Dell and HP are key to success of Windows 8 tablets

Windows 8 tablets have a lot of potential, but without strong support from Dell and HP Microsoft will struggle to compete against the iPad

Dell is committed to joining the tablet fray once again--this time with Windows 8 tablets aimed at going head-to-head with the Apple iPad. That is good news for Microsoft because Windows 8 tablets will essentially be dead on arrival without strong support from Dell and HP.

The concept of a worthy Windows tablet has been a sort of Holy Grail since the launch of the Apple iPad. Windows 8, with its Metro interface, and compatibility with ARM architecture devices has established an expectation that Windows 8 tablets will fill the void Android tablets have been unable to, and provide some worthwhile competition for Apple--especially in the business market.

There are tons of vendors lined up to jump on the Windows 8 tablet bandwagon. Lenovo showed off its unique IdeaPad Yoga Windows 8 tablet concept at CES in January, and it has vowed to be first out of the gate with a Windows 8 tablet when they launch. Other vendors like Nokia, Asus, and others also appear to be on board.

But, the success or failure of Windows 8 tablets may be made or broken by whether or not businesses embrace them. Because of the dominant role that Dell and HP play as preferred providers of servers and PCs for businesses, it’s crucial that these two come to the party with tablets that can deliver unique advantages compared to an iPad at a reasonable cost.

The potential is there as long as Dell, HP, and others can package it all into a compelling device at the right price. A device that is directly connected to the traditional Windows network, seamlessly integrated with the tools and network resources businesses are already using, and provides a consistent experience at the desk, or from a mobile platform is a recipe for success. Of course--as my PCWorld peer Ian Paul points out--it’s also a potential recipe for confusion.

Don’t for one second, though, make the mistake of thinking that Windows 8 tablets are a slam dunk destined to crush the iPad in the enterprise. If Microsoft doesn’t get Windows 8 right, and if developers don’t deliver the apps businesses want, and if hardware vendors don’t create tablets with the performance and price to make them attractive, Windows 8 tablets will fail. That’s a lot of pretty big “ifs”.

Onuora Amobi points out in a recent Windows8Update blog post that the challenge runs even deeper than that. While there is demand in the market for Windows 8 tablets, that demand is coming primarily from the IT department. Unfortunately, the IT department is an expense, and is treated like a necessary evil.

In most cases the IT department must bend to the whims of the departments that actually conduct business and contribute to the bottom line. If executives and business units can get their jobs done more efficiently on Apple iPads, demand from the business units will generally trump the IT department.

Although Microsoft is coming late to the tablet party, the inability of Android tablets to compete against the iPad leaves Microsoft with a huge opportunity. It had better work very closely with app developers, and key vendors like Dell and HP, though, to ensure the entire Windows 8 tablet experience is phenomenal and capable of competing with the iPad.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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