Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Software // Operating Systems
Commentary
8/19/2013
09:01 AM
Michael Endler
Michael Endler
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards

Forrester study finds that 62% of tablet users want keyboards, but that alone won't drive sales of Windows 8 for Microsoft.

Nearly two-thirds of knowledge workers (62%) who use or want to use tablets would prefer to do so with a keyboard, according to a new Forrester study.

For the study, Forrester surveyed 1,070 knowledge workers in North America and Europe. Some 35% of respondents said they would prefer a tablet that turns into a small laptop, while 27% said they would prefer a tablet that can be used with wireless keyboard accessories. Some 34% said they would prefer to use a tablet without a keyboard, and to switch to a computer for tasks that require heavy typing. Only 4% were unsure or had no preference.

But Forrester's study also reinforces how much tablets have begun to change the way people work. Some 35% of the study's respondents said their laptop use has declined since they began using tablets. As noted above, 35% also preferred laptop-like tablets. There's clearly a market for a do-it-all tablet that offers not only touch apps and mobility, but also access to legacy software.

[ Microsoft isn't the only tech vendor facing challenges. Read Time For Plan B At Intel. ]

This finding echoes an earlier Forrester study, which found more workers were interested in Windows tablets than in iPads. But that study was conducted before Windows 8 was released. As the sales record has since indicated, buyers liked the idea of a Windows tablet much more than what Microsoft actually produced. In retrospect, it seems survey respondents actually wanted a tablet that provided all of the appeal of an iPad or Android device but that also featured the IT-friendliness and software compatibility of a Windows tablet. What they have not wanted is Windows 8.

In the more recent study, Forrest also reported that 80% of workers would prefer to use a PC, tablet and smartphone in conjunction. This implies, Forrester noted, that some users want both a laptop and a tablet with a keyboard. The subtext is discouraging for Microsoft. Thanks to features such as SkyDrive, Windows 8 should excel in multi-device workflows. Nonetheless, users haven't been interested.

It's also striking that only 35% of survey respondents want a laptop-like tablet. The respondents were all knowledge workers -- the group most beholden to keyboards. Interest among general users is almost certainly lower. IDC recently said it expects touchscreen models to account for only 10% to 15% of laptop sales, which reinforces the idea that hybrid devices cater to a limited audience. If Microsoft can't even succeed within the group to which Windows 8 should be most appealing, what hope does it have -- even with Windows 8.1 -- for success in the larger market?

Indeed, the Forrester study's biggest implication is that people value a tablet's user experience above all other factors. It's useful if a tablet can handle laptop-style content creation, but keyboards and access to legacy software seem to be less important than a device's UI and catalog of mobile apps.

Windows 8 devices embrace keyboards much more aggressively than iOS and Android products do. So, at face value, the data is encouraging for Microsoft, especially with Windows 8.1 arriving in October to clean up the OS's interface. But that doesn't mean Microsoft can expect a holiday season rebound.

Windows 8 offers many features users care about, just not the main feature: a captivating experience. If Windows 8.1 can't address this core flaw, it's hard to see Microsoft rebounding in the mass market.

According to IDC, Windows tablets accounted for only 4% of all tablet shipments in the most recent quarter. Even in the enterprise, iOS and Android devices make up 86% of tablets, according to Forrester's data. If users like the form factor of Windows 8 devices, why have sales been so poor?

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
8/20/2013 | 9:47:31 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
Also, separate point about the laptop usage.

Forrester samples knowledge workers, who are more securely tethered to keyboards than most people. Introducing a tablet only has to reduce laptop use if one assumes that overall computing activity is static.

I, for example, have both tablets (with keyboards) and computers in my household. A few years ago, I had only computers. Today, I probably spend 20% of my time on a tablet and 80% of my time on a computer-- so in percentage terms, my PC usage has declined. However, I type a ton more today than I did a few years ago, which means I spend more time than ever before looking at a laptop. I also spend more time at my desktop working on other things that tablets aren't suited for, such as photo and video projects. My overall time spent at computers has increased by a huge margin. So in that sense, my PC use actually increased DESPITE the introduction of a tablet.

I might not represent a typical case, and I think you're probably right that, on the whole, most people spend less time on their PCs because they now have tablets.

But you can see why only 35% of knowledge workers would perceive that they're using their laptops or PCs any less, or that their laptops or PCs are any less essential. The number of them who do substantial typing on a tablet is predictably confined.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
8/20/2013 | 9:37:25 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
The dinner table analogy is pretty apt-- good thinking.

