With the Surface, Microsoft beats Google, not Apple

Everyone is focusing on the wrong fight in evaluating Microsoft's new Windows tablet

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In the third quarter, 25 million tablets shipped. Of those, Apple has 57 percent of the market, and Android has 41 percent. This time last year, Android's share was at 29 percent, according to Strategy Analytics. Android's share has continued to grow, thanks to a string of products such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. With devices like the Kindle Fire HD (which use an Android fork counted as Android for the market share stats) and the forthcoming Nexus 10, we see Google and its Android allies battling to take even more market share from Apple.

But Google had better watch the backdoor because Windows 8 and the Surface RT -- supported by the same device makers Google uses, including Samsung -- will eat up not necessarily Apple's market share but Google's.

That means Apple is now fighting a war on two fronts to maintain dominance, and it's already losing the war on the Android side.

Sure, we'd all like to think the battle will be decided by which tablet is better overall. But history has shown us that it comes down to marketing, to price, and to being "good enough" (not necessarily "best"). In this case, Microsoft has the pieces it needs to prevail in the overall war. As I've said before, Microsoft can win this because it can bundle Office 2013 (as it does in the Surface RT) and appeal to students.

The Surface is great for students. It's easy to carry and easy to take notes on; one minute it's a tablet, the next minute it's your in-class laptop. Install the SmartGlass app and it can control your Xbox too.

Speaking of apps, platform partisans can fight about how many apps they have, but so what? This week, Google announced that its Play Store has as many apps as the Apple App Store: 700,000 apps. Awesome. But I need only 20 of them, and as long as the Microsoft Store has those 20, I don't see the overall number being a deal-breaker for Windows 8 or the Surface. After all, how many of those 1.4 million apps are worthless junk apps?

Give this debate a year and watch how many apps there will be in the Windows Store. And watch how much of the market share each platform claims. Apple will keep going down; over the next year, Google's will too. Microsoft will come out with more experience in this new fight, making it a stronger contender than Apple or Google likely expects. First Google goes down, then Apple sinks too.

This story, "With the Surface, Microsoft beats Google, not Apple," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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