Windows 8 tablets: Too late or is there still time?

23 Comments

Interest in Microsoft Windows 8 (s msft) tablets is waning. Only 25 percent of surveyed consumers last quarter want such a device, according to a Forrester research report published on Tuesday. That’s down from 46 percent of those polled in the first quarter of 2011. The biggest reason for the decline may be the two-year head start Apple created by designing and offering the capable iPad (s aapl) in early 2010.

At this point, Forrester’s research suggests that Microsoft has fallen behind others, and not just Apple when it comes to tablet demand. In a blog post, Forrester’s JP Gownder paints a bleak picture:

For tablets, though, Windows really isn’t a fast follower. Rather it’s (at best) a fifth-mover after iPad, Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, HP’s now-defunct webOS tablet, and the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. While Windows’ product strategists can learn from these products, other players have come a long way in executing and refining their products — Apple, Samsung, and others have already launched second-generation products and will likely be into their third generation by the time Windows 8 launches.

Similar to its onetime leadership in the smartphone market — Microsoft’s Windows Mobile platform was popular prior to the iPhone age — Microsoft is now behind on another technology it pushed early. The first Windows PC tablets debuted a decade ago, but outside vertical markets and tablet enthusiast circles, they never really took off. The main issue? Tablets were seen as extensions of the desktop instead of stand-alone mobile devices. Between poor battery life and user interfaces that weren’t optimized for touch, it was generally a recipe for failure.

There is hope yet, however. Again, one has to look at the smartphone market to see it. Although it was slow to react to both Apple iOS and Google Android (s goog), Microsoft’s new Windows Phone handset platform is fresh and fun to use. I find the “metro” user interface to be intuitive and finger-friendly, which is good, because Microsoft plans to leverage it for Windows 8 tablets.

Software is only one part of Microsoft’s tablet issue. What about the hardware? Here too, Microsoft is finally looking beyond traditional desktop and notebook processors, which use more power than ARM-based (s armh) chips that run today’s smartphones and tablets. Windows 8 will support these processors, allowing for devices to run all day on a charge or be in standby mode for a few days.

These two factors by no means guarantee that Microsoft can gain a foothold in the tablet market, and the company will have to work with hardware partners to get the message out: Windows 8 isn’t your father’s desktop operating system. If Microsoft can also work with developers to make the vast array of Windows software more touch-friendly, it could change consumer perception and make a Windows tablet desirable again.

23 Comments

CH

My current windows tablet is older than the first iPad rumor. Windows is bringing a Computer to the Tablet market and doesn’t need an app store. Amazing that people forget that a Windows power Tablet COMPUTER has been around for a pretty long time and it does and will fill in where the iPad style tablets do not.

Lucian Armasu

Just because it has a good interface, doesn’t mean it’s not late. Just look at WebOS. So far WP7 still hasn’t surpassed its 1% market share. WebOS had 4% at one point.

Also, when Windows 8 will come to market, the x86 version will be irrelevant for tablets. No one will want a tablet with a 3-4 hour battery life and with un-optimized apps for touch.

As for the ARM version, it would still have to start from scratch regarding apps. Also Windows 8 for ARM makes it a lot harder to compel someone to choose Windows than an iPad or an Android tablet, because there is nothing behind it in terms of ecosystem, and as I said the x86 one will be irrelevant for tablets.

CH

What ecosystem is needed? All the current windows programs that are available now run on Windows Tablets now. You want Office? It is already available. Adobe? Done. Delorme Street Atlas (a real GPS and Mapping program?) I have been using it on my Windows tablet for 3 years now.

Kevin C. Tofel

CH, you’re right that there are tons of Windows apps that run on Windows tablets now. But haven’t there always been? Meaning: these devices haven’t sold well for 10 years, regardless of the app availability. The bigger problem is getting the apps to be touch-optimized. I say this as someone who has used well over a dozen Windows Tablet PCs in the past: the experience wasn’t good. I expect changes in Win8 to address that however.

J_V

Given the fact that Apple has mostly captured the minds of the new generation with iOS & OSX devices, MS has a long uphill climb for sure. This is a generational thing. MS doesn’t have that mindshare at this point and that’s something that’s very tough win.

Jeff Kibuule

I find studies like this silly because if those 2300 people had actually played around with Windows 8, that would make them an oddity in the market. Plus, even if you did use the developer preview, there are no apps worth using. No Facebook, no Twitter, no Netflix, etc…

I classify a study like this as FUD. General consumers only show interest in fully completed products, not betas.

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