2012
10.26

When I think of Microsoft I tend to conjure up images of business-savvy software for the office, while Apple invokes thoughts of entertaining gizmos and gadgets. Maybe those “I’m a PC, I’m a Mac” commercials that ran roughly 4-7 years ago had more of an influence on me than I would like to admit. But is there some truth to that?

Microsoft has been considered the de facto standard in the business world—and many still cling to Windows in the office. In 1988, Microsoft became one of the largest PC software companies based on sales, driving the use of computers in daily work life.

Let’s not forget, Microsoft was also an early contender with devices as well. In 2002—roughly eight years before Apple released the iPad—Microsoft introduced tablet PCs to the world, which were built on top of Microsoft’s operating system, Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, and included a digital pen for handwriting recognition, as well as a mouse and keyboard. Though these devices could meet the needs of both business professionals and consumers, it was clearly designed with the enterprise worker in mind.

In 2010, Apple shook up the consumer world with its portable, easy-to-use iPad and its wide world of apps. The iPad quickly became one of the more commonly used devices among consumers—as well as in industries such as healthcare and construction, just to name a few. Quick to follow was the deluge of devices that run Android, which have now found a fit in both personal and professional settings.

Enter Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 8, the Windows Store, Surface, and more than 1,000 PCs and tablets that will available today with the new launch. One of Microsoft’s goals: Bring together the best of the PC and the tablet for both work and play.

Let’s take a closer look at Surface built on the new Windows RT operating system. It comes loaded with productivity software such as Office—that’s a given. Three versions are available: 32 gigabyte priced at $499; 32 gigabyte with a black Touch Cover priced at $599; and 64 gigabyte with a black Touch Cover priced at $699. According to Microsoft, the Windows 8 Pro model of Surface will be available roughly 90 days after the launch of Surface for Windows RT.

In recent weeks, Microsoft has been making big moves to entice consumers. Take its relationship with Barnes & Noble as an example. Earlier this month, Microsoft officially announced a strategic partnership and investment of $300 million in the newly formed Barnes & Noble subsidiary, NOOK Media, which will house the digital and college businesses of Barnes & Noble.

This gives Microsoft a 17.6% stake in the NOOK media. The investment will allow Microsoft to compete with the likes of Apple and Amazon—starting with the launch of the NOOK reading application for Windows 8. Going forward, NOOK Media plans to expand its product roadmap into markets around the globe, as evidenced by its recent launch into the United Kingdom.

Still the question remains: Can Microsoft cross the chasm, offering a system that appeals to both businesses and consumers? It has certainly taken some key steps to position itself for both markets.

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