Microsoft Tablets: 5 Things We Want to See

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True Multitasking

Today, you’re still somewhat limited in what you can share among apps in the Apple iOS and Google Android worlds. Often, the limitation is as much due to the app itself as it is the OS.

I, for one, crave a multitasking experience that works as smoothly as it now does on my laptop or desktop--and that’s something that, in theory, Microsoft Windows 8-based tablets and the apps written for Windows 8 Metro will bring to the table.

Sharing of Apps and App Data Across the Tablet and Laptop/Desktop

There are lots of cool apps created for iOS or Android, but the reality is those apps are locked into whatever mobile OS they were written for. The interoperability promise of Windows 8 is huge: Buy your app once, and use it on tablet, on laptop, on desktop.

Windows 8 Metro interface
Windows 8 Metro interface
That’s the promise of how Microsoft has billed its Metro interface, but we haven’t seen it in action. Yet.

The above is, in part, a pie-in-the-sky wish list. The multitasking and app sharing could pan out, as could the content ecosystem. But I’m concerned about where Windows tablets will fall in price and specs.

I do believe that Windows 8 tablets will face an uphill battle challenging on price, especially without subsidization (and I don’t mean false subsidies through carriers) or Microsoft offering a concession on how much it charges OEMs for the Windows RT operating system.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, theorized to Computerworld that, if Microsoft does announce a Windows RT machine, it will probably cost $600 to $800, the price tag most observers expect other RT tablets to carry, "unless Microsoft plans to take a loss on each device sold because they have to buy the same components as everyone else."

Gold said Microsoft would not ultimately be able to compete with Amazon on price since costs would be higher for an RT machine and because there is no clear pathway for Microsoft to recoup subsidies it might pay to attract consumers.

There's also a possibility that Microsoft may show off a reference platform on Monday as an example of what the Windows RT machine could do, Gold said. That would be the design that other manufacturers, like Asus, Lenovo, Acer and others, would implement.

However, Gold thinks that Microsoft would not want to compete with its own vendor ecosystem. "That makes about as much sense as Microsoft building PCs to compete with HP, Dell, and others," he said.

Redmond Still Thinking Inside the Box?

Finally, as for the specs, I think what we’ve seen so far indicates that PC makers are treating Windows tablets as they would other categories, and they’re not thinking outside of the traditional PC box.

This is the same kind of product planning reasoning that explains why it was Apple, and not a PC maker, who introduced the first laptop with a Retina display. And that kind of thinking could keep Windows 8 tablets from achieving their full potential.

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At a Glance
  • Apple's third-gen iPad is defined by its amazingly sharp and crisp high-resolution display, as well as its option for 4G. The heavier weight is a disappointment; but the display, coupled with Apple's solid app ecosystem, makes this tablet the one to beat.


    • 4G LTE option via Verizon
    • Vivid, high-resolution display


    • iOS 5.1 still lacks large-screen optimizations
    • Slightly increased weight
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