Editorial: What Windows 8 Means For Android Tablets

Wednesday was a huge day for the Android world, with Samsung’s announcements of the Galaxy Note II and Galaxy Camera stealing the spotlight for the day. While we spent our time focusing on the Android side of things, Samsung was also announcing new tablets. Known as the Ativ series, they run Windows 8, Microsoft’s next operating system.

For those unfamiliar, Windows 8 is not to be confused with Windows Phone 8. The latter is a phone operating system, with Windows 8 being Microsoft’s next desktop operating system, and their first foray into the tablet world. Windows 8 sports what Microsoft is marketing more as a touch UI, and after using it since the beginning, I can definitely say that Microsoft is aiming it at the tablet market.

Things get more interesting when Microsoft gets involved with the hardware aspect of the market. Last month, during a press event, they revealed their own tablet, dubbed the Surface. Available in two versions, the Surface targets two different devices with a unique twist. The RT version, which runs a version of Windows designed for ARM processors, features only the tablet UI, but still acts as a full fledged operating system. The Pro version runs full Windows 8, and should have the same capabilities of a standard Ultrabook.

The RT version is a definite shot at the standard tablet; namely Nexus 7 and iPad. Things get interesting when you begin to pay attention to recent rumors of the RT Surface: it is said to hit the $200 price point. Whether or not this is true, Microsoft’s only official statement has been “that is will be priced competitively with other tablets on the market.”

Now, let’s say that Microsoft does release the RT Surface at the price of only $200. Even $300. And let’s say that it works, just as Microsoft intends it to. Where does that leave something leave like the Nexus 7? Hell, where does that leave even the $500 baseline iPad?

Google would have to do something drastic with Android, and I only see two true options: either Google completely changes Android in the next release, or tablet prices drop even lower. The Nexus 7 is priced at $200, and Google essentially loses money on the hardware itself. The real money maker is the use of Google services, in which ads can be sold. But, how does Google get consumers to buy the Nexus 7 if an even more capable Microsoft Surface is available for the same price? Drop the price to $99 or less, and Google may be able to sell the Nexus 7 to enough people to break even.

The more logical option would be to completely revamp Android for tablets. Ice Cream Sandwich brought in a new era of tablet operating systems, but it’s far from a full fledged desktop OS. To compete with the Surface, Google we need to bring yet another revamp to Android OS, essentially making it a fully capable operating system. Chrome for Android would need to become just as capable as the desktop version, along with apps that really differentiate Android from the bunch.

What we’ll see from Google, and Android manufacturers in general, is still cloudy for this upcoming fall. The mobile world is about to get just that much more competitive than it already is, and Google’s going to need to keep up. Microsoft could prove to be more competition than Apple is already, so keep your browser locked to DroidDog to find all the latest news.