In less than a week Apple will announce the iPad 3 and everything will go a bit silly. Cue three day-long queues outside Apple Stores and desperate bids to be the first to lay hands on the shiny new iPad.
But despite Apple's head start in the tablet game, the iPad 3 will not arrive without competition. Android tablets are evolving new tricks (witness Samsung's Galaxy Note 10.1 with its S Pen stylus or the quad-core slickness of the Huawei MediaPad 10 FHD) and that's before we've even got to the elephant in the tablet-shaped room: Windows 8.
There are plenty of reasons why Windows 8 could bomb. It's the biggest change to the OS since Windows 95. It has no start button. It's made by Microsoft. But those are exactly the reasons why Windows 8 – not Android – is the real threat to the iPad's dominance of the tablet market. Windows 7 tablets were hideous (Archos 9, anyone?) and Microsoft's burnt fingers will have been busy making sure Windows 8's Metro interface is a tablet force to be reckoned with. In fact, our first impressions of Windows 8 suggest exactly that.
But why does this affect Apple? Surely with its shiny new iPad 3 there's no stopping the tech-wizards from Cupertino?
You're forgetting, perhaps, the vast swathes of people who still (irrationally) fear switching away from Microsoft's familiar wares. Even with a total visual overhaul, the mere knowledge that it "runs Windows" will tick the boxes of many a late-adopting tableteer. You may also be forgetting that most people consider the most important spec on a prospective gadget to be the price. There's no question of whether Windows 8 tablets can undercut the iPad 3 on price. It only remains to be seen by how much.
And although Apple's app range will always be amazing, Microsoft was smart to encourage app developers to get coding a year before release. When Windows 8 finally hits the shops, the app selection should be relatively sturdy, even if it won't rival Apple's peerless App Store.
Apple will always be able to claim it was first to the tablet table, but the assumption that it will always be the best is foolish, short-sighted and – in all probability – wrong. Windows 8 is coming. The iPad 3 should look afraid. At least a bit.
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