Are consumers expected to take Windows 8 ARM tablets mainstream?

Are consumers expected to take Windows 8 ARM tablets mainstream?

Summary: Ultimately, it comes down to price. If that's wrong, and Microsoft is relying on consumers to take tablets mainstream, they could be toast.


Who's going to be the people buying these Windows 8 ARM tablets when they hit the shelves? I've come across some commentary over the past couple of days that suggests that these tablets will be aimed at consumers as opposed to enterprise.

Two examples of such commentary: first by ZDNet's Larry Dignan:

Consumers will have to drive the Windows 8 bus. I'm looking forward to Windows 8 tablets only because the Android army has botched numerous attempts to storm the Apple iPad beaches. Windows 8 could be a tablet juggernaut. However, the tablet story for Windows 8 is also a show-me tale. Show me consumers will buy a Windows 8 tablet over an iPad. Show me Windows 8 tablets can be a viable No. 2. Show me I won't be a technology leper if I carry a Windows 8 tablet around.

Here's the second, by Paul Thurrott over on Winsupersite:

WOA (i.e. tablets) are for consumers and x86/x64-based PCs are for business. And what I mean by that is that, for the vast majority of consumers--i.e. not you and I, not the power users--that the tablet-based Metro UI will be the primary user experience and that it has the added benefit of the occasional desktop use. For power users, content creators, developers, IT admins, many office workers and so on, we have the desktop, with occasional forays into Metro.

Oh dear. I see a big problem ahead for Microsoft with this strategy.

First, there's no proven market for Windows tablets, in particular when it comes to consumers. Yes, I know that iPads sell as fast as Apple can make them, but a market for the iPad doesn't automatically mean a market for Windows 8 tablets. Did a huge demand for the iPod signify a massive market for high-end media players? No. Sure, there was a low-end, low-margin market, but this market pretty much killed itself by running headlong to a race to the bottom when it came to price -- and most of the time, quality too.

If consumers are going to have to carry the can with regards to Windows 8 tablets, then Microsoft better have a plan of action as to how it plans to pull this off. Windows 8 tablets powered by ARM architecture will be a tough sell because they're not PC as people know and love them. It might say 'Windows,' and it might look like Windows -- a bit, at any rate -- but in terms of legacy support, it's not Windows.

Another possible speed bump is apps, or the lack thereof. Microsoft is building a whole new platform, and a platform needs apps to draw users in. The problem with that is, developers aren't interested in investing time and effort into something that might wither and die on the vine.

You might be thinking that Microsoft will have no difficulties at all in convincing developers to come on board and build apps, but history tells us different. One example is desktop gadgets. Yes, they still exist even in Windows 8, but they never really took off, mostly because developers didn't bother making compelling gadgets. If the same thing happens with Metro on Windows 8, Microsoft could be in serious trouble.

It's interesting to pause here for a moment and note how Apple built the iOS ecosystem. When the first iPhone and iPod touch was released, apps didn't exist beyond what was already installed on the device. Apple first built a buoyant user-base, and then took that to developers who pounced on it. No hard sell required.

While the lack of legacy support and limited apps might be an issue, the biggest issue facing Windows 8 tablets will be price. While I feel that enterprise might pay a premium to have Windows 8 on tablets just for the simplicity and integration with existing services that Windows would offer, consumers won't pay over the odds for Windows hardware. As far as consumers are concerned there are two price points. At the top end we have the premium price point set by Apple for the iPad, and the mid-range price point has been set by the low-cost 16GB iPad 2. All that's left is the low-end, and Amazon has that with the Kindle Fire.

If Windows tablets come with a bigger price tag than the iPad then they're dead in the water. People don't buy tablets based on features; they look at the price tag. If Microsoft wants to be in with a chance, it had better make sure that the price is right.

Ultimately, unless you're Apple, selling a tablet comes down to price. Get that wrong, and the device is more than likely toast.


Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Software, Tablets, Windows

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  • Microsoft will rely on

    The usual Fanboys, and Zealots as well as using number of shipped units. Kind of like the biggest lie about WP 7, even at $30 they can't shift enough of them to release activation numbers. Windows 8 tablets will follow a similar program, lie about the numbers hoping that eventually enough suckers can be fooled into buying one.
    Jumpin Jack Flash
    • Expert?

      So what makes you such a know all expert. I have a Windows phone and when Windows 8 comes out I will be getting a new desktop or all in one and also at some stage a W8 tablet.
      So put that in you pipe and smoke it Junpin...
      • Expert maybe...common sense defiantly!

        You don't need to be an expert to see the writing on the wall with this one. A few die hard MS fanboys will jump on the Win8 pad just like they did the Win Phone and they will have pretty much the same penetration into the consumer market...poor. I don't have to be an expert to read market statistics. As a matter of fact it will most likely be worst for the Win 8 pad because at least the Win phone can compete on price, I don't see this happening with the Win pad.

        There is just too much stacked against this pad: No apps, late to market, more expensive, excellent well established competition, MS spotty reputation. It will be interesting to see but I am not holding my breath.
      • Not so much an expert.

