends within your space and, as soon as you spot a trend, publish content around that topic.
See how that content performs. If you find it getting a lot of traction, write some more.Creating a High Barrier to Entry
When you find low-competition topics that you can rank for, make sure your content is the best out there.
That is: make sure it looks awesome, it’s complete, and you have all your bases covered.Look Beyond Your Domestic Market
In markets where big brands don’t have a strong presence, it’s a level playing field, and you actually have a good chance at beating them.
I’d always recommend that smaller brands first create a business case as well to justify entering certain markets, but as a smaller brand, you can go through this process 10 times faster than bigger brands. That also means you can exit it quickly.
Find markets that are accessible to you where the competition doesn’t have a strong presence, and test the waters. If you see potential, invest more and take it from there.
In low-competition markets, you can enjoy exceptionally high growth.
You can grow unnoticed, as competitors are all busy fighting each other for that massive market everyone’s pursuing.
You can take the competition head-on at a later time after you’ve built up enough authority and momentum, if you choose to.
Low-competition markets sound interesting, but how do you find them?
By doing old-fashioned desk research, and by using the data you already have.Finding High-Potential Markets Through Desk Research
Map out all the markets you can cater to, and research the competition within those markets.
If the competition from big brands is low, then look further: are there lots of successful local players you don’t have an edge over?
If so, leave that market. If not, put it on your list.
Here’s an example of my own:
I work at an SEO platform called ContentKing. Worldwide, there are hundreds of SEO platforms, but in the Netherlands, there’s literally only a handful of them.
And none of the big players have localized their platforms into Dutch. It doesn’t make sense for them to do that, and that gives us an edge.
Is the Netherlands easily accessible to us? Yes (part of our team is Dutch).
Is it a massive market? No.
Is it big enough to make it worth our while? For sure!Finding High-Potential Markets Based on Real Data
Look within your analytics platform to see what markets convert well, and investigate whether you can grab a bigger market share there.
Example: one of our ContentKing customers, a bicycle seller, saw they were getting a lot of orders from Australia for certain bicycle types.
After some research, they found these customers preferred Dutch bicycles over any other bicycles and would gladly pay the extra shipping fee. They increased their focus on this market, and it turned into a real money-maker.Finding Topics to Rank for Within These High-Potential Markets
I’ve found that simply creating localized versions of the same content that works well in highly-competitive markets goes a long way in these high potential markets.
This lets you rank quickly as there’s less competition, and because there’s less competition, having the best content is quickly within your grasp.Conclusion
As a smaller player, you stand a chance against bigger brands if you pick your battles wisely.
Focus on ranking for topics that others aren’t focused on, and look beyond your domestic market.
According to a post on the Chromium Blog, Google Chrome Frame was developed to help both users and web developers. For developers, Google Chrome Frame would enable them to develop applications that are as fast and richer as Google Wave.
If you are a developer, you can easily implement the Google Chrome Frame by adding the following line on your site’s HTML codes.
This line will automatically trigger IE to use Google Chrome’s Webkit-based rendering engine. Booyah!
For IE users, installing Google Chrome Frame enables them to enjoy web apps at a faster speed similar to how they experience it when using Google Chrome.
Another reason of course why Google came up with the Google Chrome Frame is perhaps to prepare and persuade IE users to use Google Wave which is built on HTML5. Google needs these IE users but persuading them to use Google Chrome over IE seems harder to do than persuading them to install the Google Chrome Frame plug-in.
Google’s announcement has elicited reactions from various bloggers around the searchosphere and we’ve quoted some of them below:
Philipp Lanssen of Blogoscoped said that Google Chrome Frame “might even further push Microsoft towards implementing Canvas in IE natively, just to avoid having developers push a Google plug-in for users.”
Garett Rogers of ZDNet “wonders on how excited Microsoft would get if Google made the Google Chrome rendering engine the default one in IE.”
I wonder how excited Microsoft would get if Google made the Google Chrome rendering engine the default one in Internet Explorer?
Clint Boulton of Google Watch thinks that there is probably more to this story than what’s on the surface that we aren’t seeing just yet. He further suspects the Chrome Frame will be a big determiner of how well Wave is adopted by those millions of workers who are stuck using IE 6 because of corporate regulations.
Adam Ostrow of Mashable believes that this will potentially accelerate the demise of IE6, and not-so-subtly attack Microsoft in the process.
SUN VALLEY, Idaho (Reuters) – Google Inc is planning a direct attack on Microsoft Corp’s core business by taking on the software giant’s globally dominant Windows operating system for personal computers.
Google, which already offers a suite of e-mail, Web and other software products that compete with Microsoft, said on Tuesday it would launch a new operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks.
Called the Google Chrome Operating System, the new software will be in netbooks for consumers in the second half of 2010, Google said in a blog post, adding that it was working with multiple manufacturers.
Netbooks are low-cost notebook PCs optimized for Internet surfing and other Web-based applications.
“It’s been part of their culture to go after and remove Microsoft as a major holder of technology, and this is part of their strategy to do it,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group. “This could be very disruptive. If they can execute, Microsoft is vulnerable to an attack like this, and they know it,” he said.
Google and Microsoft have often locked horns over the years in a variety of markets, from Internet search to mobile software. It remains to be seen if Google can take market share away from Microsoft on its home turf, with Windows currently installed in more than 90 percent of the world’s PCs.
