Microsoft's decision to withhold Office has been interpreted as a defensive move to protect its own Surface tablets, which either come with Office (Surface 2) or can run the suite (Surface Pro 2). But if Bajarin, Gruber and others are correct -- that the iPad Air threatens traditional, Windows-powered notebooks -- Microsoft's move makes even more sense. It could be seen as a broader effort to defend against higher laptop cannibalization rates, which would threaten a major chunk of its Windows licensing franchise.
Even so, times are changing, said Mainelli. "As tablets become more functional, their imitations, whether the lack of Office or others, will A, fall away, and B, people will get comfortable doing more and more with their tablets."
That bodes ill for the PC industry, and for Microsoft -- not immediately, perhaps, but over time. Milanesi sees the timeline stretching out as long as five years.
Gruber, in a follow-up post Wednesday -- it's actually commentary appended to a link to Bajarin's Techpinions piece -- didn't offer a timetable, but said much the same.
"I see the iPad taking over the mass market from laptop PCs ... subtly," Gruber wrote. "I think it's more about people hanging on to old laptops for legacy tasks, spending their money now on new iPads, and then using their old laptops less and less over time. If you're thinking about this trend as switching cold turkey, dropping all Windows/Mac usage in lieu of iOS in one fell swoop, you're thinking about it wrong. It's a subtle weaning."
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