Should Apple Fear Microsoft's Coming Tablet Assault?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- How can you make $1 billion selling tablets? Start out with $2 billion and compete against Apple ( AAPL). iPad victims to date include computer heavyweight Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion ( RIMM). Apple entirely dominates the tablet market with more than six out of 10 tablets displaying the Apple logo.

Microsoft

Microsoft ( MSFT) appears ready to step up to the plate to see if they have what it takes to go against Apple in the tablet-space war. Microsoft will need to put everything they have into it, including a few Windows 3.11 machines back in the shed.

Both Hewlett-Packard and RIM were forced to write down hundreds of millions of dollars in inventory. Unfortunately for RIM, the write-downs in inventory may not be over. After RIM's CEO Thorsten Heins recent earnings warning, expect continued depreciation. (Read my article Will Apple's Shot at Google Hit RIM and Nokia Instead?)

Based on last quarter's earnings release, Dell ( DELL) hasn't fared much better. Michael Dell and the Texas crew will have to sit on the bench and wait to take another swing at Apple's tablet Juggernaut. Microsoft's highly anticipated Windows 8 is due for release soon and is Dell's best chance at cracking the market.

Google's ( GOOG) Android open source platform, has presented the only real challenge to a complete and total domination by iPad. It's difficult to gauge the benefits to Google as Android is open source and free. Because Android is developed by Google and subsequently provided to vendors for free, Google must rely on secondary sources of income like advertising and app sales. Apple on the other hand, generates profit producing revenue from iPad sales as well as secondary sales, including apps.

Microsoft, obviously tiring of vendors' inability to significantly penetrate tablet shares, reportedly has decided if you want it done correctly, you have to do it yourself. The tech world can't be surprised considering how quickly tablet sales are taking over the computing space.

Can Microsoft's significant shift from strictly software production into an integrated product solution provider work? Apple has successfully managed to keep both sides of the seesaw balanced; however, they do it on a much larger scale than Microsoft is contemplating. Remember, Hewlett-Packard and RIM with near-unlimited resources have failed miserably and embarrassingly.

If Microsoft is successful in the tablet space, then what? Microsoft will be competing directly with Microsoft's customers as much Apple and Google; maybe more. We have heard this song before with Microsoft's Zune, and it didn't help the bottom line.

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