Surface Pro in particular. The figure is an extrapolation of data collected for Forrester's 2013 Mobile Workforce Adoption Trends, which surveyed almost 10,000 information workers in 16 countries and found that 32% of respondents want Windows running on their next work tablet.
The figure easily outpaces the proportion of people who said they want an iPad (26%) or an Android device (12%). It has prompted speculation that Microsoft is pushing enterprise mobility across a new Rubicon, one defined by not only touchscreens and thin form factors but also true multitasking, legacy application support and laptop-level computing power. Does this demand mean that Surface Pros will fly off the shelves when they go on sale this weekend, restoring Microsoft to its place atop OS world and erasing memories of the lackluster Surface RT launch?
To be clear, Surface Pro isn't likely to flop either. But there's little evidence that Redmond's new device will achieve more than a modest launch, let alone turn tides industry-wide. Notably, Forrester's numbers were collected in September and October -- before either Windows 8 or Surface RT were commercially available. Microsoft has since sold 60 million Windows 8 licenses but failed to galvanize Ultrabook sales or position its Surface RT as a BYOD favorite. Given these developments, it's conceivable that Forrester's respondents liked the concept of a Windows 8 tablet in theory but lost enthusiasm as they investigated actual options.
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In an interview, Forrester analyst Ted Schadler said it's possible demand for a Windows 8 tablet has declined and acknowledged that Surface Pro might not be the device survey respondents envisioned. He countered, however, that the "main point is that people thought and likely still think that Microsoft is a contender in tablets." This point is valid; Redmond certainly has the reputation and resources to inspire anticipation and confidence among would-be tablet buyers. The question, though, is whether Surface Pro will be the device that actually translates these sentiments into sales.
Forrester analyst Dave Johnson said in a phone conversation that the outcome is unclear. Since the firm conducted its study, "interest has muted a little bit," he stated, elaborating that that current Windows 8 hardware, including Surface Pro, has not satisfied the hopes of many potential purchasers.
Then again, iPads don't fully address user wants, either. Just as iOS has features that compensate for its shortcomings, Surface Pro likewise has the goods to win fans. In an interview, Gartner analyst Leslie Fiering said the device will play into "pent-up demand in the enterprise to extend the life of legacy systems while at the same time taking advantage of increased portability, multi-touch pen input and a more modern interface." She remarked that Surface Pro can run the full Office suite, which is unavailable for iOS and Android and available in only a limited version on Windows RT. Fiering also noted Surface Pro's appealing ability to integrate into existing IT architectures. Even so, she said the device faces challenges in conquering the enterprise simply because so many businesses are still amortizing their Windows 7 investments. "A lot of IT departments are exhausted from the Windows 7 migration," she stated. "They're not quite ready to do it again."