Etch-a-sketch iPad

I was just spending a few minutes trawling through my new favourite web site, Quora, when I spotted and interesting question:

How should Microsoft respond to Apples iPad?

Now to be honest that question has all the hallmarks of one of those internet debates that turns into a religious¬†crusade… but so far Quora seems to have avoided that sort of nonsense so I thought I’d take a punt at an answer:

I think MS have the talent to build something that can compete with the iPad, but to do it I think they have to take the XBox/Zune (and Apple!) approach and design, build and sell it themselves.

Whilst MS’s extensive partner ecosystem has advantages in the SMB and enterprise space, in the consumer world where this market is evolving from in my view it’s seriously hurting their ability to deliver platforms to market. No matter how quickly MS develop an OS/application solution, they’re then dependent on a HTC/HP/Acer/etc to build a product, add whatever ‘value add’ they want, get it to market and then provide the commitment and support to make it work. Frankly Google are beating MS by taking the same approach but making the software free to the OEM’s because the Android business is subsidised by Search!

It’s a risk for sure, but by taking the entire platform in house MS can align the OS, services and hardware in the way¬†they want it to and show the platform in the light it was intended to be seen.

Would XBox have been a success if there were a host of manufacturers all selling variations of the them? I reckon the variation, complexity and mixed messages would have killed it dead. Would the iPad be the object of desire that it’s become if I could go out now and buy a HTC version? My guess is probably not.

As I say, it would be a hell of a risk, but MS have the required technology components, WP7 shows they have the designers (and courage?) to implement an entirely new user interface and I reckon Courier shows they have the vision. They just need to get on with it.

What do you reckon?

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