Big hurdle facing Windows 8 tablet adoption

Big hurdle facing Windows 8 tablet adoption

Summary: Microsoft is working extremely hard to get Windows 8 just right on tablets that consumers love so much. That strategy may not pan out due to one simple thing.

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iPad over Win8
Image credit: James Kendrick/ ZDNet

Say what you will about Microsoft's shot at the tablet market with Windows 8, there's no denying the guts it took. Completely redesigning the biggest OS in history was guaranteed to ruffle a few feathers. Unfortunately, the big roll of the dice the company's taken with Windows 8 is not panning out so far in the tablet space. There's one particular reason why that may be, and there's not much Microsoft can do about it.

Windows 8 is designed from the ground up to handle both desktop and tablets, but it's the latter category Microsoft most wants to crack. The tablet market has been growing like weeds while the PC/desktop market has been slowing down. Breaking into the tablet space makes perfect business sense but so far Windows 8 hasn't done that.

Consumers aren't looking for tablets running Windows. It is in fact the furthest thing from their minds when they shop for tablets.

No one predicted how fast consumers would take to the iPad when it was introduced. There was undeniably something about the iPad that resonated with buyers that turned it into one of the most successful products we've ever seen. I believe I know what attracts buyers to the iPad and now the iPad mini, and it's something Windows 8 can't give.

Firstly, Windows 8 tablets should do well in the enterprise, that market is already huge for Windows. Many vertical markets will be well served by a tablet running Windows.

The consumer space, which is the giant market that has turned the iPad into such a success, is a different matter. Consumers aren't looking for tablets running Windows. It is in fact the furthest thing from their minds when they shop for tablets.

What they are looking for is an extension of their phone with a screen more comfortable to see. I believe that's a big reason why the iPad was so successful from its first appearance. People saw a way to do what they loved doing on their iPhones on a device that was better to use due to the bigger screen.

Sure the iPad has grown beyond simple use cases but I think those simple activities -- email, web browsing, social networking, and the like, are still what drives buyers to grab iPads. That's why the iPad mini has been flying off the shelves, it has an even more comfortable form to do those phone-like activities than its bigger sibling.

Critics of the iPad have always contended that it is just a "big phone". I believe that is a correct assessment, and the very reason consumers love it. They aren't looking to get work done, something I admit I do all the time, they are looking to do the simple things they do on their phone, but with that slightly bigger screen.

The iPhone-based heritage is what makes the iPad so appealing to the masses, and this is something Windows 8 doesn't have. There's a big difference in bringing the desktop to the tablet and bringing the phone to one. No matter how successful Microsoft will be at improving Windows 8 for the tablet, and version 8.1 looks to be a good step in that direction, it will still be a full desktop on the slate.

Consumers don't want that at any level. Yes, there will be some who like having a "full" system on the tablet, but the number of those buyers are nothing in the big scheme of things. Tablet buyers want to do simple things on their device like they do on their phone. I firmly believe that is the draw of the iPad in particular and Android tablets in general.

This is the big hurdle that Microsoft faces in trying to sell Windows tablets to the masses. Yes, it's more capable than the iPad with iOS, and yes it runs Office. But that's not even close to what the typical consumer wants in a tablet. They just want a big phone screen with apps.

Topics: Mobility, Apple, iPad, Tablets, Windows 8

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115 comments
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  • My Surface Pro is bigger, more capable of my phone

    Of course, my phone is a Lumia 920. Maybe the problem is that you expect too little from your phone.
    Sir Name
    • re: oops

      Meant to say "version of my phone".
      Sir Name
    • for the last time

      with all due respect - specifically NOT HAVING THE FULL WINDOWS OS IS EXACTLY WHAT PEOPLE WANT IN A TABLET.
      It doesn't matter how good or bad windows is - it IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR A TABLET.
      YOU may want it, but the same sort of *masses* that gobbled up the iPad (while ignoring windows tablets for a decade) do not. And, NO, its not because they just haven't realized what the surface pro can do.

