It’s not often that industry observers will look at the mobile market and think that iOS and Android have anything to worry about. Both platforms are finding that a growing number of people want to use them, and the companies behind them–Apple and Google–have enough cash on hand to solidify their positions in the marketplace for an inordinately long time. Simply put, Apple and Google are currently making the barriers to entry in the mobile space even higher.

But with Windows 8, Microsoft might just have what it takes to at least threaten iOS and Android. Microsoft’s operating system, which is slated to launch sometime next year, won’t hurt Android or iOS in the smartphone space. The software giant still hopes its Windows Phone 7 makes a dent there. However, Microsoft does have its sights set firmly on the tablet market with Windows 8. And by the look of things, vendors hoping to score some quick revenue off the tablet craze are willing to follow Microsoft into that space.
Realizing that, a Windows 8 tablets might just be bigger threat to iOS and Android than Apple and Google want to admit.
Here are 10 reasons why Windows 8 is in a good spot to challenge these other tablet operating systems:
1. It’s Windows, after all
Like it or not, Windows is a huge force in the operating system market. The OS has been installed on billions of computers around the globe, and there are still millions that would rather use a Windows PC than any other device. When Windows 8–which reportedly will work quite well with tablets–comes to that form factor, it’s quite possible that many of those folks will want a device running the OS. Windows cannot be discounted.
2. The enterprise might bite
Looking around the tablet space, there aren’t many solid options for enterprise users. The Research In Motion BlackBerry PlayBook is a sub-par corporate option, and the Cisco Cius, which launched over the summer, hasn’t gained much traction, due to its Android installation. But tablets running Windows 8 could be a different story for enterprise decision-makers. Not only will it support the applications companies use, but it’ll also limit productivity issues, since employees will be familiar with it. The corporate world could very well drive the growth of Windows 8 tablets.
3. It’s not too late
Some say that Microsoft’s decision to jump into the tablet space now is a mistake. They say that Windows 7 should have been more tablet-friendly, and thus would have given Microsoft more time to try and limit Android’s success. But such an opinion is short-sighted. The tablet market is poised for huge growth in the coming years. And Microsoft might just be coming in at the right time with Windows 8.

4. Vendors are lining up
The interesting difference between Windows 7 tablets and Windows 8 tablets is that, unlike the former, several vendors are lining up to support the latter. As of this writing, several companies, including Dell and Samsung, are expected to bring Windows 8 tablets to the market. Realizing that, Microsoft should have the kind of support it needs to take on Android and iOS. Will that guarantee success? Of course not. But as more vendors jump on Windows 8 tablets, Android and iOS could face increased pressure.

5. Consider the Motorola Mobility acquisition
Following that, it’s important to look at some of the factors that might hurt Android. The most notable issue could be Google’s recent decision to acquire Motorola Mobility. If the deal is approved by regulators, Google will have an Android hardware vendor to itself. And other Android vendors, like HTC and Samsung, could balk at that. If that happens, they might turn to Microsoft and Windows 8.
6. Microsoft will spend the cash
Microsoft understands the importance of the tablet space. If the company can’t solidify its position in that market, it could very well find itself on the outside looking in at the most lucrative space in the industry. So, in order to limit the chances of that, expect Microsoft to invest every last dime on Windows 8 tablets. If that means acquiring companies, it’ll do it. If that means investing in research and development, Microsoft will write the checks. Tablets mean quite a bit to Microsoft right now, and it will stop at nothing to get to where it wants to go.

7. It looks to be solid
Although details are somewhat slim on Windows 8 right now, the operating system, which is being shown off at the BUILD Conference this week, looks to be a fine option for consumers and enterprise users alike. The operating system has a revamped design, complete with live tiles, as well as support for a host of multitouch gestures that should only make it more appealing to tablet users. On paper, Windows 8 appears to be a fine competitor to iOS and Android.

8. Microsoft isn’t betting on Windows Phone 7
Too often, people make the mistake of believing that simply because Microsoft hasn’t been successful in the smartphone market with Windows Phone 7, the company won’t have a chance of succeeding with tablets and Windows 8. The reality is Microsoft’s troubles in the smartphone market have nothing to do with its chances in the tablet space. What’s more, Windows 8 is a much stronger platform than Windows Phone 7.
9. Microsoft might play the hardware game
As discussed, Google is breaking into the hardware space with its acquisition of Motorola Mobility. And that could very well hurt Android’s adoption if other vendors get concerned of Motorola’s ties with Google. But if they don’t become concerned and Android continues to be the top choice among vendors, Microsoft might just try to acquire a hardware vendor of its own. After all, it has the cash to do it, and the move could help bolster its own operating system’s market share in the tablet space. Simply put, if Microsoft enters the tablet-development market, it could make Windows 8 an even greater threat to Android and IOS.

10. The OS market is becoming consolidated
Last month, Hewlett-Packard announced that it was leaving the tablet space, and all but turning its back on the operating system running on its TouchPad, webOS. With that decision, HP left RIM’s BlackBerry OS alone to compete against iOS and Android. When Windows 8 comes into the market, there will be just four competitors. That’s not a lot of competition. Whether RIM will be able to sustain itself in the tablet space remains to be seen. As the tablet OS market continues to consolidate, Android and iOS might only need to worry about Windows 8. And at that point, the race will be on to find out which of the three will be able to cement itself as the long-term leader.

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