Can Windows 8 survive the tablet world?

Matt Evangelist December 1, 2011 0
Can Windows 8 survive the tablet world?

There’s something to be said about Microsoft’s next operating system, Windows 8. It will be the first OS developed by Microsoft to cater to the tablet world while simultaneously providing all the new features and expected bugs of a new Windows for PC users. Microsoft seems to be missing one key thing, however, and that’s what people actually want in a tablet.

Walk around your nearest computer store and ask the people looking at tablets what they’re looking for. Odds are, they won’t mention they’re buying an iPad because it has the iOS operating system or any other tablet because it runs Android. Most of them will be looking at things like price and general features. Does the battery last a reasonable amount of time? Is it sturdy? What’s the screen size? Can it access the internet anywhere I go? These are all things outside the realm of the operating system itself. Sure, devices running Android tend to have shorter battery lives, but the average user won’t know that. This is where Microsoft seems to be missing the mark as it isn’t building a device itself, but rather an operating system to run on other devices. Oddly enough, Microsoft should be looking at what makes Apple products so successful if they want to even have a shot at getting in to the tablet market.

Apple has millions of customers for a reason, and no it is not because they are all hipsters. The iPad is easy to use, looks nice, has a great screen, long battery life, and it’s reasonably sturdy. Price-wise it’s middle of the road so it isn’t terribly expensive either. Having a solid reputation behind it definitely doesn’t hurt either. Is the iOS another reason to buy an iPad? No, because even with an Android operating system running on an iPad every other factor would still apply. Makers of Android-based devices figured this out after realizing people want great phones, not great Android devices. It’s a lesson Microsoft needs to learn now.

What about the PC market? Surely Windows 8 will thrive there. If the new features for Windows 8 actually work well, then yes it should do very well. Not that it will matter as most new PCs will ship with Windows 8 once it is released, but remember that Vista was pretty poorly made and the focus was entirely on PCs. Even after it came out, many people simply went back to Windows XP until Windows 7 came around. Microsoft would do very well not to repeat history with Windows 8, and yet there are signs pointing to at the very least a partial repeat.

Part of what Windows 8 will do is bring the tablet experience to PCs and the PC experience to tablets. That means users could essentially use Microsoft Office on their tablet devices running Windows 8 and have a touch-style interface on their Windows 8 PCs. But therein lies the problem: why use a tablet for PC work and vice versa? As anyone knows, typing on a tablet is annoying. Many tablets have keyboard peripherals which essentially turns them in to very lightweight yet cumbersome laptops. Making a tablet in to a laptop completely defeats the purpose of a tablet, which is to do everything on a computer at the touch of a finger in the most portable way possible. Likewise, PCs have the distinct advantage of a mouse and keyboard. There’s no reason to try making a tablet interface work on a PC because PCs aren’t limited by the small screen sizes and processing power of tablets. Thankfully, Windows 8 can be used more similarly to Windows 7 but whether this is by default on PCs remains to be seen.

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