Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

Summary: A tablet computer combining Windows Phone Mango OS and cloud computing could be a mobile monster.

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As I write this, Amazon is in the process of preparing shipments of hundreds of thousands of 7" Kindle Fire tablets to customers, which are awaiting delivery of their $199 devices next week. It's also now in the process of priming their retail partners such as Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart and Staples to sell the device for the holiday season.

Similarly, Barnes & Noble is also preparing their own retail store channel for the 7" NOOKTablet, which is priced at $249 and has similar capabilities.

It was reported this morning on our sister site, C|Net, that demand for Amazon's Kindle Fire was so huge that the company increased its order with its contract manufacturer, Quanta, to five million units for CY 2012.

This holiday season, it looks like consumer attention for digital convergence devices is going to belong to cheap Android Tablets and on the higher end, Apple's iPad.

And yet on tablets, Microsoft is nowhere to be found, except on niche products such as Windows 7 slates that nobody other than specific verticals are really interested in buying.

Microsoft has recently introduced its own Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" OS and has rolled the update out to carrier partners to refresh existing Windows Phone 7 devices.

Additionally, a few new phones have been released that have been designed with the new OS in mind such as the Nokia Lumia and the HTC Trophy.

But the Windows Phone market share overall is still very tiny when compared to either Android or Apple's iOS.

Part of the problem I believe has to do with overall carrier commitment to the platform as well as having to deal with wireless contracts as a consumer. If you're going to to have to commit to a 2-year service contract, consumers are much more likely to want to go with a device that has a robust app ecosystem.

Absorbing the data costs over a 2 year period are substantial, so there is higher risk involved from the consumer with a relatively unproven platform.

But what if you didn't have to absorb wireless data costs at all? What if you could put Windows Phone Mango's OS onto a $199 7" tablet, similar in capability to what Amazon and Barnes & Noble are releasing?

Well, then I think we'd have a winner.

So what's stopping Microsoft from effectively duplicating Amazon's efforts and say, partner with an HTC or a Nokia to make a 7" tablet with Mango running on it, backed up by Microsoft's cloud services, such as Zune Music Pass and Microsoft Live/XBOX?

And if Yahoo really is in the running to be bought by Microsoft sometime in the near future, then it makes the value proposition for the consumer in terms of cloud services considerably higher.

What's stopping Microsoft from doing this on a 7" tablet is essentially the same reason why we never saw a 10" tablet with this OS either: Politics. And in my opinion, it's self-destructive.

Yes, we all know that Microsoft's tablet future is in Windows 8. They've spelled this out for us quite clearly in recent demos and announcements during the BUILD conference, and everyone's had a chance to play with Windows 8 on the desktop and we can all see where they are going with Metro and a seemingly full port of Windows to the ARM platform.

That's a given.

But Windows 8 at best is going to be ready during the holiday season of 2012. That's a year from now if things go perfectly, and we know that it's certainly possible for things to slip, perhaps into the spring or even summer of 2013.

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In that time, untold millions upon millions of Kindle Fires and iPads are going to be sold. All while Mango tries its hardest to get market share in the cutthroat smartphone space.

It kind of seems like a bit of a waste to have this great, completely finished, best of breed embedded device OS with back-end services and an App store which could conceivably be preloaded onto any commodity 7" device (one which would almost certainly help to improve Windows mindshare in mobile space) just to sit on the sidelines and not even create a blip on the consumer radar.

Just think, you could have a 7" tablet with pure Microsoft Office and Exchange capability, integrated social networking, with Internet Explorer and a decent, although arguably much smaller app ecosystem than the competition.

But there's a window of opportunity here because Apple has no intention as of yet to produce a cheaper 7" iPad (as far as we know) and the fractionalization of the Android space by Amazon and Barnes & Noble does introduce some undesirable variables.

For example, if you have an Android phone, and you buy a Kindle Fire or a NOOKTablet, you might think twice about buying applications on Google's Android Market if you can't use the same app on your 7" tablet.

If you bought a Kindle Fire, you'd want to side load Amazon's Appstore for Android on your phone and consolidate your purchases.

If you bought a NOOKTablet and you have an Android phone, you're completely out of luck and you'll definitely need to double-purchase, assuming the app even exists in B&N's marketplace.

Those types of concerns wouldn't be an issue if you were in Microsoft's ecosystem.

Unlike Android, which has a totally fractured ecosystem, the smaller Windows Phone OS ecosystem is totally controlled by Microsoft, which is not unlike the way things work with Apple's products.

Smaller app ecosystem aside, I'd gather that if such a device were produced, you'd see much more of these Wi-Fi only devices fly off the shelves than Windows Phones, and then developers would really start to jump on the platform.

Then maybe the ecosystem wouldn't be so small anymore.

In effect, this would be a vehicle that could result in Windows Phones becoming more popular due to increased developer interest on the 7" tablet.

I see this potentially as being the reverse of what happened with iPad. In Apple's case, iPhone drove the iPad because of the app ecosystem. Instead, I see Windows Mango being much more attractive to consumers and even business users on a tablet today than on a phone.

The tablet demand would drive the smartphone adoption instead.

