Do Consumers Really Care About Tablet Operating Systems?

So far, this week has been a tough one for Microsoft’s Windows 8 team. Forrester released their report that fewer consumers want a Windows 8 tablet when one does finally come out. A lot fewer consumers actually. The difference from this quarter to last quarter was 21%. Also the fact that Windows 8 ARM laptops are being delayed until 2013 does not help at all.

Now we have another problem that seems to be forming for Windows 8. ZDNet’s James Kendrick wrote an interesting article on how consumers choose their tablets. He said that the average consumer really doesn’t care about what the tablet is running, they care about what the tablet looks like, how expensive it is, etc.

He also says that with the average consumer, the favorite tablet can change from month to month. One month it could be the Galaxy Tab, the next month it could be the Xoom (not likely, but still.)

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Do consumers pay attention to operating systems?

Kendrick says that this will be a problem for Microsoft in the future. Microsoft doesn’t make hardware, Microsoft makes software.

He says that they will have to completely rely on the tablet manufacturers to do all of the marketing for Windows 8. According to him, this is why Windows Phone 7 hasn’t caught on as much as Android, iPhones, or even Blackberries have.

I disagree with Kendrick. For starters, the average consumer doesn’t have and Android tablet, so they don’t shift tablets from month-to-month. The average consumer has an iPad because it’s consistent.

It looks and feels the same as every iPhone out there, and there is just one user interface for iOS instead of the millions of different tweaks that every tablet manufacturer gives Android.

Not to mention that consumers want what their friends want, and since most people have iPads, this will influence more people to get iPads.

This is why I think consumers do pay attention to the operating systems on their tablets. Most of the time, they don’t go up to a tablet and say “I want iOS 5.1 or Android 3.2.”

They look at the user interface instead. They play around with it and see how easy it is to use, what apps are available in the store, how fast web browsing is, etc.

Even if they don’t know what the exact name of the operating system is, they can say, “I want the one with the tiles or I want the one with the rounded squares.”

If consumers didn’t care about the operating system, more people would have bought the HP TouchPad. Instead, the TouchPad fizzled out because partially of the high price, but also because it used WebOS and there were almost no developers for WebOS.

This meant very few apps which means a less enjoyable user experience. Consumers knew this. They knew that there were fewer apps and this meant that they were less likely to spend the money on the TouchPad.

HP even said so themselves when talking about a possible Windows 8 HP tablet that could come at CES.  “We thought we had a good asset with WebOS and thought we could combine WebOS with a good hardware, [but] we retreated from that because of the economic conditions to enter that market,” said HP’s Yves De Talhouet.

So overall, I think that consumers really do care about the operating system running inside their device, because caring about only the hardware just isn’t enough.

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  • Dan Stephens

    When I first saw Windows Phone 7 ‘Series’, I thought ‘FAIL’.  I’ve used Windows since v1 and Windows CE since v1.  I wanted the continued experience of a real computer in my hand.

    When I tried Windows Phone 7 Metro UI, I realized that it was a very simplified UI.  Much easier to use for most people.  I started to become a fan.  Then there was the whole copy Apple lock down approach … still not a fan, but I understand. 

    Metro has really simplified the Phone experience.  “Information at you fingertips” is finally a reality.  I’m a fan.

    When I first saw Metro on Windows 8 desktop, I was skeptical.  I now use the Dev Preview on a Dell 1090 and I’m already a fan.  It’s not complete and there are a few bumps in the road, but I see the roadmap.  “Information at your fingertips!”

    Windows 8 changes the paradygm.  We aren’t running apps anymore here.  No screen full of icons to run to get to a document.  We are interacting with information – live tiles – it’s so much simpler.  The OS will make a difference and it has begun.

    Say good-bye to applications on the OS and hello to applications extending the OS.