NEWS ANALYSIS: Windows 8 tablets will need a combination of low cost, tons of apps and a little weakness from Google Android.
Microsofts Windows 8 need to conquer the tablet market?
Answer: a low
price, full functionality and for Google Android to bleed a little.
As with every
other product on the planet, tablets tend to sell in greater numbers when they
require less disposable income to actually obtain. According to new estimates
from research firm IHS, Amazon is profiting handsomely from its decision to
sell the Kindle Fire for $199, having shipped 3.9 million units in the fourth
quarter of 2011. While that significantly trails Apple, which managed to ship
15.4 million iPads during the same period, it placed the online retailer ahead
of any other companies in the space.
low price point for the Fire could end up damaging other Android tablets on the
market. The surge in non-iPad shipments in the fourth quarter was achieved at
considerable financial cost, IHS analyst Rhoda Alexander wrote in a Feb. 16
note accompanying the data, with sharp price reductions across most of the
competing Android tablets and actual product giveaways from a number of vendors
as part of promotional efforts for other electronic products.
impressive share of the mobile OS market, Google Android faces significant
challenges from its rivals. Claiming that Android violates its patents,
Microsoft has managed to conscript a growing number of manufacturers into
paying it royalties for every Android device sold. Meanwhile, Apple continues
its expensive quest to sue the purveyors of the operating system (which the
late Steve Jobs claimed was a stolen product) into oblivion.
That could pay
off in a big way for Microsoft. In the wake of the new low bar for pricing set
by the Fire and the Nook and the looming Google acquisition of Motorola
Mobility, IHS added in its note, manufacturers and branded vendors are
looking to Windows 8 tablets as a more profitable alternative.
Whether or not
Android weakens, Windows 8 on tablets certainly needs other factors to succeed.
One is a low price. If the past two years have proven anything, its that
tablets marketed at a price comparable to that of the iPad have a hard time
gaining any sort of traction with consumers and businesses. Indeed, the only
thing that reliably sparks sales-runs for the Research In Motion PlayBooks and
Hewlett-Packard TouchPads of the world is a massive price reduction. With the
Kindle Fire, you can forward the argument that its $199 price point, and not
necessarily the easy access to a universe of streaming content and ebooks, was
the primary driver behind its fourth-quarter success.
Windows 8 tablets will need to be priced lower than the iPad, especially if
Microsoft and its partners want to eat rapidly into Apples market share.
Windows 8 tablets will need to offer a full range of features. If the tablet
industrys taught manufacturers any other lessons, its that tablets with small
app ecosystems often crash and burn spectacularly soon after their market
entrance. Microsoft seems cognizant of this issue: For months, its encouraged
developers to start building apps for the Windows 8 app store. In addition,
Windows on ARM (the architecture powering most tablets on the market today)
will include a modified version of the next Office, code-named Office 15.
That full functionalityno compromises, as Microsoft executives like to
repeatwill differentiate Windows 8 tablets from rivals like the Kindle Fire,
which essentially acts as a portable vending machine for Amazon-based content,
as well as Android tablets that might not offer a robust feature-set.
question mark is whether Windows 8 can make headway against the iPad, which
offers top-notch hardware, a massive app ecosystem and a user base in the
millions. Even if Microsoft does its customary thing and plays the long game,
investing massive amounts of money and effort for years in order to break off
larger chunks of the market, Apple will fight hard for every incremental gain.
Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter