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8/19/2013
09:01 AM
Michael Endler
Michael Endler
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Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards

Forrester study finds that 62% of tablet users want keyboards, but that alone won't drive sales of Windows 8 for Microsoft.

Nearly two-thirds of knowledge workers (62%) who use or want to use tablets would prefer to do so with a keyboard, according to a new Forrester study.

For the study, Forrester surveyed 1,070 knowledge workers in North America and Europe. Some 35% of respondents said they would prefer a tablet that turns into a small laptop, while 27% said they would prefer a tablet that can be used with wireless keyboard accessories. Some 34% said they would prefer to use a tablet without a keyboard, and to switch to a computer for tasks that require heavy typing. Only 4% were unsure or had no preference.

But Forrester's study also reinforces how much tablets have begun to change the way people work. Some 35% of the study's respondents said their laptop use has declined since they began using tablets. As noted above, 35% also preferred laptop-like tablets. There's clearly a market for a do-it-all tablet that offers not only touch apps and mobility, but also access to legacy software.

[ Microsoft isn't the only tech vendor facing challenges. Read Time For Plan B At Intel. ]

This finding echoes an earlier Forrester study, which found more workers were interested in Windows tablets than in iPads. But that study was conducted before Windows 8 was released. As the sales record has since indicated, buyers liked the idea of a Windows tablet much more than what Microsoft actually produced. In retrospect, it seems survey respondents actually wanted a tablet that provided all of the appeal of an iPad or Android device but that also featured the IT-friendliness and software compatibility of a Windows tablet. What they have not wanted is Windows 8.

In the more recent study, Forrest also reported that 80% of workers would prefer to use a PC, tablet and smartphone in conjunction. This implies, Forrester noted, that some users want both a laptop and a tablet with a keyboard. The subtext is discouraging for Microsoft. Thanks to features such as SkyDrive, Windows 8 should excel in multi-device workflows. Nonetheless, users haven't been interested.

It's also striking that only 35% of survey respondents want a laptop-like tablet. The respondents were all knowledge workers -- the group most beholden to keyboards. Interest among general users is almost certainly lower. IDC recently said it expects touchscreen models to account for only 10% to 15% of laptop sales, which reinforces the idea that hybrid devices cater to a limited audience. If Microsoft can't even succeed within the group to which Windows 8 should be most appealing, what hope does it have -- even with Windows 8.1 -- for success in the larger market?

Indeed, the Forrester study's biggest implication is that people value a tablet's user experience above all other factors. It's useful if a tablet can handle laptop-style content creation, but keyboards and access to legacy software seem to be less important than a device's UI and catalog of mobile apps.

Windows 8 devices embrace keyboards much more aggressively than iOS and Android products do. So, at face value, the data is encouraging for Microsoft, especially with Windows 8.1 arriving in October to clean up the OS's interface. But that doesn't mean Microsoft can expect a holiday season rebound.

Windows 8 offers many features users care about, just not the main feature: a captivating experience. If Windows 8.1 can't address this core flaw, it's hard to see Microsoft rebounding in the mass market.

According to IDC, Windows tablets accounted for only 4% of all tablet shipments in the most recent quarter. Even in the enterprise, iOS and Android devices make up 86% of tablets, according to Forrester's data. If users like the form factor of Windows 8 devices, why have sales been so poor?

