Where do Windows 8 and RT tablets stand this holiday season? It could be argued that the booming tablet market drove the development of the company's new Windows 8 touch-oriented operating system, so their fate has considerable importance to Microsoft.
On Wednesday, news reports revealed that Dell, Hewlett-Packard and other manufacturers have delayed until January their launch of Windows 8 Pro tablets, even though some had previously been advertising pre-Christmas release dates.
Dell's tablet in question is the Latitude 10, which uses Intel's Atom Z2760 "Clover Trail" processor, as does HP's Envy x2 tablet/laptop convertible. The Envy has missed its initially announced November launch date and is now expected in January.
Nokia's RT Tablet?
Clover Trail is designed to utilize power management features in Windows 8. However, reports indicate that manufacturers' Clover Trail power management drivers have not been able to meet Microsoft's Windows Hardware Quality Labs testing, which is required for Microsoft certification.
The delay means that these Windows 8 tablets, as well as Lenovo's Clover Trail-based ThinkPad 2 tablet, will not be available for the big consumer buying season. Intel Core-based devices, such as Dell's XPS 12 Windows 8 tablet/laptop convertible, are available now.
Meanwhile, there are rumors that Nokia will be releasing its own, 10-inch Windows RT, ARM-based tablet by February. Although Windows RT does not run legacy x86 Windows apps and, reportedly, its sales have not met Microsoft's expectations, it has been receiving some good feedback from reviewers.
A big part of the apparent lack of sales, according to principal analyst Laura DiDio of Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, is "buyer confusion" over the differences between RT and Windows 8 tablets. In fact, Dell Vice-Chairman Jeffrey Clarke last week told analysts at the Dell World conference in Austin that, before the launch of the new Microsoft platform, he had asked Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer not to use the Windows brand name for the RT OS.
The reason, Clarke said, was because Windows meant a device was compatible with Windows applications. Microsoft has reportedly decided to relax its return policies to accommodate Windows RT customers who thought they were buying a device that could run Windows apps. Windows RT is designed to run on ARM-based processors, while Windows 8 is targeted at x86 processors.
Meanwhile, Consumer Reports magazine analyzed Windows 7 versus Windows 8, and this week told its readers that, unless there was a "compelling" reason to switch, don't. In fact, wrote Donna L. Tapellini on the magazine's blog, Windows 8 is "all about touch."
Which brings us back to tablets. DiDio said it's not yet clear if Windows tablets are a success, a failure, or somewhere in between. She noted that a key question, especially for RT tablets, is "where are the killer apps?" There are reports, DiDio said, that Microsoft engineers "are working over the holidays" to try and fill some of the app gap.