When Microsoft unveiled the Surface line of tablets a few weeks ago, I almost instantly saw Marin’s projections that Windows 8 will be the only viable iPad competitor coming to fruition. Surface has all the latest hardware found in the current crop of tablets, and adds a fully powered desktop operating system.
Today, we saw one of the key ways Microsoft’s Windows 8 tablet can differentiate itself from the competition. Windows 8 tablets will run a relatively fully featured operating system, complete with the applications and programs we’ve come to use every day. At a keynote this afternoon, Microsoft unveiled the next generation of Office, Office 13 (check Engadget’s full preview here), which could finally be the tool needed to move tablets from accessories to full-fledged computer replacements.
Most people cite productivity as the main reason they can’t fully see a tablet replace their computers. When it comes to my day job, I simply need Excel or Access to get work done; third-party applications or even Apple’s fairly impressive productivity suite simply don’t cut it. Office 13 will bring the power of desktop applications to a portable tablet, which when paired with the keyboard attachments Microsoft unveiled a few weeks back make a Windows 8 tablet the ultimate productivity machine.
The second reason for tablets not quite being ready for prime time is specific to the iPad, namely the lack of a true file management system. As a businessperson, I need access to files categorized in file folders on my computer to manage much of the work I do, and the iPad simply doesn’t do it well. Android tablets have some third-party options, though none hold the muster of a Windows product. And, since most enterprises use Windows and Office, most Windows 8 tablet customers should feel right at home with the software; it even has the ribbon we all hated but have since gotten used to.
Sure, my attitude and outlook may change once I’m able to get my hands on Office 2013 (or, Office 15, or whatever they want to call it), and Office 2013 may in fact make its way to the iPad and Android tablets as has been rumored for several months now, but a fully featured office product with an equally powerful operating system could be the combination Microsoft needs to make a significant dent on the tablet market and provide a true rival to Apple’s iPad.