by Shane O'Neill

Windows 8 on Tablets: Consistency Is the Key

Feb 02, 20124 mins
Computers and PeripheralsMobileOperating Systems

In his recent post, blogger Shane O'Neill received a surprisingly passionate response from readers in defense of Windows 8 tablets. Or maybe they all just hate the iPad. Either way, O'Neill reconsiders his position, sorta.

Last week I wrote a blog post “Let’s Face It, Windows 8 Tablets Are in Trouble” and took some jabs for it in the reader comments section. Mostly I was accused of getting ahead of myself and being an Apple fanboy (“The iPad is just a toy!”).

I’ll concede a bit on the former, but not the latter. I flirt with Apple products, but own only one, an iPod Nano. (Yep, I’m some fanboy.)

I was not writing off Windows 8 success on tablets, but just stating that they have a hell of a mountain to climb, just as Windows Phone is still stuck at the bottom of the mobile mountain trying to get its footing a year-and-a-half after its release.

8 Reasons Why CIOs Shouldn’t Race to Windows 8

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I still feel strongly that Windows 8 will be a hard sell on PCs and, to a lesser extent, tablets. On the PC side, Windows 8 does not offer a persuasive case to upgrade from the well-liked Windows 7, other than upgrading by default when you replace aging PCs. Metro-based Windows 8 is designed for the multi-touch capability of a tablet and does not add much value to the laptop/desktop experience.

Windows 8 should be a more compelling option on tablets. But there are still roadblocks, mainly iPad ubiquity and an over-reliance on the unproven Metro user interface. The Metro look and feel has been spread all over Windows Phones, and Windows Phones have made very little progress.

Developers are likely to do a wait-and-see on Metro and Microsoft can’t afford an apps delay.

But there is a key difference between Windows Phone and Windows 8 that I did not consider enough in my original post: that is, the massive base of existing Windows PC users. There is power in these numbers. The Windows faithful may not all be itching to upgrade from Windows 7 to 8, but they will be comfortable with the Windows brand and willing to expand their Windows loyalty to tablets. Such familiarity could give Windows 8 tablets an advantage over Android tablets, which have struggled because Android has no history of intense computing (Android smartphone prowess apparently was not a precursor to tablet success).

Many members of the Windows base, myself included, do not own a tablet but want one. If you can afford and need both a laptop and a tablet, wouldn’t you want the OS and user experience to be the same?

The answer for many is yes, according to a survey of 1,400 Windows users by remote tech support company iYogi. Sixty-nine percent of the PC users and 85 percent of the tablet users surveyed said they would like their PCs and tablet interfaces to have the same look and feel.

But then again, is it really the end of the world to have a Windows laptop, an iPad and an Android phone and to just use Dropbox to store and access files across devices? It’s a schizophrenic approach, but, hey, everything’s in the cloud now anyway, right?

With Windows 8, Microsoft will be the first company to have the same OS on a PC and tablet, and that kind of solidarity can go a long way with consumers who want to keep things simple.

If Microsoft can facilitate app compatibility across devices (i.e. making existing x86 apps work on ARM-based tablets), then the OS could be the game-changer that 11 commenters on my last post hope it will be. And, I admit, I hope Windows 8 tablets kick some iPad butt, too.

Oh, one more thing: For the reader who accused me of feigning clairvoyance in my earlier post, I don’t have any future winning lottery numbers for you. But I do have a Super Bowl score: Patriots win 24-21. You heard it here first.