Windows optimize

We may not see a Windows 8 tablet PC in 2012

Greg Shultz looks at the possibility of a Windows 8 tablet PC in 2012 and worries about the hurdles Microsoft will have to overcome.

In last December's look to the year ahead, I posited that 2011 would be the year of the Windows 7 tablet PC and that it would give the Apple iPad a real run for its money. Well, unfortunately, that didn't happen. Of course, 2011 was a year of tablet PCs -- they just weren't running Windows. Much to my chagrin, instead of getting a Windows 7 tablet PC in 2011, I ended up with a Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet. It's a great little computer, but it is running Android and not Windows.

However, the unveiling of the new Windows 8 OS at the September Build Windows conference makes a Windows tablet PC in 2012 seem like a realistic possibility. But is it? Even with the momentum Windows 8 has gained so far, there are a lot of hurdles yet to come.

For the last edition of the Windows Desktop Report of 2011, I'll take closer look at the momentum pushing the possibility of a Windows 8 tablet PC in 2012 as well as the hurdles yet to come.

The momentum

Let's begin with the Windows 8 momentum that Microsoft has built so far. As I mentioned, Microsoft unveiled an early version of Windows 8 at the Build Windows conference in September and really began the push for its new Metro user interface. To motivate developers to begin working on apps for the new OS, Microsoft gave away 5,000 suped-up Samsung tablets with the Windows 8 Developer Preview installed.

Soon after, Microsoft made the Windows 8 Developer Preview available as a free download to anyone who wanted to take a look at the very early version of the new OS. Within a very short period of time, Steve Ballmer announced that half a million copies of Windows 8 Developer Preview had been downloaded.

With that many copies of a pre-Beta OS out there, Steven Sinofsky and the Windows Engineering Team began pumping out postings on all facets of the new OS on the MSDN: Building Windows 8 site. The postings on the site have been aimed at developers as well as users and have provided very detailed descriptions of how things work, the goals the team had in mind for the improvements, and information on what went on behind the scenes as the team reimagined Windows.

With the developers hard at work, the next layer of the plan was recently unveiled when Microsoft launched the MSDN: Windows Store for developers site. This site is, of course, designed to further entice developers to go all out and create a boatload of Windows 8 apps. Microsoft has even gone so far as to announces that the store will feature a new developer-first economics plan in which developers will get up to an 80% revenue share for apps sold through the Windows store. There's even a contest -- Windows 8 First Apps Contest -- in which the winners will have their apps in the Windows Store when it opens.

The hurdles

Even with all the momentum being created by Microsoft, there are plenty of hurdles yet to overcome before we can count on a Windows 8 tablet PC in 2012. The first obstacle is time.

At the Windows Store announcement, Microsoft revealed that the first Windows 8 beta will arrive in late February. As such, we will already be two months into 2012 before the Windows 8 Beta makes its appearance. If we use Windows 7's time frame as a baseline, we're going to be running short of time for Windows 8.

The Windows 7 Beta was publicly released at the beginning of January 2009 and the RTM was the middle of July with the retail release being in October 2009. This comes out to seven months from Beta to RTM and three months from RTM to retail release -- a total of ten months. If there is a ten-month span to take Windows 8 from Beta to retail release, we are already well into December 2012, and we know from past experience that Microsoft would not consider releasing a new product in the last month of the year. So unless Windows 8 Beta is much more stable than Microsoft is letting on and as such will be ready to go in a shorter time frame, chances are good that we are looking at January 2013 for retail release.

Results of a ZDNet poll

The next major hurdle comes down to the retail price of a Windows 8 tablet PC. (While this hurdle has more to do with the overall success of the OS rather than it just being available in 2012, it is still something to think about.) Based on the results from a recent ZDNet poll, pricing could be a problem for the Windows 8 tablet PC. To summarize the results, the majority of the respondents would be willing to pay between $200 and $599 for a Windows 8 tablet PC. This is the range that has been set by the currently available tablets -- going from the Kindle Fire to a 32GB, Wi-Fi iPad. As such, this is what people are willing to pay for a tablet. Since Microsoft doesn't control the hardware, they are going to have to either take a haircut on the licensing fee for Windows 8 or work really hard with their hardware partners to keep the price down.

What's your take?

Are you hoping for a Windows 8 tablet PC in 2012? Are you aware of other things that could give Windows 8 more momentum? Do you know of other hurdles that could slow Windows 8 down? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

23 comments
IT Support23
IT Support23

With all these cheap Ipad brands, I don't think a lot of people will spend that much to buy a new one..

