BY CRAIG CARTIER, TELECOMMUNICATIONS RESEARCH UNIT
On June 18, Microsoft announced plans for its Surface lineup of mobile tablets, to be released later this year. The Surface brings innovations to the tablet market, including an interesting touch keyboard. The touch-sensitive flat board senses gestures and can tell the difference between a user typing and simply resting fingers on keys, and will not register keystrokes in the latter case.
Microsoft has long pursued a stronger presence in the mobile industry, but has fallen short despite several initiatives and partnerships - including the high-profile Nokia partnership announced in early 2011. With the personal computer (PC) market stagnating at single-digit growth rates and smartphone sales growing rapidly (surpassing the number of PCs sold last year and on track to be double that of PC sales in the next year), this is not a position Microsoft can maintain for long.
Despite the innovations expected in the Surface, Microsoft faces an uphill battle establishing itself in the tablet space. In today's tablet market, the conversation starts and ends with Apple. Apple was not the first to release a tablet device, but with the original iPad in 2010 it was the first to succeed at a mass-market level, expanding the tablet market from tens of thousands to tens of millions. Since then, competitors have rushed to the market with "me too" devices, but despite such high-profile brands as Samsung and Amazon introducing tablets, Apple remains dominant with a market share of more than 60 percent.