Windows 8 tablets are coming: Tablets for those already not buying tablets

Windows 8 tablets are coming: Tablets for those already not buying tablets

Summary: Windows 8 is poised to hit store shelves later this month and along with that some shiny new tablets running the latest from Redmond. Problem is, while Microsoft hopes to crack the giant tablet market Windows 8 tablets are really aimed at current Windows users, not tablet buyers.


I have been anxious to get my hands on a Surface tablet from Microsoft since the company showed it off with Windows 8. It looks sleek and with that thin keyboard cover could be a "real" PC. The problem is I am not Microsoft's target market for a Windows 8 tablet. In fact it's not exactly clear who fits in the target market.

Microsoft is desperate to break into the huge tablet market currently owned by Apple's iPad. How do I know that? The company totally changed its flagship OS solely to crack into that market, even at the risk of upsetting a lot of people. There is no doubt that the objective for Microsoft was to break into the tablet market with Windows 8.

That is why, even though I personally am excited about Windows tablets, I am having a hard time figuring out exactly who is a good fit for them. I often get asked to recommend devices to folks, and for the life of me I am having a really difficult time determining who should get a Windows 8 tablet recommendation.

It doesn't help that Windows 8 will come in two flavors, full Windows 8 and a lite version (Windows RT). The former will run all the fancy new Windows tablet apps (that largely don't exist yet) and all of the old Windows programs. The latter tablets will only run the former apps. Make sense?

Further complicating trying to figure out who might benefit from a Windows 8 tablet is the lack (or not) of a keyboard. Even those in the know have assured me that to take full advantage of a Windows 8 tablet, to get much work done at all as a matter of fact, a keyboard is required. Not recommended, required.

These same Windows-savvy people tell me that the keyboard is not needed for Windows RT tablets. That's because they really aren't suitable for that much. Anybody anticipating doing much at all should go for the full Windows 8 tablet and add a keyboard to the kit. Sort of buy a whole PC, in other words.

That tells me that even those familiar with Windows 8 don't see it as competing with real tablets like the iPad or the Android models. Those are 'consumption' devices, not 'creation' devices and the obvious purpose of a Windows 8 tablet is to do both. Which requires a keyboard. And probably full Windows, not the RT version.

If I am confused I can only imagine how confused regular consumers will be. Are Windows 8 tablets truly competing with existing tablets? If so what is the selling point that makes Windows 8 tablets a better choice? Or are Windows 8 tablets really aimed at existing Windows users running Office?

If that's the case Microsoft has gone all-in with a complete redesign of Windows 8 for the wrong market. Windows tablets have been around for a decade and Windows users didn't buy them. Sure Microsoft will sell some tablets to the Windows faithful, but the mainstream consumer they really want will run screaming. Or they will be as confused as I am about this. In fact my head hurts thinking about this whole Windows 8 thing.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Tablets

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  • Target market: Windows Users + Android Tablet owners

    Windows 8 hybrid devices are perfect for those frustrated by lackluster Android offerings (nexus 7 excluded....but not really). Take a look at the Transformer Prime, which was setup to make it seem more like a usable PC, in addition to being an iPad-like device. The problem is that the platform was not made with desktop operation in mind; and everything feels a bit tacked-on.

    Tablet apps on Android aren't so numerous that Win RT/8 can't be an alternative. I know my android tablet is hovering on the edge of the trashcan, waiting for the Surface RT to push it in.
    • Like me

      Basically the market for W8 is for the hundreds of millions of people who need a new full computer every few years, and who've been putting off getting one until W8 comes out. And yeah, we dabble in tablets, which are awesome. But as Apple will tell you: tablets aren't full computers.

      Does that sound like a niche? Not to me, so much.

      I'm one such. I have a 10" Android tablet that's cool - but there's so much it can't do. For me, there's just no way a tablet is worth $500 plus. More like $200 max for what it does. I picked up an Acer 10" ICS tablet refurb for $170. I need that extra cash for a real computer. And if it also had a touch screen, stylus, and detached as a tablet? Yes please, very much.

      I love Android and will keep using it on phones and inexpensive e-reader kind of tablets like the Nexus 7. An iPad mini could be pretty cool if it's around $250. But Android and iOS have miles to go before they are up tasks handled by Windows and OSX and Linux. Win Phone 8 and Win RT tablets? Pointless, answers in search of a question. Especially Win RT - pointlessly loosing all the x86 apps, when Atom chips give you the same battery life as ARM? But full Windows tablets on x86? That is frankly an irresistible combination. Though apparently a lot of people aren't going to realize that until they see it in action in their own hands.
    • Not confusing

      Its like Apple's scenario: iPad for mobile consumption, Mac for creation. WinRT is the consumption device, Win Pro is the creation OS, it's the same scenario. The selling point is obviously the Windows tie-in.
      • Exactly correct!

