Microsoft's Windows 8 will need consumer support, apps and 20 years worth of Windows legacy to combat the Apple iPad.
Can Windows 8
challenge the iPad's dominance of the tablet market?
hopes so. As the market for mobile devices expands at a rapid clip, amid anemic
sales for traditional PCs, the need for Windows to carve new franchise
territory is greater than ever. The question is whether Microsoft can leverage
Windows' two decades of marketplace presence to make that happen.
offers two user environments: the desktop mode, instantly familiar to anyone
who's used Windows, alongside a tablet-ready interface featuring colorful tiles
that link to applications. At least in the early developer preview, the transition
between the two environments is quick and seamless. Windows 8 will run on
traditional PCs and tablets, and support both x86 and ARM
executives have spent considerable time over the past few weeks trumpeting
Windows 8's "no compromises" ability to provide both a lightweight
mobile experience and the sort of features desired by power users.
businesses, that might prove enough of an impetus to upgrade to Windows 8 once
it releases sometime in 2012. Microsoft is arguing that the tech world's
seismic changes have already made a new operating system a necessity, despite
having released Windows 7 a mere two years ago.
that already exist as "Microsoft shops" could gravitate to Windows 8
on both tablets and PCs when the time comes for their next big refresh.
However, as with Windows 7, a rough economy could drain IT budgets and thus
slow the adoption rate for Windows 8 products. Any legacy x86 applications won't
work with ARM-based hardware running Windows 8, though, which could complicate
developers' lives in some ways-a situation Microsoft likely hopes they'll
accept if they want access to the millions of customers who will find their way
onto the platform.
principal analyst of the Enderle Group, also pointed out in a Sept. 20 email to
eWEEK: "It is users who are
driving the influx of tablets into businesses and if the users don't get
excited, IT in many cases won't get to vote." In other words, Microsoft
could need consumer adoption to help drive business adoption.
need third-party developers to create for its application store. Last week's
BUILD conference in California was the first step in what will surely become a
loud, steady drumbeat of encouragement for Windows application development.
Windows and Windows Live division President Steven Sinofsky devoted a
significant portion of his BUILD keynote to the application store. As part of
BUILD, the company gifted attendees with tablets running the Windows 8
Windows 8 is
also entering a difficult market for any tablet not labeled "iPad."
None of the swarm of Android tablets has managed to threaten Apple's market
share, Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad went down in flames, and sales of Research In
Motion's BlackBerry-branded PlayBook have proven weak in comparison to those of
The cause of
those tablets' failure to undermine Apple is debatable. With Windows 8,
Microsoft hopes that the Windows legacy will allow it to succeed where those
rivals crashed and burned.
Those who want
a tablet running the developer preview of Windows 8 can head over to eBay,
where apparently a few are on sale.
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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.