CES: Why Windows Tablets Will Fail

CES: Why Windows Tablets Will Fail

Summary: Microsoft is expected to push Windows tablets at this year's CES, starting with Ballmer's keynote address tomorrow. I'm sorry Mr. Ballmer, but Windows tablets are doomed to fail.


CES 2011

The main theme at this year's CES is a tablet in every pot, with 80 tablets expected to get announced during the week-long show. Microsoft is expected to push Windows tablets starting with Steve Ballmer's keynote address tomorrow. I'm sorry Mr. Ballmer, but Windows tablets are doomed to fail, as they have since introduced in the early 2000s.

I have been using tablets since long before the cool kids did, and tablets running Windows at that. I carried a Tablet PC running Windows XP every day for years in my previous life as a consulting geophysicist. As useful as I found it to be, those tablets were relegated to a small niche market because not very many consumers needed the inking capability that set them apart from the touch tablets of today.

The current consumer craze was started by the iPad which proved that thin and light touch tablets have mass appeal which has OEMs scrambling to get on the tablet train before it leaves the station, if it hasn't already. Microsoft is planning to push the Windows touch tablet form to compete with the iPad and the flood of Android tablets that are expected to be announced at CES this week. The folks in Redmond may push tablets running Windows 7, or running an upcoming port of Windows to the ARM hardware architecture that is expected to get announced soon. Unfortunately, I don't think either platform has a chance to grab a piece of the mainstream consumer tablet pie.

Windows 7 comes closer to integrating touch operation into the system than any version of Windows to date, but it's just not enough. The OS at its core is designed for mouse/keyboard operation, both of which are missing on touch tablets. Windows 7 tries to handle touch operation but it is still hit and miss. Microsoft may be planning to address that in Windows 8, or even with a port to the ARM platform, but at a minimum that is years away from the market. It makes more sense to use Windows Phone 7 as a base for a touch system, but Microsoft has indicated it doesn't want to do that.

There's only one reason Microsoft would pass on WP7 for tablets, and that is to run legacy Windows programs on the slate. That's not really a good reason as most Windows programs don't work well on the tablet. That's the biggest problem with tablets running Windows 7 today -- as soon as you fire up a program all semblance of touch control flies out the window. Windows programs weren't written to be controlled by touch alone, and many of them are not usable on tablets. So what's the point?

No matter what path Microsoft takes to the tablet kingdom, an entirely new app ecosystem will be required to be of any use to consumers. A young app ecosystem is already growing for Windows Phone 7, it makes little sense to build yet another for tablets just so a Windows core can power the slate. Supporting multiple app systems is a daunting task even for the mighty Microsoft to undertake.

The iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab have been successful in the market because they are both powered by mobile OSes designed from the ground up for tablet operation. They also have large app ecosystems in place giving consumers what they want for the tablet -- apps. Windows has neither and is destined for failure in the tablet segment.

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

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  • Vanilla Win7 on tablet.

    The pic looks like vanilla Win7 running on a tablet, a recipe for disaster, just like the ugly mess that was WinCE - while it worked for highly customized embedded apps, WinCE failed miserably as a general purpose touch screen / embedded OS due to its roots in the Win95/98 core that was essentially mouse and keyboard driven.

    This tablet effort with Win7 is just lipstick on the pig. I'm no apple fan, I don't even own an iDevice, but their OS and UI just works seamlessly for tablet-like devices and mobile phones. No wonder they've thrashed the Win-tablet market within a year.
    • Thanks for this

      [i]WinCE failed miserably as a general purpose touch screen / embedded OS [b]due to its roots in the Win95/98 core[/b] that was essentially mouse and keyboard driven.[/i]

      It safely lets us ignore everything else you've written.
      • RE: CES: Why Windows Tablets Will Fail

        @NonZealot: We can always safely ignore what you write. Perhaps what kraterz was trying to get at is that MSFT took most of its UI for WinCE from its Win95/98/NT 4.x OS lines and tried to cram it into a smaller screen.
      • RE: CES: Why Windows Tablets Will Fail

        @NonZealot True.
        Tim Acheson
      • RE: CES: Why Windows Tablets Will Fail

        @NonZealot Agreed!
      • "It safely lets us ignore everything else you've written."

        @NonZealot : Yup. By ignoring the point of his comment, it safely lets us ignore everything else you've written.
      • RE: CES: Why Windows Tablets Will Fail

        You are absolutely correct.

        @James Kendrick
        Another anti Microsoft article written by an iNaive author.


