Microsoft will announce its own tablet on Monday. Madness or genius?

June 15, 2012
25 4 18

Windows 8 Tablet

Microsoft is no stranger to making hardware – along with the odd mouse and keyboard, it has been making and selling its successful Xbox line of game consoles for a decade.

It now seems that Microsoft will enter into the tablet market. Microsoft has scheduled an event on Monday in LA, where it promises to make a major announcement. Although the nature of the event has not been disclosed, every clue is that the Redmond company, which is most famous for Windows and its Office software, will announce its entry into the tablet market.

Why would Microsoft want to make tablets?

Historically, Microsoft has relied on hardware manufacturers to build PCs for which it provided the OS (i.e. Windows and, before that, DOS). This business model has worked well for nearly three decades now, so why would Microsoft try to change the status-quo?

There are several possible answers, the most obvious of which is that tablet makers aren’t rushing to build tablets which can run Windows 8 or Windows RT (the oddly named version of Windows for ARM). Clearly, Microsoft sees a big future in tablets, and the Redmond-based giant is way behind Apple and Google in terms of hardware solutions. If Microsoft releases Windows 8 and tablet designs are either slow in coming to the market, too high priced, or too bland, then all of Microsoft’s efforts put into developing Windows 8 will be wasted.

Microsoft is so keen on the post-PC tablet era that Windows 8 has almost abandoned the traditional desktop. In fact, Windows 8 RT doesn’t allow third party software to run on the desktop, instead all non-Microsoft applications must use the new Metro interface. Such a big investment (and could we say gamble) by Microsoft needs to be protected. The solution, thinks Microsoft, is for it to  make its own tablet (or possibly tablets).

Could a Microsoft-made tablet work?

There are some key factors which Microsoft needs to get right if it wants to have any chance of success.

The first is the price. The tablet market isn’t the PC market. At one end you have Apple and Samsung, offering high-end gadgets with lots of power and appeal. Then you have a mass of “me too” companies, all selling a huge variety of Android tablets at different price points (but mainly less then the likes of Apple). Then you have Amazon, who is selling the Kindle at a very attractive price, plus, it ties it into Amazon’s huge content delivery system.

Where is Microsoft going to position its tablet? In the $400-$500 range to compete with Apple? Or in the $150-$200 range to take on Amazon? The worst thing Microsoft can do is fail to come up with a market position that makes Windows 8 tablets unique and desirable. I already have a tablet, I can already download books, games, music, and films. Why would I change what I have for a Microsoft tablet?

If Microsoft can’t answer that question, then it will fail.

Microsoft has the work cut out

This is the reason Microsoft and Nokia have failed with Windows Phone. Nokia jumped on board the Microsoft ship and released phones based on Microsoft Windows Phone 7, but, in doing so it never answered the question posed above: why should I change? Existing smartphone users have invested real money in buying apps, books, and music for and via their smartphones. This is an investment. If I buy a tablet, naturally I want one which can use the same apps etc as my phone. Moving to a new eco-system is costly.

Microsoft needs to make me want to move. Already Windows 8 is giving me lots of reasons not to move. I can’t run my existing PC software on a Windows 8 RT tablet. I can’t get an upgrade with a re-compiled version of my PC software which runs on the ARM CPU. I can’t use my Android apps. So why would I buy Windows 8? Windows XP has been around for 10 years and it is sure that Windows 7 has a lot of life left in it. So I won’t get Windows 8 for my PC (besides, the Metro UI is really bad and just doesn’t work on the PC), and so I won’t buy a Windows 8 based tablet. Android works just fine for me.

It is also unclear what Microsoft can bring to the table that other experienced tablet makers can’t. It is also very uncertain what the reaction of tablet makers will be. Before, there was no competition between Microsoft and the hardware companies. One made the hardware and the other the software, simple.

But now Microsoft becomes a competitor to the tablet makers. It is possible that tablet makers will abandon making tablets for Microsoft over the mid-term, leaving Microsoft as one of the only tablet makers for Windows 8… And maybe that is what they want… but hold on, that would turn them into Apple!

What do you think? Will Microsoft announce its entry into tablet hardware on Monday? Would you buy a Microsoft-built tablet? Would you abandon Google/Android for Microsoft/Windows? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Comments

  • http://www.jeroenheijster.com/ Jeroen Heijster

    “I can’t run my existing PC software on a Windows 8 RT tablet”. No, not with an RT tablet. You can with a regular Windows 8 tablet.

  • TNM

    Microsoft can win this by packing in full Office compatibility. Thats the only way to make ppl change tablets.

    • Jay

      I totally agree. That is the game changer. They could also throw in a free Windows phone to sweeten the deal.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joel.tamburo Joel Tamburo

      And that is exactly what they are doing – Windows RT has full blown Office baked right in. It is the “Small Business Edition” of the next version of Office and comes free with Win RT tablets. You get Word, Excel, One Note and Power Point.

      As to the article, there are some places where it is not entirely accurate. As has already been seen, there are several Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets readying for launch (Acer and Asus and Lenovo so far) so to say it has not been embraced by the tablet OEMs is not entirely accurate. Also Nokia’s Windows Phones have sold very well (in particular the Lumia 800 and 900) so don’t count WP as dead just yet.