How quickly could Microsoft do this? Well, if they were to partner with someone like an HTC, and to take the guts of a dual-core smartphone and throw it in something like a Flyer chassis, they could probably jumpstart something and have it ready for shipment by the spring.

But they'd have to really get off their asses.

Nah, makes too much sense. They'd rather wait for Amazon and Apple to completely lock up the market.

Would you buy a $199 7" Windows Mango Tablet? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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237 comments
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  • RE: Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

    With a price tag like that... Why not?! But I'd hope for the availability of the same productive applications as on the PC
    anthraxomega
    • RE: Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

      @anthraxomega

      Why should MS join the toy market? Mango is great on a phone, but if I'm going to be convinced to carry a brick around, I want a real computer, not some combination of a media player and electronic catalogue.

      I'm also inclined to trust the people who made the world OS, do the research and design and are, first and foremost, a software development company over Jason's latest complaints.

      Oh and if we're competing, I have nearly 40 years experience in the industry and most of it in software development. Still doesn't mean I'm right about anything ;-)
      tonymcs@...
      • RE: Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

        @tonymcs@... iPad and Android tablets are toys? Try using one.

        Explain how Microsoft are going to reverse 20 years of Windows apps being designed with keyboard and mouse in mind? Not touch in the slightest. The apps are more powerful yes but it doesn't mean they work well with touch.

        Windows 8 will likely have much better touch support to Windows 7 but there's nothing Microsoft can do to reverse that trend. There are to many keyboard/mouse designed apps out there.
        bradavon
      • RE: Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

        @tonymcs@...

        Hate to break it to you, but they are in the software market, and a good portion of the software market crosses over into the toy market. That includes their bread and butter products.
        Michael Kelly
      • RE: Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

        @tonymcs@... yeah, heaven forfend they make a toy, like, you know, a gaming console or something ... I mean, that'd be SO outside of what they do.
        daboochmeister
      • RE: Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

        @tonymcs@... how many millions of iPads have sold? How many apps?
        dalspartan
      • @ Tony...orrrr...

        I'm thinking Msft has their sights set on a much larger market. There's a lot of motion in the executive backfield and positioning of some very heavy hitters to develop the Kinnect platform in the commercial market...it's huge.
        Bduffel
    • But it won't do that

      Your note is a good example of why I think predictions of huge demand for Windows tablets might not pan out.

      Told that there will be a "Windows tablet," most people envision a 'little computer' that will run all the applications they associate with desktop PCs. They haven't given any thought to how resource-intensive many Windows apps are these days; an advantage on the desktop, but on a tablet not so much. They assume away the difficulty of operating a keyboard-and-mouse app on a tablet. They don't even think about what it will mean to not have an x86 processor. In short, they're picturing something that won't happen.

      Asked if they'll buy a "Windows tablet," they say yes. But they'll never see the thing they have in their mind.
      Robert Hahn
      • RE: Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

        @Robert Hahn Sometimes people can really be thick...(not a personal attack Robert) the question was...where is the "MANGO [WP7.5]" on a 7 inch WiFi only tablet. I think this is an excellent idea and if one was put on the market soon, I'd be one of the first to buy. I'd love Mango in a 7" form factor, and I don't want a two year contract. Also, I could care less about using it as a phone, but with Skype, Google talk, etc., I'd have options. I like the operating system and how it works, I just don't like sub 5 inch screens. Many like myself are not expecting a full windows x86 experience on a tablet which runs an an ARM processor. We're expecting Mango on an ARM processor with the battery life and touch screen operation! Hello...we're talking Mango here not Windows 8. I think that at $200 this thing would take off like a rocket. And by the way, Microsoft should put a giant Mango Phone in every mall parking lot in America and major shopping areas in cities around the world. Awareness and purchases would probably pick up significantly.
        jcmolette@...
      • Oh look, Autodesk by thumb

        @jcmolette
        [ul][i]The question was... where's the MANGO[/i][/ul]
        Yeah, I know that. Did [b]you[/b] notice that the person I was responding to hoped for "the availability of the same productive applications as on the PC"? I've noticed a lot of that: people who say they are excited about the prospect of a "Windows" tablet are expecting a little Windows 7 computer they can hold in their hand. I'm just sayin'... when they find out that a "Windows tablet" will have a GUI that doesn't look like Windows, a processor that doesn't run a whole bunch of x86-dependent apps, and is a total cluster-duck with mouse-and-keyboard apps, they aren't going to be nearly as excited as they say they are now.

        As to whether a WP Phone tablet -- at any price -- is a good idea for Microsoft, I don't know. Judging from the party line being recited here by the Microsoft employees, Microsoft apparently doesn't think so. They seem to betting that full-boat Windows 8 is the right approach, even if that gives The Other Guys years to build a head start. I personally think they are taking a huge risk. Coming in late and then stepping on bugs like Netscape or Stac is a lot easier than taking on Apple and Google simultaneously. On the other hand, any hardware OEM who built a WP tablet would also be taking a huge risk. If the XOOMs had XOOMed off the shelf, it would be a lot easier to justify building a MangoTab. But a lot of vendors have gotten stuck with a lot of hardware in the last few months. They aren't going to be building any more until the ones they have are gone.
        Robert Hahn
      • He's Replying to One Comment

        @jcmolette@...

