Why Windows 8 Is Not An iPad 3 Competitor

Earlier this week Microsoft released a consumer preview beta version of their new operating system, Windows 8. So far the response is pretty positive, especially when it comes to the Metro interface for touch/tablet use.

This inevitably led to a slew of posts warning that the iPad 3 (or iPad HD) should watch its back, because here comes Microsoft to finally tumble the iOS tower!

I’m gonna need people to step back and calm down with that talk.

I know this is all very exciting for all of you who’ve been loyal to Microsoft and the idea of the Tablet PC all these years. Zuul knows you need a reason to celebrate. But let’s think about that comparison for a minute.

Windows 8 UI

Windows 8 is an iPad 3 competitor? That’s like saying Ubuntu is a MacBook competitor. One is software, one is a complete hardware and software package. And yes, I get what people mean — that Win8 tablets will give the iPad 3 a run for its money — but that really depends on the tablet.

Let’s set aside Windows 8 as a viable tablet OS for a minute and look at the state of Windows tablets in general. For the past few years the news hasn’t been so great. A handful of Tablet PCs and convertible tablets have launched in the couple of years before and since the iPad’s launch, but none of them set the world on fire.

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All of the slate models I can think of suffered from critical flaws like slow processors or ridiculous heat on the bottom. You couldn’t even get to what was wrong with Windows 7 as a tablet OS because you were too busy just trying to get programs to run on crappy hardware.

Archos 9 PCTablet

Remember the Archos 9 PCTablet? If you don't, you're lucky...

Tablet PC enthusiasts found this state of affairs confusing and frustrating because there is a long history of Windows tablets, yet somehow that didn’t translate to better products.

This is also the issue that plagued the first Android tablets to launch. Even before the iPad became real and not just a rumor it had competition in the form of the Camangi Webstation and a few other devices best forgotten. They were such poor examples of what a tablet could be you kind of wished Google would snatch Android from the open source jaws (almost).

Only when you have good hardware and software well designed or tweaked to work best with it do you get a good tablet. Apple excels at this because they control both. Microsoft can work closely with hardware partners to guide them to making the best choices, but I’m sure there will be less than awesome Windows 8 tablets just as there are less than awesome Windows 7 notebooks.

(Related: Editorial – Real Artists Ship)

So it’s not a question of Windows 8 being an iPad 3 killer. Win8 will potentially enable a Tablet PC that can excite consumers as much as the iPad did and still does.

That depends on whether consumers really buy Windows 8 as a tablet operating system. Microsoft and Windows are familiar brands and that goes a long way with many users, especially business users. The promise of a tablet interface mixed with a familiar desktop one is intriguing and will ease the fears of people who are wary of change.

(Related: Microsoft Removes Start Button on Windows 8 in Favor of Honeycomb-Like Multitasking)

What’s not clear is if Windows 8 can handle the dual personalities and dual functionalities and, frankly, the dual headspaces it wants to occupy smoothly.

In the video below comparing iOS 5 on the iPad and Windows 8, Josh of The Verge says he just doesn’t want to see the desktop bits of Windows 8 and sounds annoyed that they’re even there. Meanwhile, I don’t want to have anything to do with Win8 unless that desktop is an option because that’s where my real work will get done.

Let’s say that Windows 8 successfully bridges this divide and satisfies both the simple tablet users and the more complex productivity folks equally. And let’s say that a company like Lenovo releases a device that both works perfectly whether you’re in tablet mode or desktop mode (I’m thinking the IdeaPad Yoga is a good candidate here) and has all you could want, hardware-wise. How much do you think something like that would cost?

Well, the 14-inch Yoga will likely cost around $1,000. If Lenovo decides to make an 11.6-inch version to cater to folks who want an iPad-ish size I still wouldn’t count on seeing it for $499.

Lenovo Yoga IdeaPad ultrabook

Even if you posit a pure slate like the Samsung Series 7 Slate you’re still looking at over $1,000 with similar specs. ARM processors will bring down the price a lot, but then you’re going to lose the ability to run programs made for normal Windows, which is a big deal for some people.

