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Microsoft takes a page from the Apple playbook with new tablet

WASHINGTON -- With its new tablet computer, Microsoft is taking a page from Apple's playbook in an effort to control both hardware and software for computers, in a strategy which carries some risk, analysts say.

With the tech landscape rapidly shifting, Microsoft is being forced to shift to the “vertical” strategy employed by Apple and Google, aiming to keep in touch with users with hardware, search functions and software.

“Apple created this new environment with these new products and cloud services. All Microsoft has to do is offer the same thing under their brand name,” said independent analyst Jeff Kagan.

“Microsoft will have to refresh their brand. Right now the Microsoft brand is like dear old grandpa. It needs to be invigorated.”

The new landscape will see these three big players, Microsoft, Google and Apple, competing more directly on each other's territory, analysts say. Other smaller players include Amazon, which has its own hardware devices, and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion.

Google is widely expected to launch its own branded tablet as well and a phone that may carry its own brand or that of its new acquisition, Motorola Mobility.

“It's about controlling the user experience, which is segmented and fragmented,” said analyst Ramon Llamas at IDC.

“It really helps to have a presence on all the screens,” including mobile phones, PCs, TVs and tablets, he said.

To carry out the strategy, Llamas said Microsoft also needs to beef up its available applications. He said it now has some 100,000 for Windows mobile phones, many of which could be adapted for tablets, trailing Android and Apple.

But it's not clear if Microsoft, even with its market muscle, can generate the same kinds of apps that drive the experience for tablet users.

“If you're an app developer, you are already programming for Apple and for Android and you want to know what the market is in Windows, what is the revenue opportunity,” he said.

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