Small Windows tablets on the way to satisfy no existing market

Small Windows tablets on the way to satisfy no existing market

Summary: The tech world reacted with buzz to leaked information about a small tablet in the works that runs Windows 8. I understand the knee-jerk excitement, but I'm not sure who small tablets might be aimed to please.

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Acer Win8 tablet
(Image: PC World)

According to an unintentional leak, Acer is about to release a 8.1-inch tablet for the Windows crowd that is exciting some folks. Small tablets seem to be on the way for Windows customers, and that's a good thing, as choice is always good.

As good as having choice is, I cannot fathom who these little tablets might be aimed at. I like Windows tablets, especially hybrids like my HP Envy x2, as they are suited to take advantage of the dual nature of Windows 8. They work like a laptop when appropriate, and as a tablet when handheld tasks are at hand.

What makes many Windows hybrid computers work is the presence of a good keyboard with a track pad for work tasks. It's not really a tablet at that point, it's a laptop, and that's why it is useful.

I like working with my Envy x2 as a tablet due to its light weight and thin design. It's roughly the same weight as the iPad, and thinner than one. That makes it a full Windows 8 system that's also optimized for handheld use, in large part due to its 11.6-inch touch display.

I don't believe that a 7 or 8 inch tablet is a good form factor for Windows 8 as I'm not sure who might be appropriate to use one. The small screen won't be a good fit to use for serious work in Windows; without the keyboard, I think usefulness will be greatly limited. OEMs will probably have keyboards for these little tablets (like the Acer dock shown in the link below), but with a suitable track pad onboard, these are going to be much bigger than the little tablets.

I've used a number of Windows 8 tablets, the smallest a 10-inch model, and I often require a keyboard with each of them to take advantage of having Windows onboard. Tablet use is mostly limited to leisure type of activities for me, and I suspect that will be the case for most folks with such a small form as these upcoming tablets.

I believe small Windows 8 tablets will require either ARM processors or Intel Atom processors inside. That's the only way to provide enough battery power for such a small tablet and to keep heat down to an acceptable level. The former solution requires Windows RT, which means no regular Windows apps. That sounds perfect for a device that, by design, is primarily a leisure tablet. But if that's the case, then why Windows? Microsoft's own Surface RT tablet doesn't appeal to many folks I speak with about it, as they prefer a full Windows experience. I'm not sure they'd go for RT in a small tablet, either.

The screen resolution will likely be smaller than most standard size tablets currently available, and that will come with a hit to usefulness. The snap view that lets the user pin one app to the side of the screen while using another in the big window will likely not work on these lower resolution small tablets.

The biggest advantage that Windows 8 tablets bring to the market is the ability to run full Windows apps alongside Metro "tablet" apps. Unfortunately, the former style apps probably won't run well on small screens. Such a small display is aimed squarely at running Metro apps for a solid tablet user experience, and that leaves a big part of the Windows experience behind.

Realistically, if you remove the ability (and desire) to run full Windows apps, you might as well get a cheap Android tablet that has thousands more apps. This will provide a much richer user tablet experience than a Windows 8 solution based on my experience with them.

Even the iPad mini, more expensive than many Android tablets, will be better suited for such tablet usage than Windows 8. These iOS and Android tablets are designed from the ground up to be good tablets for those wanting just that. They have no designs to be full OS systems like Windows 8, and that is a big advantage on the smaller screen.

There's no doubt that some users heavily ingrained in the Windows philosophy and ecosystem will find small tablets appealing. That's not a big market in my view, and I believe these users will soon find that when you remove the ability to run all Windows 8 apps well, you eliminate the reasoning behind small tablets with a full OS.

Don't misunderstand me, some users will no doubt love a little tablet with Windows 8, at least at first. Then the realization will set in that they don't do anything with it that they can't do with other tablets exclusively designed to do tablet stuff.

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Topics: Mobility, Tablets, Windows 8

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55 comments
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  • To satisfy no existing market?

    So how is it simple bloggers understand the computing industry so much better then OEM's that actually invest millions into making and selling these things?
    William Farrel
    • also

      not just that, Ipad minis are over selling Ipads,and market is waiting for ipad mins with retina display.
      Mac_Win
      • I'm not

        Retina = heavier and fatter to get the same battery life. There's nothing wrong with the resolution at the moment. What would be useful is anti-glare.

        I'd sooner have new features in the next mini than just faster/higher res/more ram. It has absolutely no performance issues on any iPad app I use, so yes refresh the hardware... But don't focus on those specs, it's a waste. Focus on iOS seven apple... And do something big!

        Besides you're not getting retina until near Christmas if at all this year.
        MarknWill
    • Huh?

      The list of failed OEM products is probably a lot longer than my arm.

      If you were trying to make a point, perhaps you should try again?
      D.T.Long
      • If you want the record holder...

        look at the loser OEM's that build Android tablets. There are far more loser companies on that list than on any other platform. China has them in droves.
        Joe_Raby
        • Perhaps, but ....

          I do not think that is relevant. The original point by William Farrel was that OEMs, investing millions in product development and marketing, by definition know best which products will succeed and which will not. Farrel's post was in my opinion also a thinly veiled attack on the blogger.

          My rebuttal was that the Farrel's assertion/conclusion was not at all obvious, given the large number of OEM product failures.

          If one wants to draw conclusions, one needs to make sure they follow logically from the underlying facts. In this case, and all too often here I might add, they do not.
          D.T.Long
      • Sure, many an OEM missed the mark,

        many of them when they start drifting outside their core product lines.

