Week In Tech: Microsoft's Big Gamble

It was a big week for Microsoft. The company introduced its new operating system — Windows 8 — and stepped into the ever-expanding tablet market. These are major steps for a company that has been perceived as lagging behind Apple and Google in innovation. For more, Weekend Edition host Scott Simon is joined by NPR's Steve Henn.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Big week for Microsoft - the company introduced Windows 8, its new operating system, and entered the ever-expanding tablet market. These are major steps for a company that has been perceived as lagging behind Apple and Google, in innovation.

We're joined, now, by NPR's Steve Henn, in Silicon Valley. Steve, thanks for being with us.

STEVE HENN, BYLINE: Oh, my pleasure.

SIMON: Why is Windows 8 considered such a defining moment for Microsoft?

HENN: Well, this operating system is really, very different from anything else Windows users have seen before. It doesn't look, or feel, like the operating system that most of us use at work. The other thing that's really important for the company, is this is Microsoft's attempt to move into the tablet market - and move into this era of mobile computing, which has really left them behind. It's been almost three years since Apple introduced the iPad; and Microsoft is, just now, finally introducing software that will really work with tablets.

SIMON: Now, the company on Friday introduced its Surface tablet. What was the impression?

HENN: The Surface tablet is a beautifully designed machine. There's a lot of attention to detail. It's sort of Apple-esque, in that way. There's a really neat cover that folds down, and actually works as a keyboard. So a lot of the hardware was very, very, well thought out, and works really nicely - which is unusual because Microsoft is, really, a software company.

The thing that could be problematic is that it uses a different kind of chip. Because of that, a lot of the software you'd expect to run on a Microsoft machine, won't work. And even some websites you'd expect to work, don't. And so, many people I've talked to are expecting consumers to be somewhat unsatisfied, when they get this home and take it out of the box.

SIMON: Since you've been - the one man I know, who's been able to use them both, what about the iPad mini, which came out this week?

HENN: Well, you know, the iPad mini is thin and light. My colleague Laura Sydell described it as a wafer-thin mint, which - I think it's kind of great. And it is designed to work with all of the apps that have already been built for the bigger iPads. So it has a huge library of content that already exists.

What's interesting about the iPad mini, to me, is that this device was really designed by Apple, in response to its competition; building something to compete with Amazon's HD Fire tablet, and a tablet put out by Google, called the Google Nexus 7 - which are both smaller. In many ways - it's smaller; it's thinner; it's lighter; it has a bigger screen - it's better. But the one thing Apple wasn't able to compete on, was price. The iPad mini starts at more than $300. The other two competitors cost less than 200. And so, you know, Wall Street and financial analysts are a little concerned that it's not going to sell that well. That may be one of the reasons that Apple's stock fell below 600 - for the first time, I think, since July.

SIMON: NPR's Steve Henn, thanks so much.

HENN: Oh, thank you.

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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