CyGuyJG
CyGuyJG

Another hurdle might be a Fall release of iPad 3.

trashmail
trashmail

Here's what I call my 'Pocket MBA': What does it do? How much does it cost? When can I have it? Why don't I have it? God damn it, make it happen! That's the day for about 90% of product managers/developers out there, and it's what gets said in the halls of MS if MS is like any other company I ever worked at. Likewise, the reality of schedule is that it takes a man month to spit on the floor. 2012 is already OVER for anything complicated, MS. Win8 probably qualifies. MS fanbois should just shelve their expectations for another year and watch Apple walk off with this market while MS reads the Wikipedia articles on tablet computers to see what to do. Man, this is such an uphill battle for MS. I don't count them out, but boy, are they in a pickle or what?

joe.graehl
joe.graehl

Four problems M$ faces in getting adoption of Windows 8 in Slate PCs (1) Availability and cost for manufacturers to BIOS vendor for UEFI Firmware to support Instant On and replace the legacy BIOS. (2) Additional cost for TPM and Tablet (Wacom) support in addition to multi-touch/ (3) Additional hassle for developers to use cross-compiliers to developer for ARM processors. (4) M$ relying on Intel to provide SOC x86 solution. IMHO, these issues will all be solved because Intel, AMD and MSFT see to it. (1) UEFI for both x86 and ARM are already readily availble in other applications (e.g. HP enterprise LASER imaging products) and Intel keeps the BIOS vendors alive for UEFI. Select models from Intel of desktop motherboards for DIY system white box developers as well as some from ASUS, GigaByte, etc. and Apple (all x86 machines) have been available with EFI for several years already. Yet many machines, even cutting edge netbooks from ASUS still only have BIOS, not EFI, so this raises doubts about suitability for proper Win 8 Instant On if they retro-fit existing hardware designs without large enough firmware hub perhaps to allow for a field upgrade to UEFI. What is not clear is how ready the Phoenix's and AMI's are to supporting ARM, since iOS and Androids seem to not use UEFI firmware (correct me If I'm wrong). (2) TPM will be included in SOC (I'm guessing) and lower end hardware will drop the WACOM tablet support and focus on only touch until technology such as PixelView takes over - probably only in phones / handheld devices at first, but this may make for an interesting position for Microsoft with their experience with Wacom in tablet UI. (3) Intel will prevent M$ Win8 platform specification to allow equity on ARM vs x86 SOC (In other words, Intel already blew it with dismissing and selling off XScale which was ARM based and will not be able to regain the ARM advantage they originally had when they purchased Digital Equipment's Semi division). So it seems Intel and M$ are still in the past WinTel frame of mind and not able to embrace the new GoogleNVidia/TI (Android) frame of mind. Vendors with Vision, such as ASUS will probably offer the NVidia Quad Core Tegra3 originally with Android (taking preorders now), promising only an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwhich, but not able to discuss Win8 yet - perhaps the same hardware will easily run Win 8, but if it costs more for UEFI and Win 8 then it might not be very competitive due to licensing price - yet look how the Eee PC from ASUS, which started as a Linux only platform had given way to M$ Win XP starter and continutes with Win 7 Starter Edition or ChromeBooks. Finally, companies building pads/slates such as Samsung and Acer seem likely to be about as loyal to OS vendors as they have in the past - they haven't, yet WebOS isn't availble on Samsung hardware yet! Go to the Microsoft Store (online or if you are lucky in your town) and look at how the x86 based slate / tablets running WIn 7 tablet with multitouch are running dual core Atom processors or AMD C50? (with intergrated shared memory graphics) are likely to run Windows 8 beta except for the UEFI issues needed for Instant On? (4) Microsoft (M$) will only capture new innovative SOC x86 Win8 Slates, except for M$ Fanboys who want to have the WACOM on a Win8 Tablet at a considerably higher prices which will not capture a sizeable market share...again (Win XP Tablet, Win 7 Tablet, Win 8 Tablet....).

attila2
attila2

Before I touch another M$ product they are going to have to fix the bug in W7 battery management. And apologise for all the times it has crashed my laptop. My attitude (as a paying customer) to M$ mirrors M$'s attitude to its end users: "screw you"

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Your company makes a part for a computer and I suspect that in the contract it says that the finished product must meet with your approval.But if it doesn't we loose computers and you loose the job.Something's got to give here.Your company is not at all satisfied with it's computer operation.Phone calls to Maxtor,contracts with Microsoft and so on.It's a computer,you tell it what to do and it does it!I do not like replacing motherboards.

Malleable69
Malleable69

I've been using my Windows 7 EXOPC since its release. Been using tablets for about 8yrs now, and I have to say the one I have now is pretty much perfect for me. 12" screen, pretty thin and light. Runs windows. Sure, I wouldnt mind 4GB RAM, since this is only 2GB. And a faster processor would be great, but this one can run SAS (statistical software), Microsoft OneNote and stream TV/Movies just fine. Maybe Win 8 will need 4GB of RAM, but kinda hoping 2GB will work given that Win 7 is doing just fine.

zeighty
zeighty

Fill in the blank with 8 or 9 or 10... It doesn't matter. Until MS gets a clue that Windows is not a "one size fits all" answer to the tablet market, it will be a failure. I am part of a large technical staff that supports over 400 Win PCs. After we do what we do to support our corporate infrastructure we can slow the fastest PC to Pentium II days. iOS works because it is designed ground up to be a portable device OS. Android works because it was designed with the same principles as iOS. Wn 8 seems to be heading just as previous releases were... Publish it now, fix it later (the MS theme). And on top of that we have to put up with Metro... Come on MS... What were you thinking?

