Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets

Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets

Summary: The decision to make Windows 8 work on all types of devices may work for Microsoft, but it will fail in the mobile space if it exposes the user to two areas of legacy Windows operation.


People are still unsure exactly what to make of Windows 8 and its ability to run on any type of device. No one is really sure what to make of the fact that tablet optimized apps will need to be written from scratch, but legacy Windows apps will still run, too. This be-all approach may work for Microsoft, but Windows 8 will fail in the mobile space if it exposes the user to two areas of legacy Windows operation not appropriate for mobile devices.

I like what I have seen of Windows 8 so far, even though the exposure has been brief. The touch-friendly interface looks like a good fit for tablets, and it looks refreshing. Of course, 'refreshing' was a common description of the Windows Phone 7 interface, and that hasn't set any sales records since its release. Hopefully Windows 8 will have a better reception for tablets.

It is not clear how much of the legacy Windows core will be underneath the Windows 8 pretty stuff, but if the "works on everything" approach means that third party device drivers will be part of the equation I don't think the tablet consumer will tolerate the mess that comes with that. Mobile device users expect the systems to work out of the box and don't care how that happens. They don't care that vendors of hardware components have to write device drivers to make Windows operate properly with all of the parts of the system. They don't care that the device driver for each component has to interoperate with the device drivers for every other piece of the system.

No, tablet owners are going to expect the system to work as expected out of the box, and to keep working forever. No future system update can force a device driver to affect proper operation and thus require some nameless company to produce a driver update. Everything must work, and without fail or Windows 8 will be a big flop on tablets.

The Windows legacy may expose Windows 8 to the need for anti-malware protection, and if so this will not work on tablets. Microsoft must realize that mobile device owners will not tolerate regular software updates, even to update the anti-malware protection. Anything that exposes the owner to interrupted use of a tablet is going to be interpreted as a failure by Windows 8.

It is not clear if Microsoft is rewriting Windows 8 from scratch, but with so much legacy code invested it's unlikely. Doing so for the mobile version of Windows would have been a good idea in my opinion to ensure the tablet user experience in no way resembles that of Windows past. Tablet owners expect to spend no time on maintenance, updates or dealing with unresponsive systems, even if it's the fault of third parties. Tablets must work out of the box, and work as expected every time the user takes it out. Otherwise Windows 8 will not fare well in the tablet space.

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

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  • A couple of corrections

    First on device drivers assuming the vendor preinstalls the system why should the user care? The drivers will be there and if well written just work. Note if they are not well written I don't care whose OS it is things will be bad.

    On anti-virus what makes you think there won't be anti-virus on Ipad etc? Already people are attacking popular mobile devices such as phones, so I can't imagine there won't be protection software of some kind. If you are working on the assumption that Windows is more vunerable, you forget that if this is a closed system like a tablet those vunerabilities can be closed.
    • RE: Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets

      @oldsysprog You are on the mark. Also, the device drivers could be a plus: printers, keyboards, digital cameras, etc. Many 'things' may not work, but MS has come a long way from the days when you had to go searching for individual device drivers.
      • RE: Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets

        @sprog: connectability apps for drivers might be a plus, as easier in windows - at a long term cost of MS losing their OS monopoly for PCs and maybe even networks.
    • Tablet market is overrated

      Like that Netbook market it's a device people can do without.
      • RE: Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets


        I 100% agree... AKA the iFad...
      • Really? Tell that to the Consumer Market.

        @LBiege... Apple has seemed to struck a gold mine. The consumer masses are wanting a light-wieght multi-media device with long battery life, that doesn't require a whole lot of fuss. Who wants to weight ten minutes for a netbook to boot, when an iPad or Xoom or Playbook are on instantly ready to be used, and can be used just about anywhere.

        Yeah the tablets are dead on arrival.
    • Re: future tablet security risks

      @oldsysprog As you stated, "if this is a closed system like a tablet those vulnerabilities can be closed".

      Do you feel the future Win 8 tablet will have a better closed tablet environment than Apple's iPad ecosystem and it's app store setup?
      • RE: Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets

        I think the Windows market will be better regulated but there will be issues as they've had plenty with the Droid Market and the Apple App Store. On the other hand MS knows security quite well and will implement such in their market.
    • RE: Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets

      It also seems the author fails to realize a few things... Windows 8 is backwards compatible meaning most devices already have support and more will have support in the future. Also James must have missed how carriers are purposely trying to wink the WP7 platform. MS has done nothing wrong but Verizon and AT&T have been quite horrible without even setting up displays... If you never see it how would you even know it exists? Some others where in the middle of Android section so how could the user tell with a blank screen?

