Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Analyst: Windows 8 Tablets Dead on Arrival?

PC Magazine has raised the question whether tablets based on Microsoft's forthcoming Windows 8 may arrive to find there is no market for them:
Microsoft may be touting its Windows 8 operating system as an ideal engine for a tablet, but one analyst report claims that it will be too late to the party.

In a blog post published Tuesday, analyst JP Gownder predicted that Microsoft-powered Windows tablets would be a "fifth-mover" behind tablets from Apple, Google's Android partners, HP's WebOS, and the BlackBerry PlayBook.

As I have commented previously, any missteps with Windows 8 could spell disaster for Microsoft. And this reality seems to be taking shape: If Microsoft stakes its fortune on an operating system designed primarily to be run on tablets and its planned device for the tablet market is a dud, then the folks in Redmond will be left with a giant mess.

My own prejudice is clear: There is no place for a touchscreen interface on a desktop or laptop computer. Period. Steve Jobs said it best: the trackpad is the most natural way to interact with a laptop or desktop. No one wants to keep their arms elevated to touch a desktop screen while editing photos in Photoshop. Plus a finger is not precise enough for that kind of task. (And no one ever seems to mention how often—or even how—you are supposed to clean all those fingerprints off your monitor.)

Microsoft is showing its stupidity (once again) in trying to make the same operating system and user interface work across all kinds of devices. No one cares if their tablet and their laptop and desktop are identical. In fact, Windows users who use iPads and iPhones (and there are millions of them) don't seem to care if those devices are even remotely similar.

Apple is not entirely immune to this kind of fuzzy thinking either. I am convinced that Steve Jobs, in his final days, was more concerned with new products in the pipeline than with the user interface on OS X Lion. The faux leather trim on the iCal interface (and even the little ragged edge of a torn page at the top of the screen), along with a whole laundry list of interface oddities in Lion, are inconsistent with Jobs' aesthetics. The user interface on the Mac OS needs to use design metaphors that are consistent with the device, rather than trying to import the look and feel from iOS to the desktop.

Now if the folks behind those corporate walls in Redmond and Cupertino will get a clue...