The Truth About Windows 8 Tablets: Should You Really Get One?

With the iPad and Android OS-based tablets on the loose, it was only logical to think that Microsoft would want a piece of the pie. Google is going to release its own tablet soon, which might hold its own against Apple’s iPad, but no one’s really paying attention to what Microsoft is doing as far as tablets are concerned. Its Windows 7 tablets certainly haven’t made much of a debut, and now the company is planning to make Windows 8 its new flagship for any tablets running a Microsoft OS. Could this be a comeback for Microsoft, or are we going to see a world of failure in its attempt to ramp up on market share?

We have to give Microsoft at least some credit with the tablet version of W7, considering that it allows support for lots of hardware that other tablets aren’t yet exploring. Tablets running the OS are also pretty powerful and really have the potential to pack a punch. After all, it was Microsoft who introduced tablets in the first place. Its form factor and specifications were similar to the iPad even back in 2003, so why did the company fail to get market share in the very thing it invented?

Microsoft’s biggest mistake was perhaps how it made its first impression when introducing tablets. Its first tablets were very over-engineered and flimsy, offering nothing more than an overly priced and heavier version of a laptop, with less processing power. Why on Earth would anyone make such a stupid investment? The fact Microsoft even made a penny out of this franchise was attributed to the amount of effort they put into marketing the product and convincing consumers that they really needed a bulky, bloated, and downgraded version of a laptop that’s 20 percent more expensive. Here’s another one: Although tablets had touch screens, users didn’t have to adapt to them. The voluntary touchscreen, in consequence, was never used and people just stuck to the keyboard and touchpad included in the tablet.

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You then had the precision issue. Microsoft’s first and second-generation tablets included operating systems that didn’t cater to the touch of a finger. Since the operating systems weren’t made for touch, they could only interpret dot coordinate signals, without properly triangulating what you wanted to “click” with your finger. That’s where the iPad overtook Microsoft’s clumsy interface. Windows 8 will supposedly improve over that and include a more touch-friendly GUI, as opposed to an improvised mouse-and-keyboard GUI.

Windows 8 Tablets cannot be ARM-based, like the iPad and Android tablets. Turning to ARM would mean that the tablet will not harness the power of a fully optimized x86/x64 hardware architecture that would otherwise put a fully-powered computer in the palm of your hand. Obviously, Microsoft wants to let you use the tablet more without recharging it. The average user prefers to have 8 hours of continuous use as opposed to 2-4 hours. You’re out of luck, though, if you want to run Microsoft Office suite on ARM, among other desktop applications. Windows fanboys, though, wouldn’t have it any other way, and would rather run a tablet that still supports PE executable format.

Microsoft is going to have an application marketplace, though, just like Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market, where you can download apps that might imitate some of your favorite desktop programs in a low-power environment. It seems possible at the moment that MS wants to make it possible for W8 to run on both ARM and non-ARM tablets, giving you more choices, although the company never mentioned this. Note that in ARM tablets, you also lose support for non-proprietary USB peripherals.

So, MS stands at a crossroads. It must decide whether the future tablets will continue to have short battery lives to preserve the ability to run desktop programs and attach to USB devices, or whether the tablets will have a higher battery life and lose the features people used their tablets for in the first place. Any way you look at it, MS has a lot to lose with either decision.

This is where Microsoft introduces the W8 Metro interface, an interface that supports applications that will run on ARM-based devices and still preserve most of the functionality that desktop applications would have. You will probably be seeing a version of Microsoft Office that runs on Metro, but you won’t be able to run heavy client applications that occupy larger amounts of memory and require stronger processing.

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Here’s another problem: What makes MS W8 tablets different from iOS and Android OS tablets, then?

Here’s where the answer becomes unclear, because at the time of this article’s publication, we don’t have sufficient clear information regarding Microsoft’s tablet environment to go fully in-depth with specifics. It’s likely that Windows will preserve the application marketplace idea and keep Metro the way it is, providing a low power tablet. This will obviously disappoint those who want to migrate from W7 tablets to W8 versions.

The unwillingness for software manufacturers to recompile all their software into an ARM-compatible environment might also make things worse, since they have no interest in involving themselves in a tablet that has high chances of totally failing to get any substantial customer base. Many people use Windows for desktop PCs and laptops, yet very few actually own a tablet that runs the operating system for reasons previously stated above. It might take at least a few months for the MS app marketplace to gain any sort of momentum and this might lead people away from MS tablets.

Put all this together, along with the fact that Apple and Google won’t let a new MS tablet go unpunished, and you can see why Gartner puts Microsoft’s market share on tablets in 2015 at 0 percent. What are your thoughts on this issue? What do you think Microsoft should do?