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Windows 8 Presents The Biggest Challenge To iPad 3

While Apple has dominated the tablet space in recent years, the biggest threat to the iPad 3 could be Microsoft’s Windows 8, says Nicholas KolakowskI

Apple’s iPad has dominated the consumer tablet market since its inception, but that hasn’t stopped any number of competitors from taking their own runs at the crown.

For the past several months, tablet after tablet—usually running Google Android, with occasional exceptions such as webOS—has entered the arena as an ostensible “iPad killer” only to suffer through anaemic sales and lukewarm reviews.

Rising to the challenge

Apple is hosting an event on 7 March where it will almost certainly debut the iPad 3. “We have something you really have to see. And touch,” reads the invitation sent to the media, which includes an image of a finger touching the calendar app on an iPad screen. Over the past few months, rumours have focused on the next-generation tablet’s possible features, including a high-resolution screen as well as a more powerful processor and camera.

Those features might gain the iPad franchise an extra competitive advantage over the lightweight tablets in the space, but Apple faces a much larger challenge on the tablet horizon: Windows 8.

On 29 February, Microsoft offered up the Consumer Preview (or beta) of Windows 8, which will arrive sometime later in 2012. The Consumer Preview can be found in a special area on Microsoft’s Website, with the beta’s ISO files also available for those who wish to install it on another partition or virtual machine.

In a bid to spread the Windows franchise onto tablets in addition to traditional PCs, Windows 8’s start screen is composed of a set of colourful (and touchable) tiles linked to applications, with the “old style” desktop interface accessible via a single click or finger tap.

That alone might not make Windows 8 a viable iPad competitor, but Microsoft has more up its sleeve than a sleek user-interface redesign. For months, Microsoft executives have insisted that their new operating system will provide a robust, “no compromises” experience. Power users will have access to the usual features they expect from Windows.

The Windows Store will offer a wide variety of apps. Cloud-related features include cloud storage, the ability to roam all settings, and communicate with email and contacts from a Windows Phone smartphone or Windows PC.

With those features in place, Windows 8 tablets could prove attractive to business users and consumers who like the familiarity of the Windows brand. But Microsoft will still have to deal with Apple’s significant lead in the space.