Windows 8 tablets are coming: Tablets for those already not buying tablets

Summary:Windows 8 is poised to hit store shelves later this month and along with that some shiny new tablets running the latest from Redmond. Problem is, while Microsoft hopes to crack the giant tablet market Windows 8 tablets are really aimed at current Windows users, not tablet buyers.

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I have been anxious to get my hands on a Surface tablet from Microsoft since the company showed it off with Windows 8. It looks sleek and with that thin keyboard cover could be a "real" PC. The problem is I am not Microsoft's target market for a Windows 8 tablet. In fact it's not exactly clear who fits in the target market.

Microsoft is desperate to break into the huge tablet market currently owned by Apple's iPad. How do I know that? The company totally changed its flagship OS solely to crack into that market, even at the risk of upsetting a lot of people.  There is no doubt that the objective for Microsoft was to break into the tablet market with Windows 8.

That is why, even though I personally am excited about Windows tablets, I am having a hard time figuring out exactly who is a good fit for them. I often get asked to recommend devices to folks, and for the life of me I am having a really difficult time determining who should get a Windows 8 tablet recommendation.

It doesn't help that Windows 8 will come in two flavors, full Windows 8 and a lite version (Windows RT). The former will run all the fancy new Windows tablet apps (that largely don't exist yet) and all of the old Windows programs. The latter tablets will only run the former apps. Make sense?

Further complicating trying to figure out who might benefit from a Windows 8 tablet is the lack (or not) of a keyboard. Even those in the know have assured me that to take full advantage of a Windows 8 tablet, to get much work done at all as a matter of fact, a keyboard is required. Not recommended, required.

These same Windows-savvy people tell me that the keyboard is not needed for Windows RT tablets. That's because they really aren't suitable for that much. Anybody anticipating doing much at all should go for the full Windows 8 tablet and add a keyboard to the kit. Sort of buy a whole PC, in other words.

That tells me that even those familiar with Windows 8 don't see it as competing with real tablets like the iPad or the Android models. Those are 'consumption' devices, not 'creation' devices and the obvious purpose of a Windows 8 tablet is to do both. Which requires a keyboard. And probably full Windows, not the RT version.

If I am confused I can only imagine how confused regular consumers will be. Are Windows 8 tablets truly competing with existing tablets? If so what is the selling point that makes Windows 8 tablets a better choice? Or are Windows 8 tablets really aimed at existing Windows users running Office?

If that's the case Microsoft has gone all-in with a complete redesign of Windows 8 for the wrong market. Windows tablets have been around for a decade and Windows users didn't buy them. Sure Microsoft will sell some tablets to the Windows faithful, but the mainstream consumer they really want will run screaming. Or they will be as confused as I am about this. In fact my head hurts thinking about this whole Windows 8 thing.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Tablets

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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