What’s next for Android and iOS now that we’ve seen the Windows 8 preview?

by: Gary SimsMarch 14, 2012

It’s been a couple of weeks since Microsoft released its consumer preview of Windows 8, and the general consensus from desktop users is, so far –  “where is the Start button?” Microsoft has intentionally forced a single, new user interface, known as Metro, on desktop and tablet users alike. The reason for this is that Microsoft is starting to panic about how it can compete with Android and iOS. It (wrongly) thinks this: if everyone has to use Metro on the desktop then they will use it on a tablet too, as it provides a uniform, interconnected, compatible experience from the desktop to the tablet. And with hundreds of millions of Windows desktop users in the world, Microsoft is trying to push its way into the tablet market by brute force. Of course, it will fail, for two very simple reasons.

First, nobody else thinks having a uniform UI across desktops and tablets is a good idea. Apple hasn’t done it with OS X and Google is still pushing the browser as the platform. Sure, Apple has made changes to OS X to incorporate different aspects of the tablet experience into the Mac (with mouse gestures and the upcoming notification center), but OS X remains firmly a desktop OS. Not having an amalgamated desktop / mobile OS hasn’t hurt the sales of the iPad. This is because a tablet isn’t a desktop. Microsoft should repeat this mantra, in their halls and meeting rooms. A tablet isn’t a desktop! A tablet isn’t a desktop! In fact, the tablet is a new device for a new era, the post PC era, and you just can’t drag the PC kicking and screaming into this new age.

Android devices work with any desktop operating system (Windows, OS X, and Linux) when there is a need to connect the tablet to a computer, but most Android connectivity happens in the cloud. The cloud or the Internet is where it all happens. No tablet exists without some form of wireless connectivity and the big selling point of the iPad 3 (other than its new display) is the incorporation of 4G. Tablets are all about syncing wirelessly with the cloud, for email, web browsing, photos, calendars, contacts, and backups. I rarely connect my phone or my tablet to my PC. It all happens over the air including downloading new apps, books, music, and movies. Which, of course, is the second reason Windows 8 will fail in its current form – content.

Content is king. Amazon knows this. Think about it, a company that started by selling physical books over the Internet has quietly turned itself into a major player in the mobile device market (which includes the Kindle eBook readers, as well as the Kindle Fire tablet). How did it do this? By focusing on content. Once I have a tablet from Amazon, from Samsung, or from Apple, I need content for it. I need apps, I need music, I need books. Apple understand this, which is why the iTunes store has now delivered over 25 billion downloads. That is a huge number. Google sees this too, that is the real reasoning behind the recent rebranding of the Android Market to Google Play. It is a single place to get everything your tablet can consume. But where is Microsoft in this? Does it have a content centered eco-system? No.

The future

So, what does this mean for the future of mobile device operating systems? First, unless Microsoft addresses the two issues above, it will fail to make a significant impact in the tablet market place, just as it has failed to make a significant impact on the mobile phone market (even with Nokia’s help).

Second, we will see a continuing push to enhance the cloud related features of Android and iOS. This means better connectivity like 4G, better cloud integration at the OS and app level, and new (yet unknown) uses for the cloud. Thirdly, it will mean more features that enhance content consumption – better displays, better linking with external displays. and better sound. It will also mean new and more innovative ways to sell and market content to the user (watch Amazon for this).

In the long term (10 to 15 years), the battle won’t be about which OS you are running on your device, how much memory it has, how many Mhz are packed in the processor. It will be about what content you can get and where you can store it. The winner in this battle isn’t yet clear. Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Apple have everything to win, and, most importantly, everything to lose.

  • Dbag

    You obviously know.nothing and have no clue. Windows 8 uniformly across all platforms and.its simplicity will be a game changer. Wait and see..

    • oldman

      it is all about content for consumers. However the winner will be the one who will provide the best user interface and big stores behind. Some people will love metro while other will hate it. The most important is there will even more competition and the final winner will be the consumer. 80% of new patents related to computer domains are all about users interfaces. The speed of change is far more faster than what you can imagine. Unifying users interface may be a good thing. However this will make Microsoft slower to introduce new technologies. Desktop is not a tablet. Who knows what will be the Desktop in 10 years. Looking behind the scene, it will be likely not the Windows that we know nowadays including the new Metro interface.

