iPad reveals Microsoft Tablet PCs as flawed. What about Google?

First a disclaimer: Apple’s new iPad didn’t meet expectations, either mine, or the folks who I’ve been talking with on Twitter.

If my friends who work with or for Apple and in the press hadn’t built it up as mind blowing it wouldn’t have been disappointing, but this was a case where expectations got too big and what showed up didn’t meet them. Come on, no radically new way to interact? No Flash? No full OS? No Camera? No Verizon?

I was expecting a 10.0 and an 8.7 showed up.

But if you compare it to what I would have given Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer at CES (I would have scored that a 4.9, mostly because they showed clips of a really cool new Halo coming later this year) then it blows away the competition (which I expected when I wrote about Steve Ballmer’s Tablet bumbles last night).

Watch Financial Times’ first hands on video and you get a sense of why it is so much better than Microsoft’s tablets, though. Apple delivered a consistent and deep touch experience.

But, now, where does today’s announcements leave Google and Microsoft?

I had Google’s Don Dodge (developer advocate) over to watch the Apple announcements today, and I saw several places where Apple was trying to limit Google’s ability to grow. Maps, calendar, Keynote (presentation software) and email on the iPad are all very pretty (we’ll see how good they are when we actually are able to use a device for more than 10 minutes) and compete very effectively against Google’s current offerings.

And against Microsoft I now see that Apple has just eviscerated Microsoft’s mobile strategy with a family of products that will be hard for Microsoft to compete against. But the damage to Microsoft goes further. I see Apple now going after the Xbox and putting a wall around Microsoft’s home entertainment dreams so it won’t be able to grow much further.

My sons, already, are using iPhones to play games and watch videos more and more and the iPad will continue that trend. It’s clear to me, though, that Xbox has largely tapped out the home console market and will see slowing growth over next year or two and I know Microsoft has built a team around Zune to go after mobile entertainment (IE, a portable Xbox).

If Microsoft doesn’t get that shipped soon Apple will use the iPad to shore up its leverage with developers like Tapulous, who are building games for iPhone, and will ensure a whole range of games will only show up on Apple’s mobile devices and not on anything Microsoft will do. Microsoft must be very concerned by that.

Back to Google. I think the Chrome OS will prove very interesting as Google comes back against Apple with a device that costs less (Chrome OS is cheaper on hardware than Apple’s OS is, and also is cheaper in licensing fees, so I expect to see Chrome OS-based devices for around $200, instead of the $500 that Apple’s iPad starts at.

That’s where I expect to see major clashes over the next year as Google and Apple try to lock up movie, books, magazines, newspapers, and other media to make their systems better than the others. My predictions of how Google will respond? Look at Chrome OS and watch for new devices that compete with Apple head on. Look at Google Voice to be built onto. Look for Google Maps to even further extend their lead in the industry. Look for Google to come out with a microblogging competitor to Twitter and Facebook that will wrap up everyone’s experiences. Finally, look for Google and Apple to get into bidding wars over companies like Siri (wait until you see what they’ve done next week).

So, we’ve seen how Steve Jobs is setting the trends for the industry. I can’t wait to see how Google puts together its machine to compete.

One hint? There was no talk of wireless synching between iPhone and iPad. Why not? Compare to when I got my Google Nexus One phone. I entered in my email address and all my apps magically appeared. THAT gives you a hint of how Google is going to hit at Apple.

Oh, and one other weakness Apple has? Apple is clueless about social software. Google isn’t all that great either, but it is a world ahead of Apple. So, look at Google to make some major social networking moves this year to make its ecosystem a lot more interesting to the Facebook generation.

Onward, now that all the hype is done and you’ve seen it, any other ideas? I’m off to meet with iPhone game developers to get their reactions, talk to you later after I get home.

To answer Michael Gartenberg’s question, I see Microsoft as a solid loser in today’s announcements and a decent pitch has just been thrown over the plate in Google’s direction, so we’ll see if they can hit it out of the park or will Google whiff it?