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Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
8/19/2013 | 3:11:55 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
No, it'll be saved (or at least given a graceful and dignified exit) by Microsoft's patience and deep pockets.
Palpatine
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Palpatine,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/20/2013 | 6:07:56 AM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
yes, just like the last Amiga was saved by stubbornly beating a dead horse...
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
8/20/2013 | 12:47:07 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
Agreed but MS is not Commodore. It has a lot of money and horizontal market positions to burn. If MS goes away, which I don't think it will, it won't go quietly and it will continue to burn cash for a quite a while. They are still making huge profits with, for most companies, big margins. Until that stops, they'll continue to beat whatever horses they can.
Mike_Acker
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Mike_Acker,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/21/2013 | 2:55:26 AM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
yep. and they are also in check: XP is sunk and nobody wants 8 and they won't sell anybody 7.
Palpatine
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Palpatine,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/21/2013 | 7:54:05 AM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
the horse is dead, it is not a matter of how hard they will beat it or how much cash they have to burn (now, it is far far far less than aapl, google, and disgruntled oems turning to android!).
if they lose oem support, pc market will not obviously die tomorrow, but people will buy, as always the 95% did, what they find in the supply chain, and now that Vallmer insulted oems turning ms in a competitor hw company, it will be android or whatever else.
w8 is no longer a selling point.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
8/19/2013 | 4:21:28 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
IMO -- the key issue with Microsoft's new UI is they expected folks to learn it by trial and error. Most times it isn't at all obvious what you are supposed to do next. iOS apps are considerably more intuitive than Windows 8 (both the OS itself and its built-in apps). I have not tried the update (8.1) but if it still expects folks to guess what to do next, expect the general public to reject it.

The most vivid example is when, by default, a desktop browser window wants to view a PDF. In Windows 7 the browser would typically open the document inside the browser or, at worst, open a separate window that hovers over the original page or appears in a different browser tab. When finished, returning to the prior page is ridiculously obvious. In Windows 8, all continuity is lost as the user stares at the modern viewer that doesn't offer them any clues as to how to get back to the prior page. Of course after one LEARNS what to do (a left to right swipe into the screen and then tap on the desktop task), it's rather simple to return but what was Microsoft smoking when it decided this was a good thing?

In fairness, my iPhone has similar challenges. For instance, when I am in the stock market app, headlines open in Safari and I have to double-tap the button to bring up the task list and return to the app when I'm finished. However, this is how it has always worked. There never was a different and easier experience. That's why Windows 8 is such a surprise -- especially from a company that before now, regarded backward compatibility a top priority.
wht
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wht,
User Rank: Strategist
8/19/2013 | 6:57:56 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
Have you taken 10 minutes to view a tutorial, read a help screen, etc. All the basic answers are there. In that amount of time you will discover about 20 things that will help you, in less than 10 minutes. You wasted more than that time posting your reply and in figuring out how to swipe left to right (or just touch the Windows key). Use a little initiative and common sense and READ THE MANUAL FIRST. Windows 8 is very easy to use, touch or non-touch. I am a senior citizen and it was no problem for me to figure it out.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
8/19/2013 | 8:33:21 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
I guess that's why everyone else is RTFM and it's flying off the shelves. I don't disagree with you but the consumer has spoken and they overwhelmingly like what Apple and Android are doing. While Windows may not be as bad as sales suggest, it can't all be marketing mistakes.

It's also very fixable. I've witnessed modern apps get better as they go through revisions in the Windows Store. The question is, why were they so bad in the first place? I believe it's the horrible example Microsoft set with their first pass at Windows 8.

Secondly, why has it taken so long for Microsoft to fix its built-in apps, control panel apps and start button? This is a company with enough money to buy almost any other company on the planet. I know there is the age-old project management adage that you cannot combine nine women and have a baby in one month but they have thousands of developers. Surely nothing fundamental was required to complete the modern control panel applets, replace a mouse over start screen mechanism to a button and change the defaults so viewing a PDF or picture on the desktop doesn't leave folks up the modern creek without a return button. Good grief these could have been fixed nine months ago.

I've gone through this crap before when character-mode developers first got their hands on Java and decided to build GUIs. Those were some of the worst UIs ever created. Just like Microsoft's touch. What baffles me is they have been trying touch for years and even after someone else shows them how it can be done, they still fubar it!

