The research group Forrester has a new study out in which it shows a shrinking appetite for Windows 8 tablets, the yet-to-be-released devices running the touch-friendly new Windows that is set for a 2012 launch.
In a blog post, JP Gownder of Forrester says that Windows 8 tablets are going to be "very late to the party"; he blames a slow-moving Microsoft for the dip in consumer interest. Gownder reports that, while 46 percent of U.S. consumers expressed an interest in an upcoming Windows 8 tablet back in quarter one of 2011, that number fell to 21 percent in quarter three of 2011.
From his blog post, titled "Microsoft's Shrinking Window For Tablets: Its Fifth-Mover Product Strategy Is Late":
Product strategists often look to be "fast followers" in their product markets. Perhaps the most famous example is the original browser war of the 1990s: Microsoft's fast-following Internet Explorer drove incumbent Netscape out of the market altogether.
Question: What matters more -- being a "fast follower," or being a good follower?
The steady decline of Internet Explorer, from about 91 percent in 2004 to 54 percent in 2011, as "slower" followers like Firefox and Google Chrome rose, would suggest that being a fast follower is not really important over time, at least in the browser space. Also, Internet Explorer came bundled with Windows PCs (later deemed to be an illegal monopolistic advantage), so that doesn't really seem like valid proof of the "fast-follower" thesis.
Gownder also writes,
For tablets, though, Windows really isn't a fast follower. Rather it's (at best) a fifth-mover after iPad, Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, HP's now-defunct webOS tablet, and the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. While Windows' product strategists can learn from these products, other players have come a long way in executing and refining their products -- Apple, Samsung, and others have already launched second-generation products and will likely be into their third generation by the time Windows 8 launches.
Gownder lists the iPad, and then three kinds of tablets that have gotten trounced by the iPad, as initial movers in the tablet space, products that "beat" Windows 8 tablets. Well, the HP Touchpad was discontinued by HP in recent months (so much for the virtues of being a third-follower), and the BlackBerry PlayBook has long been rumored to be nearly-dead. Android tablets (second-followers) that are not the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are also failing in the marketplace. Would Microsoft really want to be in the position of any of the non-iPad tablets that Gownder lists as having a "mover" advantage over them?
Meanwhile, newer competitors like Amazon (Kindle Fire) and Barnes & Noble (Nook Tablet) are reshaping consumer expectations in the market, driving down price points (and concomitant price expectations), and redefining what a tablet is.
Here is the real wisdom of the Forrester analysis: Any drop in consumer desire for a Windows 8 tablet has less to do with its perceived "lateness" and more to do with a shifting marketplace that may even affect demand for the mighty $500 iPad. This was the primary finding of a survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in October -- consumers decide on tablets based on a set of preferences, with tablet ease-of-use, available applications and price points informing their buying decisions. Windows 8 tablets really appeal to consumers, the BCG report found, because the idea of a Windows interface on a tablet is appealing to those who are familiar with Microsoft products.
It's likely this still holds true. By releasing its Windows 8-powered tablets late, Microsoft will have to overcome three generations of iPads and two of the Kindle Fire (which, let's remember, has probably sold many millions on its own "late-moving" first attempt).
Breaking into the tablet market is not impossible if you've made a desired device, as Amazon has proven. To dismiss the Windows 8 tablet before anyone outside of a bunch of developers have seen one seems premature, no matter what the survey says. Let's wait for a product, price and availability before we write off Windows 8 as Windows Too Late.
The Microsoft team showed off a neat new password system to unlock Windows 8 computers. When your computer is locked, normally you have to type in a text password to regain access to the system; Windows 8 gives the user an option to unlock via a combination of touches and swipes, which might sound familiar to Android users. When setting up your password, you choose a picture, and you select where on the picture you want to tap and swipe in order to unlock the screen. For example, at the Windows Build conference, Windows Corporate Vice President Julie Larson-Green showed off her picture-password: a photo of her daughter (above) standing on a pier holding a glass of lemonade appeared, and Larson-Green tapped on her daughter's nose, then on the glass of lemonade, then drew a line from the edge of the pier to the edge of the glass of lemonade. Voila! The screen was unlocked.
Speaking of that screen, Windows 8 has taken another cue from mobile operating systems and will automatically show on the lock screen relevant information like upcoming calendar events and emails received when the user was away from the keyboard. This is a small upgrade, but it eliminates the need to unlock your computer just to see if you missed anything while you were gone: Windows 8 will tell you from the moment you return your screen what happened during your time away. The lock screen also displays battery information, time and any instant messages you may have missed while you were away from your device. You might be thinking to yourself (à la George Bluth in the "Spring Breakout" episode of Arrested Development), "What does that save, like two seconds?" But, if you've used a Windows or Android smartphone with this feature, you know how helpful it can feel to know immediately about what you missed when you were unplugged.
This one was teased ahead of the Build Conference, but they showed it off on-stage anyway, and it is still very impressive. Windows 8 will apparently boot in 8 seconds, thanks to a new process of putting the kernel session to sleep rather than closing it out altogether and having to reboot it completely. See the video (above) for a demonstration of how fast a computer running Windows 8 will be able to boot up from no power to start screen.
No, this doesn't mean you can throw away your external hard drive or cancel your Dropbox account. But it may prove to be a convenient and hardware-less way to restore your system without losing all of your precious, precious media, or that novel you've been working on. A push of the button from the Control Panel activates the system refresh, making it pretty convenient for the average PC user.
As Sinofsky noted at the Build Conference, it's been two decades since Microsoft redesigned its task manager, and Windows 8 brings a new look and interface to what is (unfortunately) one of my most used Windows utilities. The new task manager looks great--easy to read and use, with all the pertinent information lined up in columns. As a bonus, the task manager also allows you to add and delete which programs you want to automatically load at startup (hallelujah!). Those "suspended" apps you see, by the way? When you are running apps in the tablet-ified 'Metro' view, they stop running when you switch over to 'Desktop' view, saving you CPU usage. Good idea, Microsoft.
Are you a thumb-typer? When you hold a tablet, do you type with your thumbs rather than all of your fingers? Or, do you type a lot on the go, where you can't put your slate down for proper Mavis Beacon typing technique? Then the thumb-typing keyboard--selectable from the keyboard menu--might just be for you.
Sitting on the start bar in 'Metro View' is the "Share Charm," a little button that pulls up a sidebar (seen above) for easy sharing through a number of different apps. Microsoft put much of its focus on interactivity and connectivity--from apps playing well with each other, to the fact that all Windows 7 programs will run on Windows 8, to putting much of Windows Live in the cloud--and the Share charm is no different. It's a handy little utility baked into Windows 8 that allows users to share what they're looking at with anyone in their address book using the automatic Share program. Select what you want to share and who you want to share it with, add an optional message and press 'Send."
If all of these features, multiple interfaces and visually-striking touch-and-slide systems look like they use a lot of RAM--well, they don't. According to Sinofsky, Windows 8 takes up 281MB to run on startup, versus 404MB for Windows 7 (and this is the Windows 8 Developer's Beta!). Another encouraging sign from an operating system that has historically been accused of memory hogging.