      Windows 8 will work everywhere on everything do everything as Microsoft intends it to be and work slick and smooth just like WP7.

      With the code re-write from Vista hasn't anyone noticed the sharp decline in vulnerabilities and viruses for Windows PCs running Vista/7? It will only get better with Windows 8 and if they decide to implement MSE in W8 then you have a pretty secure platform to work with that isn't bogged down.

      The next article should be called... 2 ways James Kendrick can fail in general. (write blogs with a Harold Camping approach and go hug an Apple in a Green Trash Can)
  • RE: Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets

    It will fail just because they do not do their due diligence in considering "use case's for their devices" , people need a reason to want slate, and so far no one has produced anything that comes close to what Apple has done. It is not just the hardware of the device, it is the whole ecosystem around the device (Email/Calendar/Web surfing, eReader,Music,Photos,Movies,Apps) having in place support for these kind of "use cases" this partly why I think the Rim Playbook is not going to do well, no Email,Calendar support without a Blackberry phone.
    • RE: Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets

      @mrlinux <br>Have to been looking at the ecosystem MS has been putting together lately? SkyDrive, Windows Live, hardware accellerated IE10, Xbox Live, Live TV, Skype, Nokia etc will all be integrated into Windows 8.
    • RE: Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets

      Are you out of your tits? What /can't/ you do on a Windows tablet?

      The MS Ecosystem, or "use case" as you put it, is essentially /everything/. I don't see a need for a tablet right now because tablets aren't PCs.

      The killer app for a tablet is one that is a PC.
      x I'm tc
      • RE: Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets

        @jdakula Exactly! Because Windows was hammered for sol long time by anti-trust case, they are afraid to present anything as a monopoly. Apple, on the other hand, is getting a free ride so it keep enjoying its "lock-in" ecosystem. It is actually an example that clearly shows that some people do not need "freedom", they are quite happy with a locked-in system that "just works".
      • RE: Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets

        @jdakula There are companies that make PC's in the slate format that are functional and have the storage of a pc and the battery life closer to Android/iOS devices than laptops did. I ordered a Motion Computing tablet via Allegiance Technology Partners (, which for just shipping costs let me borrow a demo tablet to test drive for a few days. The batteries run for 7 hours and with a 160 GB drive and Win 7 is makes a great replacement for my 6 year old laptop.
      • RE: Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets

        @jdakula: Right, because Windows tablets have done so well over the past ten years. Not! (How many of those have you owned, by the way, since you say a Windows tablet is what you want?) It's simply the case that the hardware to support a Windows tablet in the kind of sleek form factor the iPad and Android tablets have made popular (mostly the iPad so far) just doesn't exist. Low power chip designs are improving, and there are some Windows 8 tablets on the drawing boards that will use some of Intel's latest chip designs, but they have yet to demonstrate that they can do the job and still provide anything like acceptable performance and battery life. In other words, Windows 8 tablets are nothing but vaporware at the moment. Your faith that Microsoft can succeed now where they've failed so dramatically before is touching, but hardly justified by the facts. They are intent on building a tablet that can "do everything," which means they learned absolutely nothing from their mistakes. Instead, they are doubling down on failure.

        Given the competition, it's not surprising that Microsoft has passed on the opportunity to develop a tablet version of Windows Phone 7. They are already so far behind the game that their chances of realizing any return at all on such an investment are slim at best. So naturally they want to try something else. But that something else is just another Windows PC - with a touch interface tablet UI bolted on top. It takes a great deal of faith of believe that Microsoft can do something so complex and do it well. And they say Apple product owners are fan boys.

        In regard to security on a Windows tablet as compared to an iOS device, the iOS ecosystem is closed, a fact some people deplore, but that ecosystem provides unmatched stability and security. The only successful malware attacks have been on jailbroken iPhones that were no longer insulated from life outside the "garden." Windows 8 will certainly not operate in the same kind of "closed" environment. It will be vulnerable to the same kinds of exploits that plague Windows users now. Which means security software will probably be necessary. Whether provided by Microsoft or third party developers it can be expected to take an additional toll on Windows 8 tablet performance.

