Posted by: Ed Tittel
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I just read a fascinating Windows 8 analysis from Larry Dignan over at ZDNet entitled “Windows 8′s problem: It’s the hardware.” I kinda sorta agree with him that various hardware aspects of Windows 8 have contributed to slow uptake, lower-than-expected consumer and corporate interest levels, and consequently slow sales of systems with Microsoft’s new flagship desktop already installed. But I think the real reason the various native Windows 8 offerings such as Microsoft’s Surface in both Windows 8 RT and Pro flavors, various convertibles from Dell, Asus, Acer, Samsung and Lenovo, and the handful of non-MS “mainly tablet” PCs from Samsung, Asus, and Acer haven’t jumped off of the Web or store shelves is because of two primary factors:
- Price: for all forms of Windows 8, the perceived price/performance level is discouraging purchases all over the place. At similar prices to iPads, RT Surface (and similar products from third parties) don’t offer enough capability, apps, or wow factor to be taken seriously. And there’s not enough oomph in higher-end offerings to persuade buyers that Win7 is passe, and Windows 8 (with touch hardware of some kind) the only way to go.
- Battery Life: Especially for non-Atom Intel processor based tablets, convertibles, and touch-screen ultrabooks and notebooks, there’s not enough juice available from the smaller batteries necessary to meet general needs for “small, light, and portable” to which all of these devices are subject, to get a full day’s use out of them before it’s necessary to make a connection with a wall socket.
Dignan goes on to make some predictions he thinks will start turning things around in the middle of 2013:
1. Microsoft will roll out an update that will smooth out Windows 8.
2. Some hardware vendor will come up with a winning Windows 8 design.
3. Consumers will react positively to this device.
4. Microsoft will get enough app momentum.
Again, I can’t find too much fault with any of this, considering especially Microsoft’s professed intent to start getting on an annual update cycle for its various OSes (the so-called “Windows Blue” phenomenon). But I have a different set of ingredients to add to this mix, courtesy of Intel. First is the remake to the low-power end of the Ivy Bridge processor line called “Y” that the company plans to announce later this month at CES in Las Vegas, with various CPUs available at or under a 10-Watt TDP rating. The second is the planned introduction of the Haswell processor family, whose ultra-low voltage (ULV) components — which is what tablets and ultrabooks invariably depend on for the best combination of processing power and battery life — are rumored to sit in a TDP range between 7.5 and 11.5 Watts.
Once Microsoft and the OEMs get their hands on these kinds of building blocks, I predict that Windows 8 tablets, convertibles, and touch-enabled ultrabooks will become more attractive to buyers. Hopefully, overall prices can fall at least a bit to enable the Windows platform to regain a postive price/performance edge against competing Apple products, which have currently taken over the high end of the market for ultrabooks and notebooks, and completely dominate the tablet space. It’s still a pretty tall order even so for MS to “achieve world domination” any more, but it should help to put some momentum onto Windows 8′s marketshare, and provide more and better reasons for corporate adoptions to occur, on their typical “2-3 years after commercial release” timetable.
All this remains speculation, but hopefully not idle speculation. We’ll see what happens when the new Ivy Bridge Y finds its way into Windows 8 tablets, convertibles, and ultrabooks, and what impact Haswell has after that. If the results still don’t impress, there could be a world of hurt in store, not just for Microsoft, but for Intel as well. Stay tuned!