        Let's get this correct. Windows has 90+% of the OS market. And iOS, err iPad/iphone has a measly 1.69 % Why does windows have such an enormous share? Well the mostly because of the endless supply of applications that run on it and because its a damn good OS. Hmmmm... Let me think a little bit... There are so many businesses that want to get an iPad but guess what??? They don't run their software that they already use which is guess what?- written for windows.
        Well that equals what? A market for windows 7 tablets that will run the endless supply of software already out there. And your argument that once you fire up the application, it's not usable because there is no mouse and keyboard is nonsense. The author of the program could release an updated "Tablet edition" of their application which would address your touch concerns - if necessary. Having windows on a tablet also allows internet explorer with it's Active X technologies to be leveraged on a tablet interface. Active X is used by many many programs. In other words, if you don't have IE you can't run the program, period.
        The argument that ipad is superior to everything else is rubbish. They simply have a clever ad campaign and for popularity reasons everyone likes what Apple is offering no matter what it is as long as it has an i in front of the name . For a home use gadget sure an ipad works well (although I would like to see one with a pull out physical keyboard and flash support). However, for the real world business use they simply aren't. And if you sit here and tell me otherwise you are definitely in denial for spending the dough to get one. Not only that
        The only way you are going to make it useful in the real world is to setup an RDP connection to a windows back end. Then the argument that the author makes that says touch screen just doesn't work in windows - well thats what current ipad users are doing!!!!!
        Hello, anybody home???? Wake up people.

        Oh and one more thing, As far as windows phone 7 as the OS on a tablet, yes I would like to see it (but please make a model with a keyboard, I don't need to ask about flash because it already has that). That could serve as the gadget tablet just like the ipad is and then the windows 7 pro on a tablet could be used in a business environment.
      • Why A Windows Tablet will be a Success

        @mikroland Thanks mikroland for writing sensibly about the probable success of a Windows Tablet. Your statements are why I'm waiting for the Windows tablet before including that in my computer repertoire.
      • RE: CES: Why Windows Tablets Will Fail

        @NonZealot; @mikeroland; @wwgorland : Personally, I see Win7 on a small form-factor tablet just about as successful as Windows XP was on the larger form factor--for almost the exact same reasons. There are no touch-ready applications available for the desktop version of Windows and as long as Windows itself is primarily mouse-and-keyboard centric, there never will be. Until Windows foregoes the mouse in particular as the means of pointing, desktop software simply is not likely to change for what many people still consider a 'fad.'
      • You fail at conprehension mikroland


        All the windows programs available today do not work with touch on a tablet..... They need a mouse and keyboard... So no fanboi.. There are not any programs out there for winblows running with touch... If you had any clue, you might understand that this is one of the main points of James's post. Both the OS and the Apps have to be written for touch. And that means that Winblows on a touch tablet is even further behind than the Roid Pads. Without useful apps that actually work on a tablet, Winblows on a tablet is worthless... Do you get it now?
      • RE: CES: Why Windows Tablets Will Fail


        Your facts are a little off.

        For OS totals, there are a lot of choices out there.

        Microsoft has 85% according to it's own figures of OS total for PC type devices. Apple has 8%, and the remaining 7% is varied, with most of it being Linux. Microsoft has much less in other OS shares. In Supercomputers, Microsoft has much less than 1%. Linux there has 95+%. In phones, Microsoft has approximatly 5%. IOS has around 10%, and Linux also around 10%. The largest share there is Symbian. There are more phones than PC's.

        In Servers, Microsoft has around 35%. Linux has around 35%, the majority of the rest is some flavor of Unix.

        In mainframe computers, IBM has the largest share of OS percentage, with Linux second at around 20%.

        So, Microsoft is a majority player in only one sector of computer OS. They are a declining player in that one. They have lost about 10% dominance in the last 10 years on PC systems.

        I found the rest of your post to be similarly misinformed. Tablets are an area where Microsoft has had a 10 year head start, and is now running third in a three way race. the existing Microsoft Operating System for tablets is awkward at best. This has been the case for 10 years. It is possible that Windows 7 might change this, but beta reviewers who have used the product say it doesn't.

        Microsoft has a declining user base, and a future of long slow decline. i don't see Mr. Ballmer taking the kind of risks needed to overcome that. Mr. Gates before him did, but like all enthusiasts, he failed more often than he succeded. A good technical enthusiast is what is needed, along with an ability to adapt, and a willingness to fail going forward. Microsoft once had that, not so much right now.

