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Microsoft finds surprising new ways to undermine Windows hardware

Published Mar 24th, 2014 1:26PM EDT
Office For iPad Preview
Image: Microsoft Corporation

It seems increasingly likely that Microsoft Office will be announced for the iPad within days. This could be a substantial blow for Windows tablet manufacturers as the move would remove one of the few reasons to purchase a portable device powered by Microsoft operating system. Curiously, the move is coming only weeks after the unveiling of Nokia X model range — smartphones that are powered by Google’s Android operating system.

It is possible to view both of these moves as panic reactions aimed at shoring up Microsoft’s relevance in the mobile device market where the PC giant has been reduced to role as a bit player. One of the biggest threats to Microsoft is that consumers may begin to embrace more compact, cheaper alternatives to Microsoft Word and Powerpoint as time spent on tablets grows and time spent on PC’s shrinks.

But the price of opening up the iPad universe for the magic of Microsoft Office may in turn reduce the relevance of Windows tablets even further.

Nokia’s Android phones are, in part, an attempt to boost consumer interest in Microsoft smartphones by offering access to Android applications. But even though these phones may well teach consumers to embrace the Windows Phone interface, Android compatibility means that app vendors have less incentive than ever to create Windows versions of their products. Microsoft and Nokia are essentially buying a hardware sales boost at the cost of damaging the long-term viability of the Windows application ecosystem.

Recent market share troubles in the tablet and smartphone spheres are now forcing Microsoft to make moves that may put its long-term success of its hardware business in jeopardy.

After launching mobile game company SpringToys tragically early in 2000, Tero Kuittinen spent eight years doing equity research at firms including Alliance Capital and Opstock. He is currently an analyst and VP of North American sales at mobile diagnostics and expense management Alekstra, and has contributed to, Forbes and Business 2.0 Magazine in addition to BGR.