Research firm Forrester has conducted a survey that supposedly reveals that consumer interest in Windows-based tablets–once quite high–is now tanking. Forrester is concluding that Microsoft has therefore missed the opportunity to compete strongly with the iPad, since the first serious Windows-based tablets won”t show up until sometime next year when Windows 8 ships.
If I were a Microsoft honcho, these results wouldn’t worry me much, for several reasons…
- When Microsoft decided to, um, put all its tablet eggs in the Windows 8 basket–which it presumably did quite awhile ago–it knew that the move meant that it was pushing out the availability of good Windows tablets, thereby losing whatever early momentum it might have had. If the company has the courage of its convictions, it should be okay with short-term bad news.
- Android is performing more poorly in the tablet market than most of us expected; the BlackBerry PlayBook is a fiasco; HP’s WebOS is dead, or close enough. Which means that there’s still plenty of opportunity for someone–including Microsoft–to become a robust #2 in the market after Apple. We already know that won’t happen this year, so Windows 8 tablets showing up next year sounds like decent timing.
- Most consumers aren’t yet paying attention to Windows 8, so no survey is going to capture well-informed opinions about the new operating system and its strengths or weaknesses as a tablet platform. If Windows 8 tablets are fabulous, they stand a respectable chance of doing okay; if they’re lousy, they’ll surely flop.
- By choosing to reinvent Windows itself as a touch-centric environment–rather than, say, gussy up Windows Phone and slap it on tablets–Microsoft is clearly trying to do something bigger than simply come up with a plausible iPad rival. It’s Windows users in general that it’s going to need to address, not just prospective iPad buyers.
I’m not saying that Microsoft’s Windows 8 tablet strategy is going to be a surefire success. Actually, it’s one of the biggest gambles I can remember in the technology industry–and in a world in which Windows XP remains the dominant operating system a decade after its release, it’s entirely possible that most people won’t want to make Microsoft’s great leap forward. But it’s okay if interest in Windows tablets is weak right now. If there’s anything we know from the history of post-iPad tablets to date, it’s that expectations don’t have much to do with reality, and rushing into the market doesn’t seem to help.