I agree-- the point of the 80% stat is that most people want to use smartphones, tablets, and PCs together - in some proportion or another - instead of a device that tries to be all things to all people.

Windows 8 built a lot of its appeal around consolidating a tablet and a laptop into one device, and Intel bought in too, by incorporating touch into the Ultrabook specifications. But it's turned out that while people don't mind a tablet that can take over for a laptop in a pinch, they still want real computers. They don't want to replace real computers as often as they replace smartphones and tablets, but they want real computers.

If Microsoft has its way, "real computers" will eventually include Surface Pro-like devices that get docked to a separate monitor and keyboard. The computer's form factor becomes even more modular, in other words. But we're a lot of consumer and enterprise hardware spending away from that vision happening. So the Forrester stats are interesting in the sense that they reinforce that one of Microsoft/ Intel's primary bets hasn't paid off.

The conversation gains another wrinkle because there ARE a minority of users who want a do-it-all device, and Windows 8 still hasn't capitalized on this niche.
ChrisMurphy
50%
50%
ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
8/20/2013 | 10:24:15 AM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
i hadn't thought of that point, it's a great observation that laptop use only declined for 35% since they began using a tablet. My own laptop use hasn't noticeably dropped -- I use a tablet for reading, taking notes and watching Netflix mostly. That low decline in laptop use casts some doubt on this being the post-PC era. At the least it suggests people are likely to still buy a whole lot of PCs in the post-PC era.
Thomas Claburn
50%
50%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
8/19/2013 | 8:05:54 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
It strikes me that the primary challenge Microsoft faces is how to navigate a balkanized market. Things were a lot more simple in the desktop era: Everything flowed from the Windows PC.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
8/19/2013 | 6:09:11 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
I was also surprised that laptop-like tablet were chosen by only 35%.

Interestingly, laptop-like tablets ARE the most popular option-- by 1%. With 34%, the next most popular option is the precise opposite: keep tablets and laptops completely separate.

It's telling, I think, that no single form factor enjoys a strong majority. Microsoft is trying to sell the Surface Pro as a tablet that's also a laptop, but it seems that only a minority of buyers really care about that functionality. The rest of buyers seem to prefer tablets that are capable in their own right, but that are nonetheless companions to, rather than replacements for, full-fledged computers.

Sure, a lot of people wouldn't mind a tablet that can take over more laptop duties. Everyone like convenience. But the stats imply that such functionality isn't a determining factor-- at least not to the extent that things like UI and mobile app selection are. A subset of people want the purposeful ergonomics of a Windows 8 hybrid, which is why I think commercial sales of Windows 8 will be okay. But many consumers and BYOD users seem just as happy to throw a Logitech keyboard on an iPad. It's not that Microsoft is wrong about keyboards being useful; it's that keyboards can't make up for what people don't like about Windows 8.
.
The subtext is that one of Windows 8's primary means of differentiation isn't all that important to a large chunk of potential tablet users. In many of the ways that Win 8 tablets overlap with iOS and Android tablets, iOS and Android do things as well or better, at least from the standpoint of general users. When Windows 8 offers something unique, it appeals to only a subset of buyers. Even though Forrester's study made no judgements about operating systems, studies like this add nuance to what's gone wrong with Windows 8, and what Microsoft can focus on fixing as it rolls out Windows 8.1, its new Surface devices, etc.
Alex Kane Rudansky
50%
50%
Alex Kane Rudansky,
User Rank: Author
8/19/2013 | 5:41:49 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
Interesting that only 35% want a laptop-like tablet. I would think that combination would be the most popular.
Lorna Garey
50%
50%
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
8/19/2013 | 3:11:55 PM
re: Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards
No, it'll be saved (or at least given a graceful and dignified exit) by Microsoft's patience and deep pockets.
Slideshows
11 Things IT Professionals Wish They Knew Earlier in Their Careers
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  4/6/2021
News
Time to Shift Your Job Search Out of Neutral
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  3/31/2021
Commentary
Does Identity Hinder Hybrid-Cloud and Multi-Cloud Adoption?
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  4/1/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Successful Strategies for Digital Transformation
Download this report to learn about the latest technologies and best practices or ensuring a successful transition from outdated business transformation tactics.
Slideshows
Flash Poll