Microsoft: PC Makers Are Just Experimenting with Android in New Tablets

PC makers are just experimenting with Android on tablets and will realize that Windows 7 is where it’s at over the long haul, according to a Microsoft executive. Microsoft VP Steve Guggenheimer told The Wall Street Journal that the his company’s superior support to manufacturers will eventually be seen as offering the greater value proposition to vendors just now getting into the tablet business.

“There are always lots of noises at the beginning of new category,” Mr. Guggenheimer told the newspaper. According to him, netbooks represented a similar situation, as early netbooks shipped with Linux installed on them. “It was 95% not on Windows,” he said, “and three years later it is 95% on Windows.”

He added, “There are two things you have to look at: Is free really free, and what does that mean over time? Windows has proven to be a phenomenal platform for our partners to make money…They know we are going to continue to build support to the operating system.”

Mr. Guggenheimer didn’t mention the 800 pound gorilla in the room, which is Apple’s iPad and the company’s iPhone OS ecosystem. Tablet sales have largely been moribund until the iPad went on sale April 3rd, even though Microsoft was early to market almost a decade ago with tablet versions of Windows.

In the smartphone market, iPhone and Android are shaping up to be the main competitors, and both platforms are developing an app developer base (with Apple’s being substantially larger). Nokia and Research in Motion are still larger players in the smartphone business, but Android and iPhone have the momentum.

More importantly, Apple’s tablet extension of its iPhone OS is the model being followed with new Android tablets, not the desktop metaphor represented by Windows (or Mac OS X). Indeed, iPad sales are already eating into the same netbook sales Mr. Guggenheimer held up as the example manufacturers will follow with tablet OS choice.

The most recent example in this space is HP, which dumped Windows for its own tablet project. The company bought Palm earlier this year, and is expected to use that company’s WebOS in future products, including tablets.