        This is the obvious answer to apples toy tablet, the winRt is for fun, surfing, and apps. The advantage is it's windows, so we can expect office 360 to work with and a future set of tool's and games. Window Pro for Photoshop, Autocad3D, etc. Why is this so hard for everyone to understand...? Apples little Pad can't do any real work it's. Just fun to play with.
  • Win8 in one word is a

    mess end of the story!
    • The same thing was said about Office 2007...

      The ribbon interface doesn't seem to be a problem anymore.
      • Who said ribbon was a mess?!

        That guy/gal should be a moron! the real mess was menus which ribbon has token them away and it was a good move....some people didn't like it bcz they were not used to it not that it was a mess!
        the story is completely different here!
        • I have yet to work with a liker of the ribbon.

          Calling it a disaster is an understatement.
          • I like the ribbon in Office.

            I have Office 2007 on my Windows 8 Touchsmart tm2 convertible laptop and Office 2010 Pro on my Windows 8 dual monitor desktop. I write documents for a NSO and use Word and Excel a lot and love the ribbon. I had used Office XP and Office 2003. I also like the ribbon on windows 8 explorer. I also use a Nexus 7 when at NSO meetings across the country and I like it for the portability (I just whish it had expandable memory or be able to use my portable HDD's for file storage)
          • I like the ribbon UI too

            Intuitive, quick, easy to learn, easy to remember, extremely flexible for difference size screens and form factors, you can tell that MS is a very innovative and visionary company.

            Kudos MS, the ribbon UI is the most innovative UI to have been released this millenium. No one else has been able to innovate anything better.
          • Now you're just sounding like Loverock

            But at least you write the abbreviation MS, instead of Microsoft (the latter is what a TRUE Microsoft fanboy would write).
          • innovative ... visionary??? Are we talking about the same company?

            MS was founded on a rip off....... and progressed into windows which was a rip off, and through the course of their evolution to the MS of today, they have either bought or stolen nearly all of what might be termed "innovation". Microsoft is and "innovation company", never has been and never will be!! Win 8 and the Surface tablet are acts of desperation....not innovation. Someone woke up to the fact that MS was on the way to being left behind.
        • Step backwards

          The Ribbon was a terrible design element. It has taken tasks and added 1 to 3 more steps to accomplish the same thing.
      • office 2007 was a mess

        office 2010 is better. maybe windows 9 will be the great one? I like a lot about windows 8 but it's very rough around the edges.
        • Even if Office 2007 was not that great( i liked it a lot) but

          it didn't take your usability metro has a very bad usability problem....and yeah office 2010 was better but frankly they were not that different!
          • metro has good usability

            metro's problem is that it's ugly so no one gives it a chance. if you give it a chance it's actually very usable. you can set up your most used apps into groups on the metro screen, and all you have to do is hit the windows key to instantly toggle between metro screen and the desktop; works very well and quickly. there is definitely room for improvement; W8 is rough around the edges. but it has very good usability.

            I just wish it wasn't so ugly (even uglier than the ribbon!!).
      • What choice does Office users have?

        Just because a piece of software was horribly redesigned doesn't mean users will stop using it. Office is one of those software that is required use in businesses everywhere, so Microsoft could screw-up the UI and still have users using it. The same with Windows.

        I work for myself so I don't need to use Office/ribbon. I am still using the older versions without the ribbons.
        • the choice is to downgrade

          I'm still using 2003. it already does everything I need it to do.
        • What choice do iPhone users have?

          Apple could come up with a horribly stretched iPhone with lousy maps and a case that chips if you look at it sideways and what choice does someone have if they've spent hundreds of dollars on apps?

          Apple could (and did) screw up the iPhone and still have users using it. 5 millions sales on opening weekend? Meaningless.

          Now dave95, time for you to reply with "that isn't what I meant, you can't take what I say and apply it to Apple, that wouldn't be fair".

          PS The irony of these 2 sentences were not lost on anyone at ZDNet:
          1: "What choice does Office users have?"
          2: "I am still using the older versions without the ribbons."

          Office figures would have fallen off a cliff if people didn't think it was the most innovative and intuitive office suite out there. What choice do they have? They could have stuck with the old version or switched to Mac and purchased iWorks which we keep hearing is the bestest most perfectest office suite ever built.
          • So the iPhone is the only smartphone on earth?

            Or is this your standard made up stuff?