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Windows 8 to redefine tablets

Windows 8 tablets won't be iPad killers. They will open new markets for tablets, with people using it more as utility entertainment combo.

Tablet PC’s became popular with Apple’s iPad. Despite its popularity, it is still seen as an entertainment on the go device rather than a serious computing one.

Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system for tablets aims to change that perception. If Windows 8 delivers on its stated objective, it is likely to change that with a combination of Windows 7 utility aspects and Windows Phones communication and entertainment aspects. And in that respect it won’t be competing directly with iPad.

In a recent blog, Windows 8 development team said, “It is also important to know that we’re 100% committed to running the software and supporting the hardware that is compatible with over 400 million Windows 7 licenses already sold and all the Windows 7 yet to be sold.”

This is where the difference lies, as many people are not opting for tablets as it would mean relearning everything and forgetting the expertise people have already gathered on software like Microsoft Office suit.

Currently tablets based on Android or iOS are bigger versions of smartphones based on these operating systems, and even though tablet versions of the OSes are different, they are inherently the same.

On the other hand, Windows 8 is the tablet version of an inherently PC OS. This means that when people start upgrading the Windows 7 to 8, they will have the opportunity to have the user experience and capabilities as that of their PC and laptop. IT teams of the enterprises will also be able to service these devices better as they will be able to carry forward their understanding of Window based PCs into the tablet.

While all the operating system environments are trying to address all the emerging device categories with smartphone, tablet, laptop and TV, the Windows 8 approach is slightly different – it is about merging the Windows Phone with Windows 7 environment.

While attempts have already made by several device vendors to come with tablets based on Windows 7, so far they don’t seem to have succeeded, and the reason seems obvious – Windows 7 is not really touch optimised. But with Windows 8 being designed ground up for touch and integration of Windows Phone’s Metro style apps along with desktop apps from Windows 7, the above reason does not holds any water.

Windows 8 will also allow developers to develop apps using multiple languages including in HTML5/JavaScript, C/C++, and/or C#/XAML. Thus they will not have to acquire new skills learning new languages, which will attract a lot of developers to make apps for the OS. One of the reasons for the failure of WebOS from HP was the lack of apps, therefore this is an important step in ensuring success.

Nokia, Microsoft’s new partner in the phone business, is also upbeat about the prospects of Windows 8 based tablets. Steven Elop, chief executive officer of Nokia, has already made a statement to this effect. However, he did not confirm whether or not Nokia will come up with a Windows 8 Tablet in the near future.

Challenges

The biggest challenge for Microsoft will be to ensure that Windows 8 is light. Current developer preview version is 4.8 GB in size and that’s big for a tablet given that rival OS platforms are lighter. A problem ¬†with heavy file size is that it will push up the requirement in terms of storage space, thereby leading to cost escalations, which is a turn off in the highly cost sensitive device market.

The other problem is that Android and iOS are pushing up the security levels and are already seeing adoption the enterprise segment especially with the devices like Cisco Cius. The newer versions of the OSes are improving their features to lure the enterprises, with new application and integration with the existing enterprise softwares.

Also cloud based applications like the Google Doc are fast replacing the need for having native desktop applications. And even the enterprises as well as individuals are growing comfortable with new concept.

These factors could mean that market has already shifted to the next level when Windows 8 finally arrives, meaning that it would have to play a catch up game or atleast face a lot of competition from already entrenched OS environments (the tablet category).

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