      Its like back in the IBM days arguing that my mainframe can do so much more than a "newfangled, wimpy PC".
      drwong
      • Disagree

        People will more and more want it. Once they see what they can't do, it will become increasingly frustrating. This is the reason why Windows and Android will rule the tablet space in a very short time. I'm guessing that W8 tablets will outsell the iPad in 2013 -- depending, of course, on what you consider a tablet (I'd say it's anything with a battery and a touchscreen).
        x I'm tc
        • Not possible when it is still Metro UI

          What consumers want the least is to learn a totally new UI. Only Geek type of person think learning new UI is always interesting.

          Android, iOS or even previous Windows UI allow us to put icons on the home screen. Metro UI force people to use a totally different UI and this is killing WP and possiily Windows tablet in the future.

          Also don't forget that many people got a PC so they don't need to have everything in the tablet.
          Rockchan
        • Re: Once they see what they can't do

          This "once" is happening already few years. Don't you think people would have figured by now what they can do, instead?

          You could continue to dream on, or just wake up. Your choice.
          danbi
      • It's not appropriate for a tablet? Please explain why.

        That's a really off the wall statement.

        Tell us what people want in a tablet, what they want it to do, and how a Windows tablet can't do that.
        William Farrel
        • I'm done trying to explain it

          just reread james article again. And look at the poor sales numbers for proof. iPad: immediate massive success upon hitting the market. windows: "crickets chirping".
          drwong
          • Wrong Wong,

            You are not me and I am not you. My tastes differ from you. Please don't speak for the entire earth's population or assume you are the advocate for everyone of us. here is your blanket statement from you.

            >>for the last time

            >>with all due respect - specifically NOT HAVING THE FULL WINDOWS OS IS EXACTLY WHAT PEOPLE WANT IN A TABLET.
            Ram U
          • So in other words, you can't explain your statement, DrWong

            "And look at the poor sales numbers for proof. iPad: immediate massive success upon hitting the market. windows: "crickets chirping"."

            So, lets see: Surface (alone) 2 million in 3 or 4 months is a failure? wouln't have guessed that. Why, compared to an iPad? They are two different beasts. And they haven't even released a small version yet. (Isn't that 2 million less iPad sales, if you think about it?) Now, how many Windows 8 tablets TOTAL have sold, counting all vendors (HP, Acer, HP, ect)? Wouldn't THEY be the numbers you're after?

            I can say that far more Galaxy phones have siold then iPhone 5, so a worry to be sure, right?

            But enough of that, as that still doesn't explain your statement. If Windows 8 can do everything the iPad can, how is that "not appropriate for tablets"? I've actually used it, and can say it's every bit as good as iOS, and just as appropriate for a tablet, since I can watch Nextflix, get emil, check weather, IMDB, read a book on the Kindle App, surf the web, play Angry Birds........
            William Farrel
          • Over a decade later.....

            And we're still trying to sell the idea of Windows on a tablet form factor?

            "since I can watch Nextflix, get emil, check weather, IMDB, read a book on the Kindle App, surf the web, play Angry Birds"

            Great - but the point is the majority of consumers are not asking for "Windows" on tablets as they did PCs during the height of the PC era? Why? Because they can already do all that you listed above and more on their cheaper iPads and Android and Amazon tablets. The *masses* that's currently buying iPads and iPad mini's are not looking to run excel spreadsheets on their tablets (though they could). As James mentioned, they're looking for a bigger phone screen that runs all the great phone/tablet apps currently in the iOS market (which MS is lacking).

            Windows is NOT something that's sort after on this form factor, actually it never was by the masses! You would think over a decade later Microsoft would have gotten the message. But they put out commercials talking about how the iPad can't run PowerPoint (nevermind that Apple have their own Powerpoint app in Keynote). Clueless.
            dave95.
          • You do realize that the hardware was crap 10 years ago right?

