Microsoft May Push Apple Out of Enterprise

While Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) struggles to stay relevant in a “post-PC” world where tablets and smartphones are increasingly being used for entertainment and even business-related tasks, a recent survey shows that Microsoft isn’t just managing to stay relevant, but that some users are actually craving more from the Windows maker.

PC sales declined in 2012, and that didn’t look so good for Microsoft, which builds the most popular PC operating system. And in the biggest growth area right now, Windows Phone isn’t as popular as Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone or Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, and only last quarter overtook BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY), which may be coming back soon to reclaim its rank in the U.S. But perhaps even worse than the Windows Phone’s performance is that of Microsoft’s Surface tablets, barely making a blip in a market where Apple reigns supreme.

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Microsoft’s foray into the tablet market has been a struggle against the odds. Not only did the Surface line of tablets face bigger, more popular competitors, but it was bogged down by clunky names, high prices, and even a bug that struck in its infancy. But much to the chagrin of mortal enemy, Apple,  Microsoft’s fortunes may soon be turning around in one arena…

Enterprise

One area that Microsoft has heavily relied on for significant and continued business has been the business world. Microsoft still dominates computers used by enterprises, but the post-PC idea envisioned by Apple founder Steve Jobs has been able to erode at that market. Tablets are increasingly being used as a tool at work, and Apple has the biggest slice of that market pie with 58 percent of enterprise-use of tablets — Microsoft only has 11 percent there.

But there may be hope for Microsoft yet, with the new Surface Pro coming out. Though the device has its faults, chief among them its hefty price tag, it may be the perfect mobile solution for business users who found the iPad just didn’t satisfy their needs.

The Surface Pro is a hybrid-PC that features an attachable keyboard and actually runs a full version of Windows 8 Pro. Even though Apple is coming out with a 128GB iPad to entice more business users, it may not be enough to block Microsoft. The simplicity that makes the iPad attractive for some can limit others who have complete complicated tasks, which may include running multiple programs at once (the iPad’s chief shortcoming). The Surface Pro would match the functionality of a PC and the portability of a tablet, satisfying twice the need in a single product…

The demand for such a product seems substantial. Of 9,766 global information workers surveyed in Forrester Research’s Forrsights Workforce Employee Survey, only 2 percent worked with a Windows tablet, but 32 percent desired one for work. For comparison, only 26 percent wanted an iPad as their next work tablet. The numbers work out to some 200 million information workers worldwide desiring (but not yet having) Windows tablets.

Possible effects

As the Microsoft-built Surface Pro becomes available, and more manufacturers offer their own tablets running on the Windows 8 Pro operating system, Microsoft may soon be able to meet demand from workers and keep its firm grasp on the business market. Doing so could give Microsoft the traction it needs to nudge Apple back out of the business market while enhancing Windows 8 Pro’s popularity in other areas of the market.

Some speculate Apple may come out with a “pro” version of its tablets that would allow enhanced functionality to compete with devices from Microsoft. Perhaps a sort of touch-screen MacBook Air with a removable keyboard? Just throwing out ideas here…

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