Gisabun
Gisabun

First, while the first public beta will be out in February - maybe a month [and 3 years] after Windows 7's first beta, we don't know for sure on whether or not there has been internal betas. After all, that developer release was in the summer [or early fall] period. That's a long time between builds. MIcrosoft may have skipped a beta phase or two. You don't know what level the beta is until it is coming out. As well, a mid-July to a mid October period is quite a long time. Do they really need that length of time? The RTM could even be released to the public into early/mid November as it won't hurt sales since the OEMs would want still enough time to build their images.

LovesongJ
LovesongJ

Re a Windows 8 Tablet PC in 2012. I keep waiting. I am a writer and I need MSWORD to upload books. I am told other programs are interchangeable and yet others tell me Polaris, etc., opens when it feels like it so it is not reliable. I am also told there is a lot of bother with USB cords involved, etc. I am not sure if an Asus EE Slate, which I like because of its docking station can load something I need. I surely could use some helpful opinions on this. And I also wonder why MS is so slow in producing a tablet.

lengem
lengem

I have been using a Windows 7 tablet for the last 3 months. It interfaces fantastically to our corporate network and we are about to roll out more of these. It is based on the Acer Iconia and although not being as sophisticated as the Ipad it works exceedingly well and is being used as a replacement unit for travellers rather than notebooks due to its USB ports, 3G and wifi connectivity with a detachable keyboard regards Len Gemelli

mbshick
mbshick

Where is the "Who gives a rat's ass?" option for the survey? Microsoft occasionally has some decent ideas for features, but they're always implemented in the most ham-handed way possible so that they end up being buggy and more painful to use than the workaround you probably had anyway. Windows has always felt kind of Soviet -- like it was ostensibly for the people, but it was really controlling them. In more recent releases it's gotten dolled up so it could be posted on a "Russian Women Looking for Love" site, but underneath it's still guided by the same philosophy that the powers that be know what you want better than you do.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

A word to the wise.If you are making videos check with a small rendering first.This is the second time that I got caught.Big long video and no audio.There was no audio on the DVD!You might need to try several different DVD video production programs to find one that works.

Skruis
Skruis

And the only thing I'm missing is Metro App's which should be corrected when the Windows Store comes to Windows 8. I haven't pulled out my laptop in over 2 months because my slate's replaced my laptop. With the latest 360 update, I'm crossing my fingers that MS will allow a single published HTML5 app to span the 360, windows 8 Metro and Windows Phone. Of course, depending on the app, you may have to do some customization for the interface (touch, controller/voice, keyboard/mouse) but it's an exciting possibility. The line's between my devices (Windows 7 pc, Windows 8 slate, Xbox 360, Windows Phone 7) are getting more blurry with every release and that's a good thing. One thing though, Microsoft should rename the "cloud" saved games service on the 360 to use "SkyDrive" instead...use the single service name across all platforms to tie them together even though I'm sure the SkyDrive "services" are behind the Microsoft Cloud saved games service. Perhaps Microsoft has to keep them separate for security reasons but it would make trading saved games quite a bit easier. That, and on the pc, the Metro mode should reflect the same menu system as on the 360 with "Bing, Games, Music, Videos, Apps, Settings". I mean, the Metro mode will only really cover those things. And they have to be able to disable Metro mode altogether even though it's really not that bad to use on the PC seeing as how, just like on Windows 7, the second you click on the Start Button, you can start typing the name of the program you want to use and it'll automatically search for it.

Pint15
Pint15

I think where MS may have an advantage is in the Enterprise space with tablets. If they can make it easy for IT departments to manage tablets - that might be their opening into larger adoption. But coming this to the game - it has to be near flawless.

technomom_z
technomom_z

Microsoft is all but dead now. Windows 8 is too little, too late. There's nothing compelling there, no content that will sell the device. Ballmer should start looking for another job now.

maroun.baydoun
maroun.baydoun

The Tablet Market is already saturated. I don't see Windows having a chance to make a dent, unless they introduce a tablet that could improve people's productiveness as opposed to current products that enable you to consume content mostly.

grayknight
grayknight

As in the not so distant future, maybe even this year, phones will have enough processing power and ram to run full blown operating systems. The convergence of windows on three screens (or maybe hundreds of screens) is what Windows 8 is leading to.

grayknight
grayknight

Is a decent Windows 7 tablet, and can run the Windows 8 Dev Preview.

Gisabun
Gisabun

"MS is so slow in producing a tablet" - Microsoft doesn't produce tablets, just the OS. As well, there are Windows 7 tablets - just not that popular.

LovesongJ
LovesongJ

Len Gemelli, where did you find a Windows tablet? I can't find one here in MN at Best Buy. I need MSWORD as I am a writer so a Windows tablet would be best. Best Buy doesn't seem to have any answers. I love the Asus Ee slate with docking keyboard, but it is an android and I'm not sure it would work for me with my MSWORD needs for uploading my books.

Gisabun
Gisabun

What are you talking about? Right blog you're posting in?

Gisabun
Gisabun

I agree. If a [Windows] enterprise had to choose between a Windows tablet or an iPad or Android base tablet, they will choose a Windows tablet because they already have the infrastructure in place. They may needs some updated GPs but not much more.