There’s no question that tablets are the rage these days – and, so far, Apple appears to be hanging on to its lead, despite the flood of competing new devices by multiple vendors. But Microsoft’s new tablet(s) appear poised to shake things up, perhaps more than a little.

As you can read in this blog article by Curt Hall, Microsoft is not only going to be competing in the same price arena as the iPad, in early 2013 it will be introducing a Surfact tablet that is fully ready for the Enterprise. And this is where Microsoft has, of course, held a commanding position in the marketplace.

The author makes the point that, despite its popularity, the iPad is, in essence, a consumer oriented device.

“… the current dominant tablet vendors — Apple and a slew of providers selling Google-Android-based products — can hardly be considered enterprise players. Rather, they offer consumer products that have infiltrated the corporate world.”

“Don’t get me wrong: the consumerization of IT is definitely real. But in practice, putting consumer technologies to use in the enterprise requires addressing a number of important issues. This is certainly true when it comes to utilizing tablets in corporate environments once you start moving beyond their use for anything besides simple, straightforward applications like email and calendar programs. Such issues include multiplatform support, strict security considerations for accessing corporate applications, the ability to protect sensitive data, and the requirement to be able to work with existing applications and legacy software systems.”

Even the currently available Surface RT, primarily aimed at the consumer market, will include Office(!), a staple of business users across the globe. It’s notable that Microsoft has not made a version of Office available (to date) for the iPad or Android-based tablets. And the more powerful Surface coming in January will greatly expand its appeal by being able to run the same software you currently have on your enterprise desktop!

It’s going to be an interesting race. Let the games begin!