        Apple and Google are more experimental in approach. Microsoft would do well to copy them. Microsoft does at least have a good history of copying other peoples ideas and products.

        While I don't expect to see a Windows tablet as a big success, I also don't see a great long term product future for tablets. You may agree or disagree with me.
    • RE: CES: Why Windows Tablets Will Fail

      Agree WinCE was terrible. Had a job once to design room display and scheduling system based on WinCE tabs as a front end. DISASTER (went with Linux pads successfully).

      I just try to keep happy thoughts in mind about this next fiasco. Remembering that Windows "flavors" came out in this order (ignoring their intended platform):
      Windows CE, Windows ME, Windows NT...and CE ME NT spells "CEMENT". :-)
      • RE: CES: Why Windows Tablets Will Fail

        I do believe your chronology is off. NT (3.51) came out before ME and I believe CE. I'll stick with my reference to each individually:

        NT - Nice Try (from IBM)
        ME - Miserable Edition
        CE - Crappy Edition
        XP - eXPiration edition

        Vista was such a joke I won't even look at Win 7... I bought a Mac and all, but two - of nine - computers now run openSuse Linux.
      • Clever but irrelevant ...

        @pgerardi@ ... The Windows NT kernel is the key.

        As long as its structure remains intact, even modularized, the NT kernel is critical to making keeping a Windows tablet/slate compatible with desktop Windows 7.

        Windows 7 Starter edition, Windows Live, and Office 2010 Starter Edition, along with an Outlook Starter component would make a Windows Tablet hard to beat. At a $499 pricepoint, Microsoft OEMs ought to be able to pull it off. The only missing feature is a UI oriented toward touch processing.
        M Wagner
      • cement


      • RE: CES: Why Windows Tablets Will Fail

        I'm no MS fan, but NOT looking at Win7 is a mistake - predictably, it would be good, BECAUSE Vista was bad.

        MS operates in very predictable cycles... they release a good/stable OS, then a disaster... then get it right... then the next "revolutionary" one is another disaster... then they get it right.... and so on.

        You can see corporations setting policies this way. My company was no exception:
        Windows 2000 was "the" corporate standard, for a long time.
        Windows ME.... no company adopted. And yes, it sucked.
        XP was great, stable, adopted by companies everywhere, has been "the" corporate standard.
        Windows Vista... no one touched it. Yes, it sucked.
        Now, companies are migrating to Windows 7. Why? Because [very predictably] it's the good one. We made the XP to 7 move about 3-4 months back.

        I follow the same methodology for my desktop - I look to what companies are adopting.
      • RE: CES: Why Windows Tablets Will Fail

        @pgerardi@... CEMENT....???
        NT was released before CE or ME even before Windows 95
        NT 3.1 was released in July of 1993;
        CE release Nov. 96'
        ME released Sept. 2000
        so it would be NTCEME; dip$hit
        Brian G
      • clever but incorrect

        ME came AFTER NT
    • RE: CES: Why Windows Tablets Will Fail

      For 15 years (or more) I've used some type of tablet/touch screen device and several of them have run some version of Windows. I currently use on a daily basis a tablet running Windows XP. I love it.
      Though I'm a big fan of tablets running a full powerhouse operating system, I'm also a realist and can see that my needs are not necessarily the same as the mass consumer market.

      I don't own an iPad, but I get excited every time I go into a store and play around with one. No, it doesn't have the processing power as a Windows 7 (or other) computer but... (don't shoot me) who really needs that power all the time? I would much rather sit in a Starbucks with an iPad (Android, WinCe, other streamlined OS) doing my trivial little searches or whatever on a device that's designed for exactly that!!!
      (to Microsoft)
      Do you get it Microsoft?? Apple did. The consumer does. And the Chinese ebay storefronts do. Just because your early Wince devices didn't take-off like you hoped doesn't mean that it wasn't a good idea and needs to be pursued again... in the right way. This time keep the prices low and the quality high... and don't think you need to make mega-bucks from your OS. Many of us aren't all that excited about any form of Windows you throw our way.
      • RE: CES: Why Windows Tablets Will Fail

        @camcost@... Not sure on how pricing was an issue although nothing definitive. I understood that OEM pricing for windows embedded CE was anywhere from $3 - $16 per copy depending on CE Core, Core Plus, Pro versions, with material discounts given for higher volumes. Based on what I heard from a friend working at an Original Device Manufacturer (ODM) a while back. Just saying I don't think pricing was an issue.