        But ceryinly smart enough to see beyond the hype.Microsoft knows the exact number of WP7 phone activations, as they require a "Live ID". Being the number of actual phones in use is very small (less than Apple had on launch day for the iPhone 4 on Verizon), They choose not t publish the numbers, but are pushing the we sold "X" licenses to the OEMs.
        Jumpin Jack Flash
  • What if?

    What if Microsoft didn't really care about WOA and only see it as leverage to get Intel to pick up its game? What If a consumer buys a laptop with a touch screen running Windows 8, is it a tablet or a laptop? Perhaps we'll call them TabTops. What If we see devices that combine a WOA tablet with an Intel Keyboard dock, like that Lenova device from a few CES's back?

    So many questions. The good news is we won't have to wait too long to see how the industry reacts.
    • Sure that is a possibility

      Microsoft could also be taking the "throw everything against the wall approach" to see what sticks.Microsoft is not known for making bold moves, or taking risks.
      Jumpin Jack Flash
      • When the entire world relies on you...

        it's tough to make bold moves and take a lot of risks. Apple doesn't have to answer to anyone... MS has to answer to just about every company on the planet.
      • Microsoft

        Actually, Microsoft will try anything. But the discipline to produce great 'stuff' has always been lacking. There has long been the perception of 'just good enough' to get out the door and fix it several interations later. Now a days, few will try a new Microsoft idea so products such as 'Zune' get little traction with the public no matter how good it might be.

        Apple on the otherhand had someone saying no and was willing to stick with it. And yet they also had the luxury of having hobbies, i.e. Apple TV. Sometimes being the Golden Boy (and Microsoft was certainly this in 1998) just makes life easier.
      • Re:When the world relies on...

        Actually Microsoft would like everyone to believe that lie. Microsoft has made billions by copying what innovative companies have done. Microsoft does not innovate, but instead copies. This is where the EEE (Embrace, Extend, Extinguish) strategy comes from.
        Jumpin Jack Flash
  • Can't compare to pre-App Store days

    When Apple began the apps phenomenon, it was a greenfield. Nobody sold apps easily and for low prices. Smartphone and PDA games cost a fortune, and they were mostly crap. Portable games were purchased at shops instead of by download.

    But that was yesterday, and today it will take anybody a lot of time and money to catch up to Apple. Android apps are the closest to having an even break. Microsoft will have to *build* the base, not play wait-and-see. For WOA to be successful, MS should be funding ports, eliminating store fees for 1-2 years, and putting serious money into developer events. Making it profitable to do WOA apps is half the battle, making it *fun* to do it is the other half.

    What will it cost? Billions. But you just have to look at Apple's revenue and profit numbers to understand the investment would be worth every penny if Microsoft did it right. And if they don't do it right, it will be another failure no matter what, and it will take HP, Dell, and other hardware vendors down the drain with it.
    terry flores
    • Hit the nail on the head

      Making apps/applications is not all about money. Most developers have to enjoy doing something and at the moment MS's legacy behavior on bullying the market leaves most developers not enjoying developing on MS's a psychological barrier more than anything but throw that in with the chance to not make any money and it leaves MS pushing s h i t uphill.
  • Heres a strategy for you

    According to Gartner 2011 PC shipments are around 364,000,000 they expect growth in PC shipments to be very low 4% but that is still growth. Assuming that MS launches Windows 8 prior to the 3rd quarter we can estimate Win 8 sales at 91,000,000 for the 4th Quarter.

    Any developers want to get a piece of that pie?

    They dont need to sell a single tablet
    • Eeeeerrrr

      An application running on Windows 8 on a PC is two hurdles away from successfully porting that same application to an app running on Metro on ARM.
      • Exactly why MS pads failed in the past

        This is the exact thinking that killed MS's pad market to date. A mouse/keyboard centric program or OS will not port well to a finger based pad. Apple got this and created a new OS that worked well with the finger input. They didn't try to port their programs, they opened up a whole new avenue to support this interface and they succeeded beyond anyone's expectations. Don't repeat the mistakes of the past!
    • And you believe Gartner ?

      Their forecasts have all the reliability of a cheap French car.
      Alan Smithie
  • A better question would be this

    Which OEM's are going to make these WoA thingies? That might lead you to where they and Microsoft think the markets lie.
  • Windows 8 tablets will get purchased ...

    Windows 8 tablets will get purchased as long as loaded professional office tools aren't on iPads.

    My wife, who has resisted every computer tech advancement in our household, is encouraging me to set up a Windows 8 tablet so she can give up her laptop. iPads don't have office powerful enough for her needs. Most of her work is already on the cloud. Granted, I had to drag her there kicking and whining. But, once she was there, she loves it.
    • This is WOA that is the subject.

      Get the Intel tablet as WOA won't run full applications if that is what she needs.
    • Windows 8 tablets will be purchased by

      The typical Microsoft Fanboy/Zealot. Beyond that the fragmentation will prevent massive adoption. Microsoft has even admitted that there will be two different versions, that will not be interchangeable.
      Jumpin Jack Flash
  • Going with Paul.....

    Based on what I am seeing so far with my use of Win8, it is to restrictive to allow me to do work as I do today. It is not a matter of learning a new way, it is a matter of volume and the amount of side by side work tasks.

    As an example: I frequently have 4-10 seperate windows open make very frequent use of the Win7 side by side feature.