Will an Apple tablet with iWork help bring on the end of Windows for the average user?

You know those often quoted statistics that Windows powers 90% of the world’s computers, or that 30,000,000 Powerpoints are given each day?

Do you ever wonder where these numbers come from?

Me too. The latter appears to come from Microsoft itself. Given my own made up statistic that 95% of them disobey most evidence-based rules for conveying engaging memorable messages, I have a lot of work ahead of me to offer up alternatives!

But what of the percentage of computers figures?

It depends on which computers and who’s using them.

It’s perhaps an apocryphal story of the Microsoft spokeswoman addressing a group of professional moviemakers touting certain wares. Allegedly she said in passing, “Of course, Windows operates on 95% of computers”. To which one wag replied, “Not in this room, lady”.

What then should we do with the figures we see quoted the last few Steve Jobs keynotes that 50% of Apple store purchasers of Macs are switchers, presumably from Windows. Not new computer users, nor Apple users updating, but switchers.

What will be the impact of an Apple tablet on potential switchers, I wonder?

If an Apple tablet is a glorified Kindle, the answer is nothing.

But what if Apple has developed a new device, one much more attuned to the needs of a public who is not concerned with operating systems, Tuesday patches, malware, spyware, trojans and viruses? What if the vast number of general public users just want to work with email, surf the net, chat and social network, watch movies and listen to music?

Leave it to the vast bulk of that purported 95% to run Windows on a desktop machine: airlines, banks, enterprise, universities and various research institutes. But what of Mom and Pop, their kids, the self-employed, SMEs?

What if the tablet was actually more than a reader but a worker? An iWorker, able to use a form of the iWork productivity suite now available for Macs? I’ve hinted at this in other blog entries, but a recent New York Times report seems to suggest something really is going in with iWork and the tablet:

Source: The New York Times, January 8, 2007 “A Deluge of Devices for Reading and Surfing” by Brad Stone and Nick Bilton,

Let’s also imagine that’s it’s a device that runs iPhone 4.0, to take advantage of some of the 120,000 apps. Apple has in its iTunes Store. Some of those will be reader apps, but I’m betting Steve Jobs will do to publishing what he’s done with music and movies: allow his hardware and software to be portals for purchasing. I don’t buy the idea that all publications will have their own apps. And I’m betting that with Pages we’ll all be able to engage in self-publishing, and I am breathless with what will happen with Apple’s presentation software, Keynote.

If it turns out this way, we’ll have a device which will surprise and delight Windows users who will no longer have to fear opening their email, wonder if they have the latest drivers, or wonder which tech support system to ring – the hardware make, the graphics chip maker, Microsoft, the application creator, like Adobe, or the printer manufacturer.

What will happen to the world of computing when the operating system is of no great consequence?

We no longer call it computing, that’s what.

We no longer think of buying a PC.

Computers will be those large mainframes spitting out airline timetables and tickets, crunching large databases, just like it was before the personal computer came along. Talk about back to the future!

The rest of us will be making the transfer from laptops and desktops, learning a new way of interacting with our information, and wondering how we ever were so short-sighted as to think personal computing was all about the operating system.

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9 responses to “Will an Apple tablet with iWork help bring on the end of Windows for the average user?

  1. Les,

    You are excited about the iTablet-slate-thingy Apple appears to be ready to unveil. I’m enjoying your more frequent posts. I think you are on the right track about a new version of iWork heading our way. It’s going to be a long wait until the 27th.

  2. @Bill – as you know, I’ve been thinking about a tablet for quite a few years. I still remember getting my first PalmPilot when I visited Boston a decade or more ago, and the vision of where such as device could take us has never left me.

  3. I believe one day the world will come to its senses that it is better to deal with one supplier’s support than a myriad of supports which the Windows OS entails.

    Sorry to be out of topic.

  4. Beware whenever a Microsoft employee uses the work “marketshare”. Microsoft’s definition of the market is designed to specifically exclude hardware they don’t make OSs for (that their competitors do) like set-top DVD Players and microwaves, and to specifically include hardware they support (that their competitors do not) like cash registers and gas pumps.

    Instead of using Microsoft’s gerrymandered definition of the market that gives them a 95% share (Things MS Makes OSs For vs. Things MS Does Not), I define the market as two distinct groups:

    Group #1 – Those who buy computers and/or operating systems for other people to use. (OEMs and IT depts.)

    Group #2 – Those who buy computers/operating systems for their own use. (End Users)

    Then I ask:

    a. Which group is more profitable?
    b. Which group has more growth potential?

    For the last three decades, the answer to both questions has been group #1.

    …but group #2 is poised to take over during this decade.

    Why divide it like this? Because the market has finally grown so large any attempt to look it as a whole will hide both strong and weak spots, and this is as good of a dividing line as any because it asks the two questions that really matter.

    When group #1 ruled, one set of requirements ruled the evolution of systems – when group #2 rules a whole different set of requirements come into play. Corporate IT departments have different needs from high school students and stay-at-home moms.

    Looking at the market through these lenses makes all the changes in the last 10 years make total sense and news like this:
    http://blogs.eweek.com/applewatch/content/channel/macs_defy_windows-gravity.html makes me understand why Microsoft wants to gerrymander themselves a contest they can win.

  5. The iSlate could be my first tablet computer.

  6. As much as I would love an apple tablet after over 20 years as a mac only facility their machines no longer outperform the pc machines I build that only cost $800.00 combine that with the flash issues and lack of expansion in the new macs, especially the MacBook Pro I’ve gone over to the dark side and I love it.

  7. @Gerald: a fine analysis, extending and elaborating upon what I had written. Very nice indeed.
    @Neil: You, and how many others, especially current Windows users. Between the iPhone and the tablet drawing end users (@Gerald) into the Apple stores, any Windows 7 powered read-only tablet will be DOA even if it’s half the tablet’s price. So we watch Apple shares after January 27, and we also watch MSFT and HP.
    @Dgold: I imagine “lack of expansion” refers to iMacs, not Mac Pros. Different markets compared to build-it-yourself Windows-based PCs which can easily be built far cheaper than an iMac and outperform it. But given the growth in iMac sales, there is clearly a market uninterested in expansion, wants sharp design and an effective OS bundled with iLife software, and holds its value well. And is willing to pay extra for the cachet. GFC we may be in, but there are still those who like the value equation Apple brings. I too have a MacBook Pro, but any expansion I require uses the two Firewire, two USB and DVI outputs. How else do you “expand” a laptop?

  8. really awesome gadget. Great innovation. I like it.

  9. @Dgold – define ‘outperform’ – if you are playing games and looking at CPU and GPU performance, fps rates, etc., then yes – you can get more for less on the PC side. It is when you start looking at life cycle, value retention, ease-of-use, user experience, and overall software and OS that Apple shines. I use a nice Win7 laptop for work and I support 1600 XP boxes, but at home everything is becoming Apple.

    @Les – I think Steve has jumped ahead of MS by gunning for the mobile market. And by mobile he includes an iPad vs. laptop comparison. And then his mobile device juggernaut walks into the doors of the enterprise in pockets. The only question is whether or not the existing hardware/software monopolies can join forces in time to slow Apple down?

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