Photo: Illustration: Ellis Hamburger
Like every version of Windows, Windows 8 will probably do well on traditional PCs used by businesses. But Microsoft is betting that Windows 8 will also be an iPad killer.To do that Microsoft has made some very un-Microsoft decisions for its tablets. It will have two versions and they won’t run the same software. One will be geared toward consumers and may not be good for work. The other will be ok for work but might sacrifice on things like battery life.
Bits and pieces have been leaking about Windows 8 tablets including models, price, specs, apps and more. Before you buy, study up. If you choose wrong, you could be really disappointed.
Microsoft still hasn't said exactly when Windows 8, and tablets that use it, will arrive. We know they are slated to arrive in 2012. Most believe they'll be here in the fall, just in time for the holiday shopping season.
Thank goodness. Microsoft has stopped the version madness with Windows 8 -- sorta. There will still be four versions. The biggest difference is if they run on ARM processors or Intel processors. Versions for Intel are Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Enterprise edition.
These will be able to run Windows 7 software and turn off the Metro interface and use the old familiar Windows 7 style instead.
Microsoft and its partners plan to deliver more than 30 Windows 8-based tablets when Windows 8 arrives, according to Taiwanese publication Digitimes. We expect this first batch to include tablets from Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, Asustek Computer, and Toshiba. Nokia will have a tablet too, but is not expected to be among the first crop.
Some leaked images of HP's Windows 8 tablet, dubbed the HP Slate, gives us a taste of Windows 8 business tablets. This is an Intel tablet and it will include extra security features such as the ability to encrypt data stored on it in case it gets lost.
Microsoft isn't just worried about the iPad. It also wants to compete with Android tablets. So entry-level Windows 8 tablets are expected to be under $300 and high-end models, with specs comparable to the latest iPad, will cost around $1,000, says Digitimes.
Windows for Arm, now called Windows RT, will run a special version of Office designed for touchscreens. It won't run older Windows apps. Like a smartphone, you won't power it off. The screen will go dark. App developers have an option to write one new app that will work on both Intel and ARM versions of Windows 8.
Microsoft is sending mixed signals on how companies can use Windows RT tablets. It says that RT won't be able to connect to Microsoft Active Directory, which is how companies let employees connect to their networks. Only the Windows 8 Pro version can do that.
But It now says it will offer some enterprise security features for RT for companies that buy Microsoft's new computer management software, System centre 2012.
Microsoft has selected Dolby Digital Plus for the audio for Windows 8 on tablets and PCs. So music should sound good. BUT Windows 8 won't include Media centre in all versions. You'll have to buy it as part of an upgrade. Media centre was designed for using a PC with a remote control to do things like watch and record TV and play DVDs and music.
Microsoft will be releasing a Nook app for Windows 8 with a rev-share model as part of its $300 million investment in a new joint venture with Barnes & Noble. It's even possible that there could be a Windows 8 Nook-branded tablet, too.
Windows 8 will come with a bunch of pre-installed apps including mail, calendar, and links to its cloud SkyDrive which includes freebie cloud versions of things like Word, Excel, PowerPoint. The rest of the Windows 8 apps will be found on Microsoft's app store.
Intel expects the first crop of Windows 8 tablets to have 9 hours of battery life, and expects them to come in two form factors: a 10-inch regular tablet, and an 11-inch 'convertible' that turns into a regular laptop computer with keyboard.
Other specs: less than 1.5 pounds (like the iPad), 9mm, includes near-field communications which can be used for wallet-like payment apps, and will use WiFi Direct to let them connect to each other in addition to a WiFi network.
With its late launch, Microsoft won't sell too many Windows 8 tablets in 2012, particularly Windows RT, predicts tablet market research firm NPD DisplaySearch. It expects Microsoft to sell about 4 million tablets, nabbing a mere 1.5% of the market in 2012. That will grow, but will still be peanuts compared to iPad sales, even by 2016.