        Robert was not replying to the article. He was replying specifically to the comment, "But I'd hope for the availability of the same productive applications as on the PC." If you read his comment in that context, then I think it will make more sense to you.
        CFWhitman
      • RE: Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

        @Robert Hahn

        Windows 7 ultimate runs just fine on an Atom processor IF you are using an SSD. We demo and support our SQL Server 2005/2008 application using an Acer Aspire One when traveling (obviously hooked up to a larger monitor or projector). The newest small laptops/tablets with a basic Intel or AMD processor, a GPU and an SSD are a lot more capable than your post indicates.

        Now the problems of running keyboard apps without a keyboard is beyond most peoples ability to project.

        We are taking one part of our main proprietary application and changing it to touch and will use ICONIA W500s for touch PCs.
        mswift@...
      • RE: Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

        jcmolette@...

        We are already using Win Phone 7 hardware with no SIMs as wi-fi devices. Find places that had older stock that did not have Mango pre-loaded. Those phones are going for $200 -$225. We are developing a voice controlled app for use where there are no cell towers.
        mswift@...
      • RE: Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

        @mswift: Maybe you should change your username because you do not seem too "swift". Unsubsidized tablet hardware in that price range cannot be built on even an Atom processor. Maybe you don't care about pricing because I assume that you work at MSFT and so your company does not care whether OEMs earn a profit or even break even because you already got your money from them for licensing.<br><br>An ARM processor tablet even running Windows 8 will not run PC applications out of the box unless if the developer recompiles them but even then it still has to run within a small amount of RAM.<br><br>Send this message to your bosses as MSFT. Windows is not the answer for every form factor. You either have to be willing to try out something like your cancelled courier project or resign yourself to the idea that you will be a services company providing services for other platforms such as iOS and Android. Windows 8 on the tablet will be a failure and Windows Phone 7 will also be a failure.

        I don't have a problem with the idea of creating .NET web services to be consumed on non-windows devices. Maybe you guys need to find a visionary to lead you into the future.
        aristotle_z
      • RE: Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

        @Robert Hahn - I guess you didn't read the article. Mango 7.5 is not a desktop OS it's a slim embedded device OS that YOU WILL NOT be running desktop applications on. Metro is not a desktop OS it's a portable device OS that is just as suited to a 7 or 10 inch tablet as it is to a 4 inch smartphone. I would be first in line to buy a Samsung Galaxy Tab with Mango 7.5 on it...
        simul8guy
      • RE: Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

        @Robert Hahn <br><br>I understand what you're saying, and would agree... but, you assume the tablets out now are the best they can ever be. I disagree with that. I think what you're touting as impossible is only because it hasn't been done YET. But, what is good is that MSFT released a device/OS to devs that shows great promise, does much of what people want/expect, and are not releasing it as any form of bastardized uncooked device, but instead are leveraging their enormous partnerships to push to the next step, leapfrogging instead of side-stepping competition.
        TechNickle
      • RE: Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

        @Robert Hahn I've been wanting to see a focus group that evaluates the favorability of the "Windows" brand, among the other associations that they make as you have mentioned regarding the use of mouse and keyboard. Is it time for Microsoft to use a different name? The new "MS" branded tablets???
        jeff_boggs@...
    • RE: Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

      @anthraxomega I would agree with this. Give us a Windows-Phone-OS-based tablet - it would be faster, more battery efficient, and give us the instant on we want from a device of this style. Add a nice camera for video chats, a zune connector for accessories, and you're done. I do not want Windows 8 on the tablet - I want that on my desktop.

      For the tablet I want to watch movies, tv shows, listen to music, web browse, play games, and read books/magazines/comics (preferrably purchased through the Zune software). I don't need everything that a desktop OS offers. This isn't that complicated.
      modean2525@...
    • RE: Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

      @anthraxomega
      Agreed! I'd snatch one up in a heartbeat. I have no problem admitting I like WP7.5 and MS products. A 7" tablet would dominate the market. It's Office apps and cloud services are by far the best. I love what my WP can do i'd like it more if I could sit on my couch with a 7" tablet and do the same things and more!
      Rob.sharp
      • RE: Microsoft: Where's your $199 Windows Tablet?

        @rob.sharp@...
        I think you may be on to something here, and the price might be doable! I recently bought a 10.1 in Toshiba netbook with an Intel N455 Processor , for $220.00. Although, it loaded with Windows 7 Starter, it flies. I plays all standard movies/videos without pause and HD videos with only a slight lisp. Everyone in the household, who uses it, find it hard to give it back to me. I'm still getting about 8 hours battery life. So, with a few modifications, perhaps a mango tablet is not a totally foolish idea?? However, looking at the timeframe for getting this thing to market, Microsoft would proably be just a few months from the realease of their flagship Windows 8 tablets. With that in mind, it would be a huge distraction with little practical benefits. So, in my opinion, we wont see anything of the sort, and cant say I blame them. Jusy my $.02!!
        eargasm