Windows 8 tablet UI – the real danger for Microsoft.

I have nothing against Microsoft or Windows, I just try and evaluate the technology based on things I have seen or experienced. Having said that, I have been pretty amused at some of the rabid excitement about the Windows 8 tablet user interface. I have heard quite a few fans refer to the new UI as an “Ipad killer” and express hope that Microsoft will be able (finally) to give them a competitive tablet device. There is something that Microsoft said that has gotten lost in the hubbub about Windows 8. Julie Larson-Green, corporate Vice President, Windows Experience for Microsoft touched on it here. She said:

Windows 8 apps use the power of HTML5, tapping into the native capabilities of Windows using standard JavaScript and HTML to deliver new kinds of experiences. These new Windows 8 apps are full-screen and touch-optimized, and they easily integrate with the capabilities of the new Windows user interface. There’s much more to the platform, capabilities and tools than we showed today.
Now to be fair she didnt say “only HTML 5 and Javascript” as pointed out. She simply indicated that developers would have those choices as well. Now the furor over this has been huge because Windows developers are freaking out that XAML, .NET and Silverlight will be history. Microsoft are yet to clarify exactly what development platforms will be supported in Windows 8 but I expect that they will in (or before) September during the BUILD conference. That in my opinion is small potatoes. To me, the real issue is this..

If Windows 8 apps are primarily developed in HTML 5 and Javascript, why would I buy a Windows 8 tablet to run them? I could simply run them on my Ipad or Ipad 2 or Ipad 3.

My wife and I own Ipad 2’s. We love them for many reasons (Facetime, UI etc) and I started thinking about use cases for buying a Windows 8 tablet. There would have to be something about a Windows 8 tablet that was exciting that I couldnt do with an Ipad and a keyboard. [caption id="attachment_4616" align="alignnone" width="590"]Ipad, dock and a keyboard Ipad, dock and a keyboard[/caption] If I am able to use and access the Microsoft Office suite online (Cloud 365 ) and I am able to run new Microsoft apps on an Ipad, there would really not be a compelling reason to buy a Windows 8 tablet device unless it was substantially cheaper than an Ipad. Let’s be clear about this – Apple Tablets provide a superior user experience compared to ANYTHING else on the market today. This is beyond dispute. The only reason to buy something else with an inferior user experience would be because it offered some other feature that you absolutely could not live without. Ironically, it almost seems like Microsoft would have been better off doubling down on Silverlight and .NET as exclusive development tools for their tablets. I have written before about how Windows 8 tablets need to be a loss leader for Microsoft  and the more I think about it, this probably must be the case. Apple on the other hand will probably come out with cheaper tablet devices once the Ipad 3 is released (in addition to the hundreds of thousand of discarded Ipad 1’s and 2’s). So where does that leave Microsoft once the Windows 8 tablets are released? Best case – a slick OS that they will have to take a bath on (price wise) in order to barely compete with Apple. Worst case – a slick OS that offers absolutely no exclusive reason for consumers or businesses to buy them over Ipads. The battle for consumers in the tablet space will ultimately be won by providing preceived value and a quality user experience. The Mac/PC software divide vanishes once apps are written in HTML 5 and Javascript. Software manufacturers are building tablet apps that abstract users from PC centric functions and making their apps as user friendly as possible. Apple will probably have 3 generations of the Ipad behind them by the time Microsoft release their tablet OS. I fear that this may be too late for Microsoft to impress the consumers or corporations that matter. I’m interested to know what you guys think. Use the comments below to let me know…]]>

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