Windows 8 may give Microsoft a tablet play

The smartphone-inspired OS seems to be a way to synchronize the Windows Phone with a future tablet, other devices

Can Microsoft's next-generation, touch-oriented Windows 8 OS give Microsoft a leg-up in the tablet computer market now dominated by Apple's iPad?

The quick answer seems to be a resounding no. The highly successful iPad is being chased by a host of contenders, including Android tablets, that have already been on the market for months.

Still, there are some things in favor of Windows 8 on tablets, analysts said.

"Microsoft has a big hill to climb with iPad out there, but Windows 8 is certainly a better model than now and takes [traditional] Windows and adds touch [capability]," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.

The Windows 8 concept borrows from Microsoft's Windows Phone interface , which uses live tiles and hubs arranged on a start touchscreen and can be used to represent groups of social contacts and applications.

"If that Windows Phone user interface catches on, it could prove popular for tablets as well," Gold added.

By borrowing from its Windows Phone interface theme of touchable tiles for Windows 8, Microsoft has shown how important the mobile computing experience has become, Gold and other analysts said.

Microsoft could also be planning to attach cloud services to tablets to generate revenues, Gold said, much in the same way it had hope to attach such services to the Kin , an early Microsoft phone that was scaled back.

"Windows 8 is what Microsoft has been hinting at all along -- the convergence of mainstream and mobile OS," Gold said. It is a theme that Apple also has followed across different form factors, he noted. "This is a contrast to the past philosophy where mobile and PC OSes were distinctly different. This is a big step for Microsoft."

Will Stofega, an analyst at IDC, agreed that Windows 8 appears to be about connecting smartphones to tablets and other form factors. "The trend seems to be to extend the [Windows] OS from smartphones to tablets to enable synchronization," Stofega said via email.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com .

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