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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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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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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^]
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.
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.
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.
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