Letters from Readers

Letters From Readers: Will Windows 8 Tablets Succeed?

The October cover story on the unveiling of Windows 8 featured comments about the viability of Microsoft tablets in the market. They provoked a strong response.

The October cover story on the unveiling of Windows 8 featured comments by developer David Platt about the viability of Microsoft tablets in the market. They provoked a strong response.

I think David Platt is somewhat missing the point by wondering who will be buying Samsung Windows 8 tablets "as Christmas presents." The answer is: very few. The right question to ask is, "As enterprise customers and SMEs begin to introduce tablets to their workers -- mainly mobile workers, in the beginning -- what types of tablets will they buy?"

And I think the answer to that is: Where Microsoft is hoping to find an opportunity to gain large market share. Most companies are just now starting to experiment with tablets, and even then as "adjunct," or companion devices. And most companies have invested heavily in applications -- including line-of-business apps and use of Microsoft Office products -- that run on Windows.

I've done enough work for large organizations to know that most of their developers have zero experience creating business apps in Objective C. Android is slightly better, in that the Eclipse IDE runs on Windows, and Java skills are common, but porting enterprise apps to Android would still be an enormous task.

CTOs/CIOs will look at their options: For a per-unit cost in the same ballpark as a 3G-enabled iPad 2, or Galaxy Tab 10.1, they can get a Samsung, or (no doubt coming) a Lenovo ThinkPad tablet with close to the same form-factor, but which runs everything without having to rewrite apps, no worries about supporting new network authentication mechanisms and so on. Microsoft isn't aiming (initially) at consumers, I think it's targeting business users.

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The lure of Windows 8 machines will be the late-2012 hybrid laptop/tablet with a fold-away keyboard. You get the Desktop Windows primarily, and the Metro touch interface for free.

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Platt is right and wrong about Microsoft tools. Microsoft has good tools -- relative to everything else. But that's a lot like saying, "Best American Mobile Phone Company." The fact that one of them can say "best" is still a relative statement. From this dev's perspective, spending time at the conference and watching Microsoft dev after Microsoft dev dig out Visual Studio and then edit XAML without tooling, without a single demonstration anywhere in Visual Basic, suggests to me that "best" means "best Windows Forms tooling, and now look over here at this cool HTML5 stuff!" Doesn't come close to supporting the simple quick use cases Visual Basic 6 did. 

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