(Related: Will Windows 8 Tablets Be Just As Crappy For Productivity As The iPad? | Windows on ARM Leaves Businesses Behind)

There are a ton of variables here. Not so much with the iPad 3.

None of this means that Windows 8 or tablets running the OS won’t succeed. I think they will. I hope they do. I personally cannot wait until I can have the Lenovo Yoga because I plan to hug it and squeeze it and call it George. I just don’t know that success for Windows 8 spells trouble for the iPad 3.

Samsung Series 7 Slate

Samsung Series 7 Slate Running Windows 7

For some users the idea of a tablet that is just as good for productivity as it is for entertainment and games is the holy grail, but millions of other people are plenty satisfied with their media consumption tablet (that, incidentally, never leaves the house). And while people who’ve been butting their head against a brick wall trying to make the iPad do more than the simplest of tasks may toss it aside for a Win8 tablet, I don’t expect a mass of people to do so.

I am willing to be surprised if that turns out not to be true. Is it possible that a company like Lenovo or Samsung could make a 10 or 11-inch Windows 8 tablet that costs just $499 and runs all the programs and apps and games you’d expect on hardware that doesn’t suck and also looks good?

If that sounds like a challenge, it is. Come on, y’all. Impress me.

Comments

  1. ChrisRS says

    Windows 8 IS and IS NOT and iPad competitor.
     
    WOA tablets WILL compete head on with the iPad and Android tablets as consumption devices.
     
    Being more touch aware they MIGHT ovecome the “Windows Won’t Work on a Tablet” attitude. For new tablet users, WIndows familiarity will be a plus. WOA tablets will have the advantage of being creation devices via MS Office, providing it is relatively full featured. If these devices sell well, there is the possibility that other full applications such as photoshop may be recompiled.
     
    Enterprize users are secondary target users, if MS office is the limit of their required productivity. The underpowered atom based Windows tablets will probably go away unless they can compete with the ARM based tablets.
     
    Win 8 TabletPCs WILL NOT compete with iPad and Android tablets. They will be a totally different class of device with a similar form factor. They will be creation devices that are secondarily, easy and convenient to use as consumption dcevices. For optimal productivity they should include active digitizers.
     
    Prosumers and Enterprise users are the target market. These users will be more willing to accept additional weight for replaceable batteries, screen size and power. (I want a 14 inch screen and 8 MB memory)
     
    MS and its partners still have time to screw this up. This class can not be under-powered and must be priced competitively. The prosumer market will not support expensive enterprize only cost inflators. Windows Pro is not necerssary and adds about $100. The same for a TPM. Make these optional.

    The Asus EP/EB121 and Samsung S7 have shown that this can be done. Other than that, the Win7 tablet market has been netbook class or very high cost specialty tablets. It will be interesting to see if MS and partners chose to make the new Win 8 Tablets enough of a priority to actually market them and get some on display for potential purchasrs to try.

    It looks like Win 8 and the new tablets will miss the back to school season. If they become available in fall 2012, the WOA tablets wil be availble for Christmas,  but will have to complete with rumors about the next iPad. lt will be interesting to watch MS compete with the 3 year plus  headstart that the iPad has. 

  2. LA Stone says

    WOA tablets won’t even begin to compete with ipads.  They will make Android tablets go extinct though if performance is anything like WP7.  I suppose it would take a huge marketing campaign to make people change their minds about Windows vs Apple OS.  The idea that Apple represents the highest quality, and simplest user experience is firmly engrained in people’s heads.  And it’s not exactly undeserved.  But Windows Phone certainly matches the dumbed down experience of iphone.  Might they do the same on the tablet. 

