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Windows 8, Surface Tablets to Lead Microsoft's Fight for Relevance in 2013

Shane O'Neill | Jan. 8, 2013
Microsoft made big bets on Windows 8, Windows Phone and Surface tablets in 2012, and now it needs to make those bets to pay off. As more consumers and businesses go mobile, 2013 will be Microsoft's most challenging year yet.

"You could tell things were out of sorts when there was a lack of hardware in retail-- and no coordination among OEMs at Best Buy and the Microsoft Store," he says. "I think it's because Microsoft turned on partners without much warning."

The Surface does have appealing features such as an elegant hardware design and ClearType high-resolution display, a nifty keyboard/cover and the inclusion of Microsoft Office, but the Windows App Store remains low on quality apps compared to iOS and Android, and right now there is "poor ecosystem leadership at Microsoft," says Kay.

In Microsoft's defense, the Windows Store now has 20,000 apps, quadrupling its size since the Windows 8 launch in October. But availability of blockbuster apps is still hit-or-miss.

"The reality is that Apple has the consumer locked and hardware partners are choosing Android over Windows," he says. "For so long, Microsoft was the one, but the company will have to get used to being one of many."

Windows 8 Will Keep Microsoft in the Game (But it Won't Be Easy)

The days of Windows dominance may be waning, but according to Forrester Research senior analyst David Johnson, Windows 8 will still keep Microsoft in the enterprise and consumer games in 2013.

Despite being a late entry in the mobile market with fewer apps and higher resource requirements than iOS and Android, Windows 8 still has big advantages even with its two-headed user interface, notes Johnson.

First, Microsoft is the only vendor with a tablet and desktop operating system in one, allowing one Windows 8 tablet to replace both a PC and a tablet, thus saving the customer money in the long run as well as potentially attracting developers. A Windows 8 tablet is also the only tablet that will run the full Microsoft Office 2013 suite.

Additionally, Microsoft touts enterprise management features within Windows 8, but that could be a double-edged sword on tablets, warns Johnson.

"Windows 8 still requires the same care as Windows 7, including patching, software deployment, provisioning and antivirus protection," he says. "At the same time, Forrester clients report they trust iOS devices for corporate use with comparatively few controls in place such as passcode enforcement and the ability to wipe the device remotely."

Johnson emphasizes that iPad adoption and management is an easier problem to solve for many businesses than permitting Windows 8 tablets, a trend that could become a major problem for Microsoft throughout this year.

Nevertheless, Johnson says he believes that by the end of 2013 Microsoft will be in a better position than many expect. More Windows 8 apps will be available and the tile-based user interface will grow on employees and consumers, he says. "We expect to see Windows 8 to slowly become a driving force behind BYOD [bring your own device]."


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