Has Microsoft Missed the Tablet Boat?

Windows 8 tablets may have a very difficult time competing when they finally hit the market, according to the findings of a recent Forrester Research report.

U.S. consumer desire for Windows tablets halved between the first and third quarters of this year, said J.P. Gownder, one of the report’s authors.

That’s because Microsoft’s going to be late to the party, Gownder stated.

However, just last month, the Boston Consulting Group found that more than 40 percent of existing tablet owners in the U.S. wanted a Windows tablet.

So just what is going on? Which figures should we believe?

The Sum of Forrester’s Calculations

Among modern tablet platforms, Microsoft will be the fifth mover after iPad, Android tablets, the now-defunct HP webOS Touchpad tablet, and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, Forrester concluded.

Redmond’s product boffins could learn from the mistakes these other vendors made, but the competition will have streaked ahead in the meantime, probably launching third-generation products by then, Forrester suggested.

Meanwhile, new players, such as Amazon with the Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble with its Nook tablet, are redefining the market.

Forrester’s figures show that in Q1 2011, 46 percent of consumers wanted a Windows tablet, but that figure fell to 25 percent by Q3.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

“Consumers aren’t that interested in buying Microsoft tablet futures that might be delivered a year or two from now, when they’re seeing people using tablets today,” Carl Howe, director of anywhere consumer research at the Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld.

“Microsoft’s roadmap-based product strategy may be attractive to IT organizations with annual budget cycles, but it just doesn’t fly with millions of impulse-buying consumers,” Howe added.

Further, the tablet market isn’t one where the OS used really matters much, Howe pointed out.

“The Yankee Group’s upcoming tablet landscape report finds that buying intent for consumers is focused largely on the hardware brand, and not the operating system,” Howe elaborated.

“As such, mixed-brand products such as a Lenovo tablet powered by Windows 8 that you have to shop for at Best Buy just aren’t going to be as easy to sell to consumers as an Apple iPad that you can buy at the Apple Store,” Howe said.

On the Other Hand …

Forrester might not have been looking at the same set of indicators as the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which in October released a report that was more sanguine about the Win 8 tablet’s chances.

More than 40 percent of tablet consumers in the U.S. want one that runs Windows, and that figure goes up to 53 percent when people who don’t use tablets are included, BCG stated.

That’s similar to the situation in China, where 44 percent of consumers want a Windows tablet, BCG said.

Perhaps the reason can be found in the report — BCG believes we’ll soon see different types of tablets targeting different markets.

The Kindle Fire is one example of a device targeted to a specific market. It’s not aimed directly at the iPad but at people who want to consume content offered by

BCG and Forrester’s Gownder did not respond to our request to comment for this story. Microsoft kept mum, with spokesperson Lacretia Taylor declining to comment.

When the Sleeper Wakes

It could be that Microsoft’s a sleeping giant whose entrance will jolt the tablets field.

Further, Microsoft has tremendous clout in the enterprise and might leverage that to push Windows 8 tablets when they are finally launched.

“Never underestimate a company’s installed base,” Jennifer Jacobson, director of public relations at Retrevo, told TechNewsWorld. “I’d argue that there’s significant room in the tablet market for competition, especially from a force like Microsoft.”

If Microsoft can offer “an affordable, fun or easy-to-use tablet that syncs flawlessly with people’s existing Windows-based computers and phones, and has access to a marketplace of popular apps, it’s safe to say there are a lot of people who would want to get their hands on one,” she said.

1 Comment

  • The problem is Windows for Microsoft. When Apple came out with the iPad. It already had the OS for it. Taking much of the OS from its iPhone and iPod Touch. It already had the workings for a Tablet.

    Microsoft on the other hand had nothing but Windows and Windows Mobile. Which would have worked nicely with a Tablet except for the fact it only worked with ARM chipsets. Plus it still was being tweaked for the Windows Phones. Microsoft had a choice to diss Intel and make Windows Tablets with ARM chips and use Windows mobile. Or create a full Windows OS (Windows 8) to run Intel and ARM. It choose the later and so now the wait. Its never good to be over two years behind a popular product like the iPad. Even if Windows 8 turns out to be a home run. Microsoft has it work cut out for it trying to find buyers who have not already bought a iPad or possibly a Android Tablet.

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