Windows 8 Tablet: Too Little, Too Late? - InformationWeek

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Windows 8 Tablet: Too Little, Too Late?

Gartner warns that Microsoft may be too late to the party when it comes to competing with Apple's iPad and Android-based tablets.

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Even though Microsoft has yet to produce a media tablet that can compete with the iPad or Android-powered devices, the company's efforts around such a device got some much needed attention last week when it previewed Windows 8, which is geared toward tablets and PCs. But the buzz may have been just a blip.

In a new report, consulting firm Gartner said Microsoft is so late to the tablet market that it may, in fact, be too late. Gartner is also worried that, to enable its tablet strategy, Microsoft will for the first time develop a version that runs on system-on-a-chip architectures.

"The current buzz around Windows 8 driven by the demonstrations seen at the Build conference might be short-lived if Microsoft's push to use the new OS across devices comes at a compromise in usability," Garner said. "Moreover, the late arrival might limit its appeal, especially to consumers, as Apple and Android will be more entrenched by then."

Most analysts expect that Windows 8-powered tablets won't hit the market until sometime next year. Apple, meanwhile, may introduce iPad 3 as soon as the coming holiday season. Google may ship "Ice Cream Sandwich," the next version of Android, in October, reports suggest.

[ Decide for yourself. Take a visual tour of Windows 8 and see what the fuss is about. ]

Still, Gartner said Microsoft still may have one trump card to play in the tablet wars--the business market. "Microsoft's platform will find its biggest opportunities in the enterprise segment, where IT departments could benefit from smoother integration with existing Microsoft software," the research firm said.

Such integration may indeed be smoother, but it won't be smooth. Microsoft last week revealed that apps built for the ARM-based tablet version of Windows 8 will not run on the desktop version, which--like past editions--will be powered by x86 processors powered by Intel and AMD.

How far behind is Microsoft behind in what Gartner calls Media Tablets (specialty devices designed mostly for Web surfing and video consumption)? The market watcher said that, as of 2011, Redmond has a market share of 0%. Apple iOS devices lead, with 46.7 million unit sales to end users, while Android-based tablets have made their way into the hands of 11.02 million users.

"This is because Apple delivers a superior and unified user experience across its hardware, software, and services," said Gartner research VP Carolina Milanesi. Microsoft is planning to take a similar tack with Windows 8 tablets--it's planning its own app store, for instance--but it might be too late, Gartner said.

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