Competition in the tablet market is fierce because the profits are potentially enormous (check Apple’s financial statements as proof). No wonder everybody is desperate to get their way in, some giving up before they really started (HP), others with dubious concepts (RIM). Apple obviously is fighting tooth and nail to keep up their dominance which is expected by analysts to last at least until 2014. Into these turbulent waters Microsoft just jumped in by presenting the developer preview of Windows 8. I expect it to be wildly successful – especially on tablets. Read on to find out why.
Reasons for (Tablet) Success
There are many things a tablet needs in order to be successful. A top-notch display and enough computing power to run apps smoothly. Light weight and long battery lifetime. But that is just the hardware. Even more important is software, and by software I mean not only applications, but also content. The availability of books, music, movies, magazines and newspapers is essential for the success of a tablet platform. For this very reason I am skeptical about Android tablets (not much content) and confident about Amazon’s brand-new Kindle Fire (very much content).
Many companies are capable of building a great tablet hardware. But the list of corporations capable of making a tablet platform come alive is much smaller: Apple (proven), Amazon (probably), Google (maybe) and – Microsoft (certainly).
Windows 8 – a Guaranteed Winner?
Microsoft is able to sell hundreds of millions of copies of Windows 8 without even trying. They are on a very promising course of keeping compatibility, a cornerstone of the Windows world, while at the same time pushing forward, bridging the gap between traditional PCs and modern tablets. With a modern touch UI, an enormous customer base, hoards of developers happy to be given new sources of revenue and a hardware industry that wants its share of the tablet market, it looks like Windows 8 is bound to be successful.
I have two additional reasons why that is going to happen.
The iPad is a Toy – Windows 8 Devices can be More
If you are honest, you must admit that the iPad is a great toy, but try to get some real work done and you are so very much slower than on a real PC. I would guess that a factor of 10 is not too unrealistic. I expect Windows 8 devices to be great toys, too, but also powerful workhorses. I expect different categories of devices will emerge, some looking like today’s tablets, some with a detachable keyboard unit, others with form factors we do not even know about today (I know, I expect a lot).
Is the iPad too Expensive to be Successful Long Term?
Today’s tablets are not family devices. Try sharing an iPad in your family and you will fail miserably. Multiple e-mail, Twitter and Facebook accounts? No way! Separate calendars? A personal high score for each family member? None of that is possible with iOS, at least not as it is today. iPads are personal devices, and as such they are pretty darn expensive. A four-person family needs four iPads in addition to four smartphones and, very likely, at least four PCs. That is a lot of money, and not many families are capable and willing of spending it.
Windows 8 has two major advantages here: it has user profiles, allowing a device to be used my more than one person, separating each user’s data and settings from the others. And a Windows 8 tablet might be able to replace both a traditional PC and an iPad, bringing the total number of devices and the associated costs down.
By the way, one of the reasons why I think that Amazon’s tablet will be successful is the low price. At only $ 199 it does not hurt as much giving each family member his or her own.