        Apple, MS, Google, ect all have had underperforming/flops of their own. Some are ahead of their time, some should never have had a time, some just outpriced in the market.

        Yet here we have Acer coming out with something well within their area of expertise, something they feel they could move, so they go ahead and create it.

        I would hope they understand the market they're in.
        William Farrel
        • Re: Yet here we have Acer coming out with something

          Are you talking about the same Acer, whose CEO warned Microsoft to think twice about their Surface experiment last year?

          They were bad guys back then, but are not again good guys by trying to sell somehow the bunch of Windows 8 licenses they purchased from Microsoft?
          danbi
    • selling?

      Who's sold any 8" Windows 8 or RT tablets yet?

      OEMs are making them, but there's an awkward gap between that and actually getting people to buy them.
      hrlngrv 
  • Unbelievable

    I shouldn't be stunned that you would write this piece after months of raving about how fantastic your 8" ipad is with the dozens of keyboards you buy for it (yet never finding one as good as the Surface keyboards thanks to severe limitations in ios).

    You may have just outdone yourself here James. I'm impressed.
    toddbottom3
  • I want....

    ...a 7 - 8 inch Windows RT tablet priced under $300.
    toph36
  • Small Windows tablets on the way to satisfy no existing market

    This would fall under the same existing market as other tablets of similar size. You don't like this one because its a smaller Microsoft Windows tablet but go on to say your iPad mini is better suited. I don't get your logic on this article. ZDNet's articles today are lacking.
    Loverock-Davidson
    • Loverock-Davidson...WHAT No support ststement for a Microsoft product

      What is this world coming to................I guess it just the End of The Story..............your just no fun today Lovie
      Over and Out
  • Microsoft's dilemma

    "Realistically if you remove the ability (and desire) to run full Windows apps you might as well get a cheap Android tablet which has thousands more apps."

    That's the irony. MS absolutely cannot give up that market, but they can't win it by forcing it to be a desktop.
    smallbzznzz
    • Yup

      That is the irony, the dilemma and that uncomfortable place between a rock and a hard place.

      Apple was very comfortable taking the risk of cannibalizing its OSX HW sales.

      Google had nothing to cannibalize, and therefore had/has a pretty free hand in coming up with good solutions.

      MS has spent two decades controlling the PC market, with little regard for the consumers, OEMs and the future, and suddenly woke up and discovered that its entire market is shrinking and losing its relevance. MS cannot afford to gamble on a loss of the MS/Office franchise, and is now trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

      MS is an obstacle to progress at this point and perhaps needs to go the way of the dodo.
      D.T.Long
      • D.T.Long....I'm a Linux user for 15 years and I can tell you that

        Windows and the desktop arn't going away any time soon.........real world will always be done on a Laptop or desktop and the Social things will be a mainstay of the tablet, what ever size tablet,ect it is. And real world appt will always dominate tablet apps when real work is needed......

        as I say.....End Of Story......PERIOD
        Over and Out
        • Re: Windows and the desktop arn't going away any time soon

          Of course, the desktop is not going away any time soon. Just as mainframes did not go away for decades. This does not mean it will stay mainstream. Same about Windows.

          Before Windows, you had desktop computing. There have been desktops (and laptops) running non-Windows software during all this time. There is nothing that suggests this will change.
          danbi
          • Mainframes

            Actually, there are more mainframe computers (Z machines) than ever out there today. There are even more minicomputers and midsized computers (think Sun and the large HP servers, as well as IBM's smaller sized Unix boxes.) Mainframes don't get noticed as much because there are several orders of magnitude more PCs sold. There are also more Supercomputers than there ever were in the larger than mainframe class too.

            If there are more tablets than PC's in five to ten years won't mean that there will be no PC sales, it will just mean that the PC thunder won't be heard any more.

            In reality, Microsoft has already faded back. Apple is sinking to a level below Microsoft. Right now, they have a tremendous markup going for them. They sell several Billions in Hardware every month or so where they have around a 6X markup. That is going to end in a year or two. Tablets are going to stabilize in price soon. A 7" tablet will run around $100.00. A 10" will run around $200.00. Add $50.00 if you want cellular network compatibility.

            At those price points, there just isn't room for a $50.00 add for the Windows OS.

            Microsoft will continue to be a player, but with a slowly shrinking market share. In five years, they will be down to around 70% market share in OS in use. They are below 80% right now. This is from a high of 95% in 2000. Microsoft is already on the decline. But, Microsoft will continue to be a presence in the market for the next 20 years at least.

            So, it isn't time to sell Microsoft stock. But, Microsoft is no growth stock any longer.

            The desktop isn't going away. but, the desktop will increasingly be a frontier with more than one player. The Monopoly is OVER. Desktop doesn't automatically mean Microsoft. Linux, BSD Unix, Windows, OSX, and others will be players. Even BeOS, OS/2 and Amiga are all still out there, in the fringes. Your future desktop is increasingly looking like it could be running applications that will actually run in a browser. More layers of abstraction. More power is bringing many things we never would have considered possible.

            Fifteen years ago, who would have thought we would see Windows being run inside Linux, which itself was being run inside Z OS. And all of this to get more PCs solving odd little problems. But, it is no longer even newsworthy. That's why Microsoft contributes to the Linux Kernel Project, to allow Windows to run in the Amazon Cloud (Linux).

            Strange world, and getting stranger by the day.
            YetAnotherBob
  • I agree

    Microsoft is unable to sell 10 inch tablets with the valid argument it can run office or full windows.
    AleMartin