The news comes as executives from the world’s biggest technology and media companies, including Google and Microsoft, gather in Sun Valley, Idaho for an annual conference organized by boutique investment bank Allen & Co.
Key to success will be whether Google can lock in partnerships with PC makers, such as Hewlett-Packard Co and Dell Inc, which currently offer Windows on most of their product lines.
HP, the world’s largest PC brand, declined to confirm if it would sell PCs running on the new operating system.
“We are looking into it,” said HP spokeswoman Marlene Somsak, referring to the operating system. “We want to understand all the different operating systems available to customers, and will assess the impact of Chrome on the computer and communications industry.”
Google’s Chrome Internet browser, launched in late 2008, remains a distant fourth in the Web browser market, with a 1.2 percent share in February, according to market research firm Net Applications. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer continues to dominate with nearly 70 percent.
FAST AND LIGHTWEIGHT
The new Chrome OS is expected to work well with many of the company’s popular software applications, such as Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Maps.
It will be fast and lightweight, enabling users to access the Web in a few seconds, Google said. The new OS is based on open-source Linux code, which allows third-party developers to design compatible applications.
“The operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web,” Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management at Google, said in the blog post. The Chrome OS is “our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.”
Google said Chrome OS was a new project, separate from its Android mobile operating software found in some smartphones. Acer Inc, the world’s No.3 PC brand, has already agreed to sell netbooks that run on Android to be released this quarter.
The new OS is designed to work with ARM and x86 chips, the main chip architectures in use in the market. Microsoft has previously said it would not support PCs running on ARM chips, allowing Google an opportunity to infiltrate that segment.
Charlene Li, partner at consulting company Altimeter Group, said Google’s new OS could initially appeal to consumers looking for a netbook-like device for Web surfing, rather than people who use desktop PCs for gaming or high-powered applications.
But eventually, the Google OS has the potential to scale up to larger, more powerful PCs, especially if it proves to run faster than Windows, she said.
Microsoft declines to say how much it charges PC brands for Windows, but most analysts estimate about $20 for the older XP system and at least $150 for the current Vista system.
Li added: “A benefit to the consumer is that the cost saving is passed on, not having to pay for an OS.”
“It’s clearly positioned as a shot across the bow of Microsoft,” she said.
Google rolled out today some of the best new search tools ever. My favorites are the “Wonder Wheel” and the “Timeline.” I’ll save my over-enthusiastic gushing about these features for another column. Instead, I’d like to address the many comparisons being made between Google’s new “Recent results” feature and the search function of Twitter.
Is Google’s better than Twitters? The answer is no… and yes. It depends on what you’re searching for.
In reality, Google’s “Recent results” isn’t nearly as new as some of the other features. It essentially extends to non-news items the timeliness of Google News searches, which can be atomized to the most recent hour.
The problem with “Recent results” as a competitor to Twitter Search is that it doesn’t at all provide the “real-time searches” Twitter does. While Twitter shows you every single “hit” on your search measured in seconds or minutes, Google’s “Recent results” feature shows you a small percentage of hits with a freshness of minutes, hours and days.
To illustrate the point, I entered my own name into the “Recent results” feature, and I got back a recent blog posting of mine, followed by a Twitter post from yesterday, followed by my main page on Twitter. My column from last week showed up near the bottom of the first page. The results felt to me to be based on some weird combination of relevance, recency, popularity and random chance.
For example, it picked up a blog post from yesterday, but what about the post I did four hours ago? I post about 10 to 15 Twitter tweets per day — why did it select this one over the others? No way to know.
The good thing — and the bad — about Google’s “Recent results” feature is that results are heavily vetted. You’re not getting everything — not even close. And it’s not all that timely, either. It’s just more timely than regular Google search results.
So if you want to learn more about a prominent person before meeting them, or want to know more about a company or just get a well-rounded understanding of something, Google’s “Recent results” will give you a nice snapshot that’s pretty timely.
If something is truly new — breaking news (say, an earthquake hit Los Angeles 30 seconds ago) or public events (the playoffs are live on TV now), Google can’t touch Twitter.
However, if you’re searching for something that everyone is talking about, Twitter can be a nightmare of irrelevant chatter. Google “Recent results” will do a much better job of filtering out the noise.
Stated another way: If you want to know what happened today, use Google’s “Recent results.” If you want to know what happened in the past ten minutes – and are willing to sort through a lot of crap — use Twitter Search.
Here’s Palm Pre on Google Recent results. Here’s Palm Pre on Twitter.
None of this matters to the average user, however. The vast majority of people will search by going to the Google home page, entering in their search and accepting whatever results pop up – ignoring both the “Show Options” link and the idea of trying Twitter Search.
That would bring real-time search to the masses, and drive Twitter awareness and usage to Facebook or Wikipedia levels (because posting on Twitter would provide Google exposure).
Best of all for us lazy power searchers, it would enable one-stop shopping for real-time search. Until that happens, however, I recommend both Google’s “Recent results” feature and Twitter Search to everyone who wants more timely searches, depending on what you’re searching for.
In the meantime, ignore the pundits who suggest Google “Recent results” in any way competes with Twitter. It doesn’t. They’re very different. They’re both necessary. And they complete each other.
C’mon, Google: Acquire Twitter already!
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