With Microsoft Windows 8 and RT tablets getting ready to hit the stores, you have to wonder what kind if impact the launch will have on the entire tablet and mobile ecosystem. Will Windows 8/RT devices temporarily cause Android tablets to slow down? Will it attract consumers who normally would have considered an iPad this Holiday season?
Windows 8 and RT devices could potentially be quite exciting. The idea of full USB and connectivity to a wide range of accessories from printers to video cameras is just one of the reasons I’m personally excited for Windows tablets. Sure, the app ecosystem is still small, but if they focus on quality over quantity, this won’t be a huge problem.
That being said, Windows tablets have a few potential hurdles they will need to jump if they are really going to leapfrog the competition this holiday season and going forward into 2013.
Here are just a few barriers for Microsoft’s tablet effort:
1) The iPad Mini. Will a 7-inch tablet affect Microsoft’s 10+-inch offerings? I’ve personally thought about this one quite a bit. Originally I leaned towards, no. The truth is that many Holiday season shoppers are looking for devices that have a solid reputation, look nice and are still quite affordable. If the iPad Mini manages a $250-$330 price tag, it could certainly hit the market there. As for Microsoft? The cheapest tablets we’ve heard about start around $499, which leads us to the second hurdle.
2) Pricing. I want to start by saying I don’t think that most of the Windows tablets we’ve seen are overpriced, that isn’t the issue. The issue is that we’ve yet to see a more basic tablet. Almost all the ARM and X86 tablets seem to be in the same pricing bracket. Consumers want and need tablets in the $300-$500 price point, and Microsoft’s partners have yet to give us anything there.
Can Windows RT devices price that low when you factor in the licensing cost? It is still possible, if they make a few concessions. Instead of 2GB of RAM, give us 1GB. Perhaps use a slightly slower processor. Less built-in storage and instead rely on marketing of micro-SD for expansion, etc.
3) Windows RT. My earliest articles at Windows 8 Update tended to come to an opinion that RT just wasn’t as good as Windows 8. Many comments on the site helped me see ways it could be better: lighter, better battery life, less overall power consumption, etc.
The problem is that many of the x86 Atom tablets we’ve seen have old-school Windows compatibility and yet have about the same battery life and sizes that we have seen with RT offerings. I still think Windows RT can be a solid performer and won’t necessarily confuse consumers, but Microsoft needs to give us reasons to consider choosing RT over Windows 8.
This means lighter, smaller and better RT offerings. The Surface RT tablet is a good start, I hope to see even more in the future, though.
4) Microsoft’s mobile reputation. Many of us love Windows Phone devices and some of us have even happily used Windows 7 tablets for productivity purposes in the past. Still, the average consumer thinks of Windows tablets and devices as running what looks and feels like a typical desktop experience. Microsoft advertising is pushing this notion away aggressively and I don’t think it will be a long-term issue, but it is at least a minor hurdle at this point.
Will any of these four issues stop Microsoft from being successful? I personally doubt it, but they could make life harder for Microsoft. The point it that Microsoft needs to find ways to make certain these aren’t hurdles, and they can do so pretty easily with a little marketing, innovation and pricing flexibility. I’m optimistic for the Microsoft’s future but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a few struggles along the way. What do you think?