iPad: Kicking Windows back to the office

The allure of the iPad enticed millions to buy one for fun. The discovery that it could do everything desired outside of work led many to forget about using Windows at home.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
iPad over Win8
Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

The iPad garnered the reputation as a new type of device designed for doing fun things at home. People were immediately taken with the fact that the iPad could do lots of fun things, endearing it to the masses. Then developers started writing thousands of apps for the iPad that started to bridge fun stuff with activities normally done on a PC, even Windows PCs. Consumers noticed that the Windows PC (desktop or laptop) that they kept at home was being used less and less. Ultimately they were only using Windows at work.

For many consumers the iPad does everything they want a tablet to do and more so why would they want to use a tablet with Windows?

A familiar sight in public is someone with an iPad in hand, or one being used with a keyboard case. Where it used to be more common to see people using Windows laptops of varying sizes in public venues many of them have been replaced with the iPad. More significantly, iPad users are not just doing fun stuff that tablets are believed to be designed for, they are doing everything they used to do with the forgotten Windows laptop back at home.

Microsoft saw this coming and radically changed the design of Windows to work on tablets, desktops, and laptops. The folks in Redmond saw the writing on the wall and knew they had to change the OS into a tablet OS to keep Windows in the home. They already had the enterprise locked up so bringing Windows to the tablet was an effort to keep folks using the OS at home.

Make no mistake, the Surface RT was firmly aimed at getting consumers to imagine Windows on home tablets, and that effort has failed. Those wanting to use a simple tablet at home have pretty much already adopted the iPad. It sports a mobile form factor that runs a simple OS designed specifically for the tablet. Sure iOS is also a phone platform but Apple has adapted it to handle the iPad nicely. It was also able to get app developers to adapt or create iPad-specific versions of apps to work well on the slate.

I like my ThinkPad Tablet 2, a nice Windows tablet. It takes advantage of Windows 8, especially all the tablet features Microsoft implemented for that purpose. But when I show it (or any Windows tablet) to folks I get pretty much the same reaction.

"Hey, that's a nice tablet."

"Yes I like it. It runs Windows 8."

If the person I'm showing it to doesn't work in the Windows/IT space, I get a blank look for a few seconds followed by this or a similar statement:

"Why would you want to do that?"

The discussion proceeds with me explaining how you can run Windows apps and how new apps are being written for the Windows 8 app store. This is followed by a conversation that makes it clear the other party not only has no desire to run Windows and its apps on a tablet, they genuinely can't see why anyone would want to do that. The iPad does everything they want a tablet to do and more so why would they want to use a tablet with Windows?

For many consumers Windows represents work. It's on the computer in the office and they "have" to use it there. They remember all the times they had to get the IT folks to come fix the PC that stopped doing something. They think of how they can't go to all the cool web sites because they are blocked at work, which they come to think of as a Windows thing. They think of how trouble-free their home computing has become since they just naturally started doing it all on the iPad at home.

Most of the folks I interact with about Windows on tablets who like it, and are excited about Windows 8, are those who either make a living in the Windows ecosystem or have a special need for using Windows outside the scope of typical home computing. Having full Windows in a tablet form is just what they need to do what they want both for work and at home. 

Unfortunately for Microsoft, there aren't enough of these enthusiasts to make a difference, as proven by both the Surface RT debacle, and low Surface Pro sales (compared to the iPad). The vast majority have already been shown that their beloved iPad is all they need outside of work. The iPad has totally replaced PC usage in the home for many owners and kicked Windows back to the office.

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