Home IT Poll: Is One Version of Windows for All Devices the Right Approach?

IT Poll: Is One Version of Windows for All Devices the Right Approach?

This week at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference the company made its tablet strategy more clear. As reported by Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft Windows Phone President Andy Lees said: “We view a tablet as a sort of PC. We want people to be able to do the sorts of things that they expect on a PC on a tablet, things like networking to be able to connect to networks, and utilize networking tools, to get USB drives and plot them into the tablet.”

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said in the past that tablets won’t run Windows Phone 7. The reasoning is now more clear: Microsoft wants the full version of Windows on tablets, not the Phone version. This might not be the only reason – the company might also be worried about cannibalizing Windows license sales with tablets.

Is the decision to focus on putting one version of Windows everywhere a mistake?

It may not seem like a good move at this point, with Apple, HP, RIM and various Android vendors already releasing tablets. But don’t forget: only about 5% of the U.S. population already own a tablet.

Considering the cost of tablets – $500 – $700 each – is it unreasonable to want a fully featured computer? For $500 you can buy a laptop with a multicore processor, around 4GB of RAM, at least a 500GB hard drive and a DVD-RW drive (or maybe even a BluRay player). And it would run the full version of Windows 7. It would run Office, your choice of several Web browsers, the Adobe Creative Suite, and a bazillion other Windows applications. You would be able to plug USB peripherals into it and they should just work.

The new crop of tablets on the other hand have dual-core processors, 512MB RAM, average about 32GB of storage space and don’t support optical drives and support only a limited set of accessories. The number of Android and iOS apps available is impressive, and many are bringing desktop feature parity to tablets and mobile phones. But as of now, you can’t add a keyboard and mouse to your tablet and run the full version of your core desktop applications.

The idea behind Windows 8 tablets seems to be that you would be able to run your normal applications and peripherals with your tablet. But is this really what people want? One deciding factor will be the experience. Typically trying to make a device do it all means that it’s not good at doing anything. I don’t want a Windows tablet if it sucks as a slate but doubles as a sucky laptop. Battery life is going to be important as well.

But if Microsoft can pull it off, it could be pretty appealing. It wouldn’t even have to be perfect. I’d be happy with a great slate that doubles as mediocre laptop.

Meanwhile, Foley reports that despite the fact that Windows 8 will run on ARM processors, a complete merger between Windows Phone and “real” Windows is a long way off, if it ever happens. So a true “Windows everywhere” ecosystem won’t happen for some time.

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