Contributor:
Mark Austin
November 2nd, 2012

The Windows Tablet Conundrum

As the myriad of reviews for the Windows RT Surface hit the Internet, it has simply strengthened my stance that I will wait for the Windows Pro Surface or similar Intel powered tablets before considering taking the plunge. It’s not that the Windows RT Surface doesn’t have appeal, but the Windows Pro tablet gives me many more reasons to consider switching to a Microsoft Windows powered tablet.

Microsoft have taken a similar stance to Apple when it comes to Windows RT, in providing a tablet device that won’t support traditional Windows desktop applications, well at least not third party ones, in the same way that iOS won’t run OSX applications. Yes, Apple has been very successful with this approach, but the majority of people buying iPads were not heavy OSX users, and many had become familiar with iOS on the iPhone, so it was a simple transition. Microsoft don’t have first mover advantage, so in order to succeed they need to tempt users away with something that appeals to them more, and the question is whether a slick new interface and Microsoft Office are enough to trigger this mass exodus?

The obvious target market for Microsoft are those users that have grown up with Windows and still prefer to work in Windows over OSX, and are looking for a more integrated experience between their desktop/laptop, tablet and phone. I’m sure the new interface and Microsoft Office may tempt many users to make that switch, but although the Windows RT interface is tablet friendly, its inability to run third party desktop applications and be secured like a traditional Windows device may hold back any mass adoption and even confuse many Windows users, given the two very distinct incarnations of Windows.

In the same way that x64 won out over Itanium, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Intel based tablet running Windows 8 becomes the more popular tablet, as it allows for a smooth transition from running existing desktop applications to the new Windows Store applications, in the same way that x64 enabled a smooth transition to 64-bit applications. There will be those that argue that desktop applications have no place on a touch device, but having access to them is still beneficial, especially given the integrated keyboard covers, which allow for laptop style interaction. I’m sure I am like most tablet users in that I still have a laptop, and more often than not I have both my laptop and tablet with me on my travels. Although I don’t expect to lose my laptop any time soon, because for the time being at least a tablet simply won’t give me the same power and productivity that I get from working on a laptop, there are many times when a tablet would suffice, assuming it was running a full blown version of Windows.

The smooth transition and ability to be more productive on a Windows Pro tablet over its RT cousin isn’t the only reason that I feel the Windows Pro tablets could have a much bigger impact. The corporate world and the iPad don’t play well together, and although Windows RT tablets can at least be managed through Windows Intune and have Windows Defender built-in, there is still limited control over these devices. The mere existence of Windows Defender should wipe out any delusion that Windows RT tablets don’t need securing. The ability to connect the Windows Pro tablet to a domain and secure it like any other Windows laptop or desktop with both Microsoft and third party security software will surely make this the most appealing tablet yet for the corporate market. Avecto’s solution is just one example of being able to secure the Windows Pro tablet, providing centrally managed privilege management and application control over both desktop and Windows Store applications.

In the same way that the iPad was a massive success, even after it received a mixed reception on its launch, the same could be true of the Windows RT Surface, once consumers get their hands on it, but I can’t help thinking that the tablet that could get Microsoft back in the game is still a few months away, and is much more than an iPad alternative. If nothing else, I’m convinced the better control and security of the Windows Pro tablets could help them to dominate in the corporate space, which is a space that Microsoft understands well.

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