What's wrong with Windows 8 isn't really their technology (i.e. Windows and the modern API). IMO, it's Microsoft's implementation and having ideas that folks will RTFM. Although there are many problems with that approach, the biggest problem is when is the last time there was a manual next to a laptop, desktop or tablet in a store? Customers are going to pick it up and the first time they get stuck, they'll put it down and start playing with the next model on the shelf.
Palpatine
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Palpatine,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/21/2013 | 7:56:21 AM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
ok, pay me 10 min of average salary multiplied for 1,5 billion people.
I'll use those bucks to fund a lobby to switch position of cars' pedals with steering wheel, no manual included.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
8/19/2013 | 5:05:23 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
A reason for dismal sales is the fact their supposed interest in a windows tablet was tempered by just how bad the experience actually is. People haven't learned anything from the debacle of the first Windows tablets during the first decade of the 2000Gs. Windows simply doesn't work well enough on small screens with a pointing device.
Alex Kane Rudansky
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Alex Kane Rudansky,
User Rank: Author
8/19/2013 | 5:41:49 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
Interesting that only 35% want a laptop-like tablet. I would think that combination would be the most popular.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
8/19/2013 | 6:09:11 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
I was also surprised that laptop-like tablet were chosen by only 35%.

Interestingly, laptop-like tablets ARE the most popular option-- by 1%. With 34%, the next most popular option is the precise opposite: keep tablets and laptops completely separate.

It's telling, I think, that no single form factor enjoys a strong majority. Microsoft is trying to sell the Surface Pro as a tablet that's also a laptop, but it seems that only a minority of buyers really care about that functionality. The rest of buyers seem to prefer tablets that are capable in their own right, but that are nonetheless companions to, rather than replacements for, full-fledged computers.

Sure, a lot of people wouldn't mind a tablet that can take over more laptop duties. Everyone like convenience. But the stats imply that such functionality isn't a determining factor-- at least not to the extent that things like UI and mobile app selection are. A subset of people want the purposeful ergonomics of a Windows 8 hybrid, which is why I think commercial sales of Windows 8 will be okay. But many consumers and BYOD users seem just as happy to throw a Logitech keyboard on an iPad. It's not that Microsoft is wrong about keyboards being useful; it's that keyboards can't make up for what people don't like about Windows 8.
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The subtext is that one of Windows 8's primary means of differentiation isn't all that important to a large chunk of potential tablet users. In many of the ways that Win 8 tablets overlap with iOS and Android tablets, iOS and Android do things as well or better, at least from the standpoint of general users. When Windows 8 offers something unique, it appeals to only a subset of buyers. Even though Forrester's study made no judgements about operating systems, studies like this add nuance to what's gone wrong with Windows 8, and what Microsoft can focus on fixing as it rolls out Windows 8.1, its new Surface devices, etc.
wht
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wht,
User Rank: Strategist
8/19/2013 | 7:01:25 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
every tablet I have used, Apple, Sansung, Microsoft Surface...I have used a bluetooth or USB keyboard to facilitate key entry in a production mode. For email and surfing the Internet the screen kb is just OK. When I need to get something done in Excel it almost means using a laptop with a 14" or larger screen, not a tablet. I use both every day, but travel with a tablet and a small bluetooth kb now.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
8/19/2013 | 8:05:54 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
It strikes me that the primary challenge Microsoft faces is how to navigate a balkanized market. Things were a lot more simple in the desktop era: Everything flowed from the Windows PC.
Palpatine
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Palpatine,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/20/2013 | 6:07:23 AM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
they have not talent for whatsoever market. oem were the key of ms success, and now they are starting thriving android business because of the dancing chair throwing ballmerboy bufooooon 1) wasted a decade and did not come out with a good mobile product 2) bet the comany on competing against oem with surface.
i wonder how there us still people not understanding how doomed is ms now.
ANON1250703092871
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ANON1250703092871,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/19/2013 | 6:22:11 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
I don't think that's the question at all. When is someone going to come out with the touch screen keyboard. Why not, w2here's my 3D printer.B^]
jaysimmons
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jaysimmons,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/20/2013 | 4:06:18 AM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
I like the last part of your article, about Intel, Dell and Microsoft, traditional PC superpowers and if they can successfully transition into the Pocket PC era. I dont really think that PCs are going to go away with the extra power that they possess, the upgradability, the usability and the popularity, so I dont see these companies really hurting, but if they want to expand they have some stiff competition that already has a stronghold in these markets. If they are to pose any sort of threat, they need to come out with more innovative products than what is out there, and they need to listen to what the public wants and needs in these products.