    Windows running on Intel processors aren’t really competing with ipads.  That will be a replacement for a laptop.  I don’t know how much it will eat into Apple’s laptop sales, but it might stop some of the defections.  OS X is still beautiful, smooth, and cosmetically nice.  Windows 8 beyond the Metro interface is 98% boring and unattractive Windows 7.  And I should add that people will be expecting that super smooth Metro experience across the machine but it won’t happen once you set foot in Explorer land and start working with real programs.  You’re gonna get the same clunky interface that is Windows 7. 

  3. Keith S says

    Anyone looking at looking at Windows * knows that it is a natural born killer! If the actual release is as good as the beta that we’re looking at it’s going to send IOS to the kids table. It’s way more sophisticated than the phone os that Apple tries to pass off.

    When the ARM specs were modest it was too hard to put a MS operating system on that type of tablet. , but now that ARM has matured and is a lot more capable MS can now enter the fray and flex it’s muscles.

  4. Luc says

    There are several errors in that article so not sure I even won’t to understand what author is trying to say:

    - Lenovo Yoga is not 14″. It’s a 13″ 1600×900 Ultrabook with 10 finger touch and new Intel CPU’s. Price will be rather around $1200
    - “Even if you posit a pure slate like the Samsung Series 7 Slate you’re still looking at over $1,000 with similar specs.”.  Besides typo’s: similar specs than iPad? Apple wants $200 extra to get matching 64GB. Second you don’t get SD, USB, HDMI and other ports and the Samsung is 12″ display instead of 10″ with faster CPU.
    - ARM will be lot cheaper but is price really the reason they are different? Weird comparison

  5. Ferdinand Ta says

    Yo just answer your question lady, you made clear that you NEED a desktop/laptop/Win8 Tablet! and your iPad! wow finally you made sense, you need a full blown device that can actually do things. Win8 Tablets will do all of the above. People around the world need to do actual work. 

    By the way most of the people that can afford an iPhone or an iPad are in USA and Japan, most of the world can’t afford that. You talk about Windows failed past with tablets, well they did have success with two things;
    FIRST selling the most widely software ever sold UNTIL THIS DAY, yes until now maybe 8 or 9 out of 10 laptops/desktops in the world are meant to use windows like it or not, and every person in any modern society needs one (whether they need an additional tablet/ipad or not).  
    SECOND Windows devices like ir or not can LAST, tell me, where is your iPhone ONE? or perhaps your iPhone two? even iPad one? most of them broken, and others perhaps had to be upgraded to something new because iPad brainwashed you already and made you believe that you can’t have an upgrade but yes you need the latest pad thingy … Lame, pitiful, fail. (not on apples side they are billionaires, but on the poor cool-wannabe-little-brains that they can control) 

    Yes maybe MS controls our world in a way… but your article is lame, you are talking about unrealities. MS made more money last year than in any other year, despite apple making more money than ever before. Now add the hardware manufactures to that figure (HP, Dell,Toshiba, Nokia and more and many more to come) the MS world (Win8) is indeed an iPad and an apple overall competitor. for your title matter.

  6. Me says

    Windows 8 devices don’t compete with an iPad in the sense that win8 devices will be full pc’s.

    The thing is, if you have a win8 device with a docking, then you don’t actually need a tablet anymore.  However, if you have an ipad, chances are quite real (perhaps even certain) that you’ll still want/have a full blown laptop or desktop.

    So in that sense…  While windows 8 device will not really go head-to-head with the ipad… they most certainly will remove the need for them.

    To sum up:
    - having an ipad doesn’t remove a need for a laptop/desktop (and a lot of times, those desktops and laptops will be running windows)
    - having a win8 tablet with a docking WILL remove a need for an additional tablet (and a lot of times, will ALSO remove a need for a desktop or laptop).

    So, the way I see it, microsoft can’t loose here…  They WILL be selling loads of windows licenses – regardless of those customers also having ipads. 

    For this reason, I think microsoft will win and apple will loose.  Not because a win8 tablet is that much better then an ipad.  Let’s face it, apple makes quality products.  It’s just that a hybrid windows 8 device totally destroys the use case ipads (and android tablets) were meant for.

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