  • vossg

    The is a poor article. Microsoft doesn’t have to sell you a tablet, but a computer that is also a tablet.
    Dock it and it’s a window machine. Pick it up and it’s a tablet!
    So the price point arguement doesn’t make sense. What about $700 for a new computer/laptop/tablet.

    • http://www.garysims.co.uk garysims

      I am sorry you don’t like the article, but I think you are missing the point…

      The tablet market has established itself (with millions of units sold) without the concept of a dock and the manufacturers which sell these hybrids aren’t seeing revolutionary sales. It is safe to say that the tablet market means, in general, without a dock.

      Secondly, Microsoft are making a version of Windows 8 which runs on the ARM CPU. That is the same CPU as in 99% of today’s tablets. It doesn’t come with a traditional desktop and it isn’t compatible with the Intel x86. This means it isn’t compatible with all my existing Window software, so having a Windows 8 RT computer/laptop/tablet doesn’t give me anything I don’t already have.

      Thirdly, the price point argument is the key to the whole market. As Amazon pointed out in one of their adverts you can buy two Kindle Fire tablets and a Kindle eBook reader for the price of an iPad or in your case a $700 computer/laptop/tablet. Also I don’t think I want my kids playing with my main PC which has all my data on it because it can turn into a tablet, nor do I want to leave the house with it. No, no, sir.

      The idea of a $700 computer/laptop/tablet is yesterday’s thinking… we have all moved on. If I am wrong then why hasn’t the Asus Transformer outsold everything in sight?

      Just my humble opinion!

      Gary

      • AppleFUD

        One thing I generally disagree with when it comes to Win RT tablets is the software issue. Vista needed software updated to run on it and developers did it rather quickly and I expect they will do it for Win RT ARM tablets as well thus I don’t see that as a long term problem. Short term problem? Sure.

        Price point I think will be a very big issue. MS won the PC wars because PCs were cheaper. Now they have to face a competitor that is beating them at their own game when it comes to price. And how many people need a “full PC” OS? Not many in my experience.

        However, I do think there will be a substantial size market for hybrids. . . until we have good wireless “docking” that will allow you to “dock” your mobile device easily and use it for everything — that’s the big game changer IMO. One device that can control multiple peripherals at the same time????? Your own personal “cloud VM”?

        Nonetheless, the competition should push Google harder to get their OS strategy straightened out — Chrome OS is going nowhere quick and Android needs help on the productive side.

  • Scott Bae

    Actually most people forget or are simply not aware of that Microsoft actually is not new to tablets. Technically speaking, they have been making tablets long before Apple even though of it and arguably they were the very first tablet makers. But they were primarily for commercial and enterprise use. So all this talk of them “entering” the tablet market should be restated or rephrased as “entering the consumer tablet market” or simply re-entering the tablet market as they have been making tablets for a long time.

  • http://www.androidauthority.com Derek Scott

    Can Microsoft just stop, they try so hard with 2nd tier products, its just plain old sad at this point.

  • Blue Stacks

    wow! this is great Attractive Tablet

    Also try this : A new app to play games on PC Talking Tom for PC

  • Harry Tate

    Let me frame this comment by saying that I’ve been an IT professional for 30+ years, starting with the very first PCs running CP/M. I’m relatively new to Android (8 months) but have dived in with zeal. I think if Microsoft can, with Windows 8, provide an operating system/application platform that can span the entire gamut from mobile to tablet to desktop to enterprise, it would be a very, very compelling platform that corporate and individuals will find extremely appealing.

  • olive55

    As things stand today ( the deficiencies of window os on mobile devices, the net is full of them I need not repeat them ) I will not change. Microsoft has to address those issues before their fans don’t feel let down and without an answer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Zahl/1670371040 Steven Zahl

    Windows 8 RT will be as successful as the Windows Phone.

    • pick

      thanks for the very in depth analysis

  • http://www.facebook.com/cool4christ67 Chris Sexton

    Windows RT surely will be dead from the get go cause it can’t run any software that isn’t specificly written for it. So why buy a tablet with it? Plenty of tablets coming out with Windows 8 that will run anything from XP to Windows 8. Microsoft is making a huge mistake with RT.

  • http://twitter.com/ImamZia Zia Sheikh

    One word. Integration. Problem with tablets is that you cannot open up powerpoints/word docs etc without having compatibility issues. If a tablet can do exactly the same thing as my laptop or desktop without these bugs, tablets will be productivity tools rather than just for checking email and playing games.

  • david

    Very interesting article. You bring up some very good points here. I have been thinking the exact same things, and I feel like Microsoft is going a bit too far with their windows 8 metro. I dont know if you have already written an article about this but there are already a few tablets out there with windows 7. The best currently is the samsung series 7 slate and personally I think that it would crush any android tablet. The only downside is the price… They use intel i5s which are more powerful than arm processors of most android tablets. You can run and install any app that is on a regular desktop. I feel like these new metro tablets will be a huge downgrade.

  • Mark_CZ

    If they are of the same quality build as their Xbox 360 then I definitely would NOT buy one. Red Ring of Death anyone?