Jay Simmons
Information Week Contributor
Palpatine
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Palpatine,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/20/2013 | 6:02:49 AM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
the real problem in vistabob 8 is that it is the worst piece of junk ever released, from users, developers and oem perspective. period.
anon9103208109
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anon9103208109,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/20/2013 | 10:10:47 AM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
"Some 35% of the study's respondents said their laptop use has declined since they began using tablets."

Shouldn't this figure be more like 100%? How can anyone think that laptop use would not decline after buying a tablet? Unless signif typing is involved, most people use a tablet instead of a laptop when on-the-go, whilst less than 10 years ago a laptop was the only option. Admittedly, a tablet eats even more into smartphone use for lots of users (assuming they owned their smartphones first), but that doesn't mean the answer to 'has your laptop use declined...' wouldn't still be 'yes'.

This whole argument is pretty silly. Almost everyone has both, plus a smartphone. I also have a Netbook, which is great for "I mite need to type more than is practical on my Kindle Fire, but I still don't want to carry my laptop thru the airport." I'd love to replace it with something like the Surface Pro, but the SP costs about 250% what the Netbook did, and the Metro interface makes me want to kill myself. The Netbook also has 3x as much local storage as the SP, which is a difference that apparently everyone except me thinks is no big deal.

This is all sort of like discussing whether dinner plates are being replaced by salad plates, and of course throwing in the suggestion that serving platters (desktop PC's) won't even be around in 5 years. All of them will always be around, just in different proportions.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
8/20/2013 | 10:24:15 AM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
i hadn't thought of that point, it's a great observation that laptop use only declined for 35% since they began using a tablet. My own laptop use hasn't noticeably dropped -- I use a tablet for reading, taking notes and watching Netflix mostly. That low decline in laptop use casts some doubt on this being the post-PC era. At the least it suggests people are likely to still buy a whole lot of PCs in the post-PC era.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
8/20/2013 | 9:37:25 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
The dinner table analogy is pretty apt-- good thinking.

I agree-- the point of the 80% stat is that most people want to use smartphones, tablets, and PCs together - in some proportion or another - instead of a device that tries to be all things to all people.

Windows 8 built a lot of its appeal around consolidating a tablet and a laptop into one device, and Intel bought in too, by incorporating touch into the Ultrabook specifications. But it's turned out that while people don't mind a tablet that can take over for a laptop in a pinch, they still want real computers. They don't want to replace real computers as often as they replace smartphones and tablets, but they want real computers.

If Microsoft has its way, "real computers" will eventually include Surface Pro-like devices that get docked to a separate monitor and keyboard. The computer's form factor becomes even more modular, in other words. But we're a lot of consumer and enterprise hardware spending away from that vision happening. So the Forrester stats are interesting in the sense that they reinforce that one of Microsoft/ Intel's primary bets hasn't paid off.

The conversation gains another wrinkle because there ARE a minority of users who want a do-it-all device, and Windows 8 still hasn't capitalized on this niche.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
8/20/2013 | 9:47:31 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
Also, separate point about the laptop usage.

Forrester samples knowledge workers, who are more securely tethered to keyboards than most people. Introducing a tablet only has to reduce laptop use if one assumes that overall computing activity is static.

I, for example, have both tablets (with keyboards) and computers in my household. A few years ago, I had only computers. Today, I probably spend 20% of my time on a tablet and 80% of my time on a computer-- so in percentage terms, my PC usage has declined. However, I type a ton more today than I did a few years ago, which means I spend more time than ever before looking at a laptop. I also spend more time at my desktop working on other things that tablets aren't suited for, such as photo and video projects. My overall time spent at computers has increased by a huge margin. So in that sense, my PC use actually increased DESPITE the introduction of a tablet.

I might not represent a typical case, and I think you're probably right that, on the whole, most people spend less time on their PCs because they now have tablets.

But you can see why only 35% of knowledge workers would perceive that they're using their laptops or PCs any less, or that their laptops or PCs are any less essential. The number of them who do substantial typing on a tablet is predictably confined.
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