  • KyleRay

    I’m not a Microsoft fan and I hate Windows in general. But…. even though I primarily use Linux, the new Windows 8 has me using it 30% of the time already. It fast and it’s an all in one complete package for the most part. I LOVE the new “Start” side scrolling panel and for freakin sakes people, there are three or four ways to get to it. I love the metro panel over little tiny icon with big spaces between them of other Start/Program/shortcuts/etc of Win 7 and XP as well as OS-X. I run Compiz on Linux so I’m not going to say it better than that. But it’s dam good and the speed kills most if not all it’s competitors!!!

  • Highlander

    What an one-sided, shamelessly biased article. Windows 8 has a different approach to content — where you can get the best of everyone’s worlds. This is about, Content, Productivity Apps and critically, the user experience.

    A. CONTENT: You can get any content you want on pretty much any device. Because the content owners/curators want reach.

    B. PRODUCTIVITY: Apps fall into two camps, micro-apps – where Apple triumphs and Android probaby good enough – and MS is just plain behind.

    C. USER EXPERIENCE: Apple has traditionally torched everyone, and that is why the IPAD/IPHONE are so good. It’s not the content — it’s the UX that allows you to so easily immerse yourself and leverage the content. The Gap is narrowing…and given the continuing footprint of MS and Office — Win8 might just close it, or at least close it enough to put MS back in the game. At the very least, its a worthwhile debate.

    So let’s see if we can figure this out:

    1. Content: Music, Books, Multimedia, Whatever
    Amazon, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Pandora, gMusic bla bla bla bla bla
    Other than not being able to run iTunes natively on the Windows Based Smart Phone — what else could you want…oh I know — the www, flash and html5.
    WINNERS: the open system guys — Android and Win8

    2. (a) General Micro-Apps
    WINNERS: Apple & Android

    2. (b) Productivity Apps (Office, Exchange etc…)
    WINNERS: Win8

    3. User Experience
    Historically, APPLE.
    Potentially, WIN8.

    – Cloud and Mobile are not winning capabilities, they are necessary and insufficient.
    – The winner will be the company that integrates and melds all 3 of the above, in a sensible multi-form factor ecosystem….and that’s why convergence of experience becomes important and why apple is so keen to ios-ize OSX and vice versa.

    Why can’t articles on this subject be relatively free of bias?

  • Nick Okita

    You guys just forgot in important point – Development! The user development is way too important to be forgotten, Android is making it’s reputation based on it, as I remember Windows 8 isn’t a development platform as like Android and Linux gets a good part of it’s reputation based on it too!! I’m known as XxLordxX on xda-developers, if you have a recently rooted Xoom you probably know me and many people speak to me – why don’t you just play with your tablet as anyone else plays? (I screwed it 3 times already and my cell I screwed many more), then I answered, because the way I do the things are better! – I love Android because of this reason, and I think it won’t loose market until developers stop developing Roms, kernels, patches, and all that king of stuff for it. Even my dad (he did one of the best Computer Science Universities in my country) said Android is amazing for developing because it’s easy, open source and more people doing it. Even if windows 8 dominate the market, the small developers will still develop for something better and cheaper that is (for now) Android :D

  • Hkhalids

    I’ve been an apple fan all along but I recently bought the Samsung Galaxy s3. I completely agree with your article. The quad core processor or the amount of software doesn’t matter. It ultimately depends on the user experience and how well software works with hardware. Android is much better in terms of customization and I think the ICS is way more fluid compared to the previous build. However, developers prefer ios which is why the apps on the appstore are of better quality. I think it’s because for android, developers need to make the apps work with so many devices and if they fix a big in one device, and a problem arises with the other. So yes, content definitely matters, and quality> quantity, and so companies like Samsung should only focus on getting one device out in the market every year to make the task for developers easier. Just saying, I wouldn’t go for raw specs, I’d rather have a phone with a lot of content available, mainly good games and apps. Having said all that, but I’m very satisfied with my phone, the only downside is that apps didn’t work as well as they do on my iphone.