            Your comparing apples to turds. Look at the current MS based tablets and tell me they are anything like the ones from 10 years ago.
            mrefuman
          • Re: You do realize that the hardware was crap 10 years ago right?

            Yes, that is it. Windows run well only on crappy hardware.

            Is this your point?

            Ok, today, Microsoft can have Windows on state of the art tablets. Microsoft even went that far as to build their very own tablet, to their very own specifications -- ignoring all the "bad design" from the OEMs. Windows on tablets still does not sell. Care to explain why?
            danbi
          • not that simple

            Windows phone/tablet came along sometime after the standard bearers of the market were in fairly full swing, so you expect a miracle overnight from MS ? Naive or you hope for failure maybe ? Be careful what you wish for :)

            http://blogs.computerworld.com/windows-phone/22336/acer-passes-windows-phone-complains-no-one-knows-about-it < this paints a totallly different picture than the one you hope for , doesn't it.

            I can't believe Im that different from everyone else, and I got tired of tiny tinsy icons on both iphone and android, and I therefore love my wp device , and very much enjoy windows 8 metro side. I don't think windows 8 is enough in its current form as they need to pack things in tighter so if I choose , I can do LESS scrolling and more folder manuevering.

            It's naive to think windows 8/tablets/phones aren't increasing in market share because you don't want it to be so, because they most certainly are.

            LIve tiles are flat amazing, and I love the metro UI wherever it is , and as an artist I sincerely doubt Im alone in that opinion. Innovation matters, and that is exactly what wp OS IS , like or not.

            Corporate or not, if you make the OS visually superior, stable and capable of doing what user 'x' needs and wants, it WILL be adopted.
            cajunctionai
          • Not so my friend...

            Sometimes big companies like IBM or Microsoft think they "got" the market and showcase products that nobody really wants, although they look "progressive and innovative".

            Case in Point: IBM's InfoWindow. Nobody remembers it, but here's a quick hint:

            The crowd was 10 deep, silent, and staring at the video screen on the small stage at a recent New York computer show. An IBM spokesman draped one arm casually over the display. Then, with his free hand, he began touching the screen. Pictures, graphics, text, and menu selections appeared and disappeared as he poked and talked. The system is called InfoWindow. And as writer G. Berton Latamore discovered, it's more than a touch-screen sales gimmick...
            -- "A new touch" Popular Science March 1987.

            http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-4682162.html

            What happened to this innovative new system which used VideoDiscs and a PC to convey information? Not much. IBM created the demo, sold a few and years later took the brand and just stuck it into some 3270 dumb terminals.

            Sounds familiar? It should. That's precisely what Microsoft did with the original Surface. Create a wonder kid that did amazing things but nobody could buy. Fast forward a few years and they stuck the brand on a gimmicky Windows Explorer full screen extension (which is basically what the Start Screen is) and then create a pseudo-framework inspired by .NET but built with COM+. If that's your idea of the future, then you can have a job at Microsoft.
            cosuna
          • A Surface Pro...

            ...$999 dollars with MasterCard...

            Angry Birds, Cut the Rope and Where's my Mickey: $12 with MasterCard (would have costed 4 bucks with an iPad)...

            Forgetting to buy the Type Cover and trying unsuccessfully to use Office with you bare hands until you give up, return the damn thing and buy a normal laptop (with Windows 7) and iPad with the same money... priceless

            Sucker who did that: Clueless...

            Most things money can buy, but selling yourself just to promote an unsuccessful product, that's being needy...
            cosuna
      • And for the same reason

        Most serious corporate PC users, don't want a tablet (Metro) OS on their desktop.
        cHarley1200
      • for the last time...

        you promise!
        CriticalSection
      • re: for the last time

        I am a person and I want full Windows 8 on my tablet. Any less that that and it's pretty much worthless to me. Therefore, you are wrong.
        Sir Name
      • by that logic...

        That's why RT will be a big hit, right? Because people don't want full version of windows on their tablets?
        William_Robert