I can’t say this comes as a completely surprise to me, but Digitimes reports that Intel-powered Windows 8 tablets will cost anywhere between $600 and $900. The reason this doesn’t come off as a surprise is because I knew x86 hardware, and especially Intel hardware, will add significantly to the cost of the tablets. Just look at what it has done to the original Google TV set top box, and also to the Chromebooks. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that all smart TV makers want to use ARM instead. Intel hardware is just much more expensive than ARM hardware, and this will hurt Windows 8 tablets, which are set to come months ahead any ARM version.
The second “obvious” reason why the tablets will be so expensive is because Microsoft is unwilling to disrupt its own business model. This is exactly the reason why instead of using WP7, a pure “modern” OS, they want to use the “full” Windows, even though it gives them very little benefit where the real market for tablets is – the ARM market.
So instead of pushing a Windows Phone license for tablets that costs $15, they want to push a license that costs $50-$100. They are doing this because they know that touch computing will be the future, and they are afraid that if touch devices replace all “regular” computers, then instead of making $50-$100 per license, they will be making only $15.
This is also why Microsoft is afraid to go “full-touch” and “Post-PC” with a new OS like WP7, and instead they try to combine them in an awkward way. For example, they are forcing most people who are used with the regular Windows interface to use the completely different “tile interface”, which also has very little app compatibility. You basically have to go back to the regular mode for all the old apps. So then what’s the point of combining them? In the same time, it keeps all the bloat underneath for people who actually want just the tile-Windows, and are more forward-looking than most users.
But let’s get back to the real issue here, which will be pricing. By the time these tablets are out, which should be sometime in summer, Android tablets will cost around $250-$300 with about the same specs, and even the Android tablets that will have higher performance than Atom, like the ones with Krait or Cortex A15, and will have full HD resolutions or higher, like 1920×1200 or 2560×1600, should also be cheaper than the cheapest Windows 8 tablets.
The Nook Color, HP Touchpad and the Kindle Fire (and other tablets) have taught people to want tablets that cost $100-$250. The performance will be more than enough for those tablets, and most people who want a tablet just want some casual browsing anyway. Nobody is going to want full PC productivity apps on their tablets, and some of those are covered on Android, like Office apps or Photoshop, that are optimized for touch and streamlined for the touch user experience.
Microsoft will make the mistake of pushing Windows 8 tablets with x86 hardware first, which will also prove to be a disappointment from a battery life point of view, and it won’t be until the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013 when the ARM-powered tablets will be ready. The low prices and proliferation of Android tablets should give Android a strong foothold in the tablet market before Microsoft even gets a chance to get its tablet strategy together.