        It is not certain, of course, that Windows 8 tablets will fail. It is true, however, that the odds against their success are long. Microsoft will have to execute at an unprecedented high level to make it work. While such execution is conceivable, it is improbable, given Microsoft's history.

        Take just two recent examples. Windows Phone 7 has received high marks for originality. Yet it was two years behind the competition the day it was released. While it may catch up, the competition won't be standing still in the meantime. Witness the strong list of improvements iOS 5 is bringing to Apple's mobile platforms. Windows 7 has also been well received; yet patch Tuesdays still deliver plenty of fixes every week. Microsoft will be asking even more of Windows 8 that it does of Windows 7. Can they deliver? Perhaps. But it's a crap shoot.
      • RE: Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets

        @jdakula That wasn't true 10 years ago. It won't magically become true now.

        Claims for the inevitable success of Win8 on tablets ignores the utter failure of Win tablets to date.
      • RE: Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets


        <i>It's simply the case that the hardware to support a Windows tablet in the kind of sleek form factor the iPad and Android tablets have made popular (mostly the iPad so far) just doesn't exist. </i>

        The current crop of Win7 tablets is actually surprisingly close. A slimmed down OS combined with another hardware iteration could very well get it there. And if you look a few iterations down the road the hardware will be fast enough that the difference between Windows and a cell-phone style OS won't matter much.

        <i>Right, because Windows tablets have done so well over the past ten years. Not! </i>

        Because they weren't very compelling beyond certain niches. Apple has shown the way as far as touch-screen OSes go though, and the Metro take on that is actually pretty cool. Apple has also paved the way in consumers minds for tablet-like devices. Windows got tablets wrong for ten years, but W8 doesn't come from that lineage, it's a different sort of device entirely.

        While the "computing appliance" model of the iPad has a valid niche, the ability to run full-power apps on a tablet would be a very powerful niche as well.
      • RE: Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets


        I am definitely not a MS fanboy. I was there when MS used their Office application monopoly to crush the infinitely superior WordPerfect with the bastard product that was (still is) Word. I watched in vain as IE brought innovation on the Web to a crawl until Mozilla finally revitalized it with FireFox a decade later. I would be better classified as an MS hater, but I'll admit I'm in rehab lately. MS do seem to be (finally!) moving the PC space in positive directions again. Win7 is an absolute never-crashing rock and a joy to use. The Office Ribbon is a real revolution in usability (albeit one that took a helluva long time to get used to). And SkyDrive/Mesh absolutely crushes anything anyone else offers. Even WP7 is a very nicely done piece of software that might just be the best smarphone platform out there come Christmas time (we'll have to see how 7.5 "mango" delivers). iOS is not, as far as I can tell, still make meaningful advances.

        I own only one tablet PC, a Lenovo, running Win7. It is fantastic. Win8 promises to be even better.

        Will Win8 be a success? I say it is a priori yes. Even Vista, while a PR nightmare, made money hand over fist for MS. If you mean will *users* love it? That I don't know. But MS will sell gazillions of copies anyway. Since the specs are the same as for Win7, you can bet that the performance will be in the silicon by the time Win8 sees the light of day a year from now. My Lenovo already gets about 8 hours of solid use, and it has to bring along a keyboard and a DVD drive and a fan and one of those old-fashioned hard drives that actually spins.

        As to my original post, is there a use-case for Windows tablets? That I think speaks for itself. The use case is /everything/: Nearly every application ever written, nearly every peripheral ever produced, and full support from nearly every IT department in the world.
        x I'm tc
    • RE: Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets

      One thing you forget, this is windows, so it will have iTunes. It will also have full access to all of googles services.
    • RE: Two ways Windows 8 can fail in tablets

      @mrlinux actually I know 3 guys who bought 5 iPads in total mainly for facebook, twitter, newspapers, etc.<br><br>3 of those iPads are bought at the first place just for 5 yrs old kids to play games!<br>The Apple iPad ecosystem is good, but in terms of what you mentioned, Windows 8 won't fall short at all.<br>Only in one thing, Apps, which is vague as you may be referring to games apps, in which case yeah iPad has many games.