Microsoft and Google try to take a bite of Apple

Microsoft's new 'slate' PC and Google's smartphone are direct challenges to the all-conquering Apple.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Microsoft seems to have beaten Apple to the punch in the latest electronic battleground: while the world continues to await the arrival of Apple’s much-vaunted tablet PC, Microsoft has just unveiled a new ‘slate’ computer of its own, developed in conjunction with HP. Being first is no guarantee of victory, of course, but at least it should mean that for once, Microsoft won’t be playing catch-up. With Google also launching its new smartphone on Tuesday, this is turning into a rather bad week for Apple. Suddenly it has the tech industry’s biggest tanks parked on its lawn...

The new Microsoft/ HP slate PC (as yet still unnamed) is pitched as being half-way between a laptop and smartphone; about the size of an e-book reader, it’s powered by Microsoft’s new OS Windows 7. It’s actually not the first time that Microsoft has tried to launch a tablet PC; their previous attempt came way back in 2002, but it went nowhere fast. The difference this time round (or at least, so Microsoft hopes) is two-fold: one, the popularity of Windows 7 (‘by far the fastest selling operating system in history,’ according to CEO Steve Ballmer), and two, the backing of HP, the world’s biggest tech company.

So far reaction seems to be a bit mixed; one analyst told the BBC it was an ‘interesting product’ but bemoaned the fact that there was nothing new software-wise. We’re no experts on this kind of thing, but isn’t that the point? Surely the whole idea is that you’re using familiar software on a new hardware format? Still, it’s also true that the biggest elephant in the room was a product that doesn’t even officially exist yet: Apple’s own version, the iWhatever, which according to the WSJ will be unveiled later this month and available around March time.

The other big challenge to Apple this week was Google’s new smartphone, the Nexus One, immediately and inevitably dubbed as an ‘iPhone-killer’. We haven’t seen it in the flesh yet, so to speak, but it looks like they’ve just taken all the best ideas from the iPhone, added a few more bells and whistles, and slapped a Google logo on it. So it doesn’t seem particularly radical, and it’s not particularly cheap. But it is interesting that they’re selling directly to consumers – which could mean that it’s more of a threat to the mobile operators like Orange than it is to Apple.

Speaking of people unhappy with the latest step of Google’s plan for world domination, the estate of novelist Philip K. Dick apparently plans to sue over Google's (totally unauthorised, natch) use of the Nexus One name – which it claims is obviously derived from the Nexus 6 in Dick’s book ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’, the inspiration for Blade Runner. Since Google’s OS is called Android, this sounds plausible – although proving trademark infringement of a 40-year-old fictional concept could prove a long shot.

In today's bulletin:

Sainsbury surprises by smashing Christmas forecasts
Energy suppliers make hay while the snow falls
Microsoft and Google try to take a bite of Apple
Tomorrow's world: the new era of technology
Psychology at Work: Make your New Year resolutions stick

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