Android tablets: Training wheels for Windows 8 tablet makers

Summary:The iPad is usually the named competition for the upcoming Windows 8 tablets, but it's likely Android tablet sales that will be most affected. That's evident by all the major Android tablet makers preparing Windows tablets for launch.

Asus Vivo Transformer
Asus Vivo (Windows), Asus Transformer Prime (Android)

Apple has dominated the tablet space that it single-handedly created with the iPad. As the Windows 8 launch draws near, it's logical to think that they will be competition for the iPad. That may be, but the biggest tablet segment at risk of losing sales to the new Windows 8 tablets are running Android. It's not a coincidence that all of the major Android tablet makers are readying Windows 8 products for sale.

Microsoft did Android tablet makers a favor in producing the version of Windows 8 to run on ARM-equipped devices. Windows RT by design will run on ARM tablets pretty much the same as all of the Android tablets. That makes it pretty straightforward for Android tablet-makers to shift production to Windows 8 models. Think of Android tablets as training wheels for Windows RT tablets. OEMs were able to get the kinks out of hardware designs in plenty of time for Windows RT to hit the shelves.

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Most of the major Android tablet makers have announced Windows RT models very similar to those already being sold with Android. Samsung, Asus, Acer, and Lenovo together account for many of the Android tablets on the market, and all have announced shiny new Windows tablets. You only have to look at the new Windows tablets to see a resemblance to existing Android slates. Some of them are hard to tell apart from a distance.

Acer Iconia W510 Windows Tablet
Acer Iconia W510 Windows Tablet

While Windows RT allows Android tablet makers to produce versions with little change from exisiting models, the major OEMs are already finding it possible to make the changes necessary for the Intel-based models, too. Lenovo, Samsung, Asus, and Acer have already announced full Windows tablets based on both Intel Atom and Core i3/5/7 processors. No doubt the lessons learned from the earlier Android work are helping them ease into the Windows tablet market.

These Android tablet makers are bringing everything to the Windows space. Asus pioneered the laptop dock design with its innovative Transformer Android tablets, and the Vivo brings the design to the Windows crowd. Lenovo will sell the ThinkPad Tablet 2 with Windows and it is a continuation of the original ThinkPad Tablet with Android. Acer is also bringing its Iconia Tab line to the Windows tablet market.

Most OEMs are on their second or third iteration of Android tablets, and they've gotten better each time. Windows 8 will get the benefits of that learning curve as the latest and greatest is what's coming to the Windows line.

The message we seem to be getting from Microsoft with its Surface tablets is that you need a keyboard with your slate to take full advantage of Windows. That makes sense as Windows is a full OS compared to Android. There's no question that Windows tablets with laptop docks will be leveraged better for most users than the Android counterparts.

Those looking for a good Windows 8 tablet will have quite a few models to choose from thanks to the Android tablet space. OEMs haven't made a lot of money on Android tablets but producing them was good practice for building Windows tablets. It's a win-win for both Android tablet makers and those wanting Windows tablets.

Topics: Tablets, Microsoft, Windows

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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