With the HP Slate 500 now available for purchase, some are wondering if Windows 7 is an effective operating system for tablets. For its part, Microsoft believes it is. The company has said time and again that it believes Windows 7 is ideal for customers that want more out of tablets than what they're currently getting from devices such as Apple's iPad or Samsung's Galaxy Tab.
However, Windows 7-based tablets just don't seem to be the best choice for customers. Microsoft's operating system suffers from some serious drawbacks that make it a less-than-ideal choice for both consumer and enterprise customers. As much as Microsoft might want to get behind its platform—as it should—the OS falls short in too many areas for it to be a real competitor to iOS or Android.
Here are the reasosns why Windows 7-based tablets just won't work as expected.
1. Tablets don't need full-fledged operating systems
Apple has proven that tablets just don't need full-fledged operating systems to be a success. The company's iPad boasts iOS, which, by all accounts, is far less capable than are Mac OS X and Windows. Samsung's Galaxy Tab runs Android, which is also under-powered compared with desktop alternatives. So far, consumers—and even some enterprise customers—haven't taken issue with that, and they aren't likely to in the future.
2. Security concerns
Security is a major concern for IT staff whenever an employee leaves the office. At least for now, Android and iOS are most likely safer than Windows. They still allow users to be susceptible to phishing scams, but Windows-based malware won't affect those operating systems. That eliminates a significant portion of the security concerns both companies and consumers currently have with operating systems.
3. Mouse and keyboard first
Even with Windows 7 in tow, it's important to remember that Windows was designed for use a mouse and keyboard. As a result, it won't work as well as it should in a tablet-style device. Android and iOS, on the other hand, were designed with touch screens in mind. That's an important distinction, and it will help drive consumer interest in those platforms.
4. Apple matters most
When it comes to tablets, it's hard to find a single company—Google included—that is as important as Apple. Steve Jobs and Apple were instrumental in bringing tablets to the mainstream. Apple's iPad is easily leading the way in the tablet space—at least so far. Could that change? Sure. But if that does change, it will no doubt be Google taking the top spot. Microsoft and Windows 7 just don't have what it takes to overcome Apple's importance in this niche market
5. Google is attracting vendors
Speaking of Google, the company is doing a fine job of attracting vendors. In fact, it's expected that, in addition to Samsung's Galaxy Tab, products that run Android will arrive on the market in 2011 from LG, Acer, and other providers. Considering both Microsoft and Google are offering an operating system for vendors to include in their products, the companies are competing for the same development dollars. So far, at least, Google looks to be ahead.
6. Tablets are an escape from Windows
Don't underestimate that part of the allure of a tablet is that it's an escape from Windows. Devices such as the iPad or the Galaxy Tab allow consumers to bypass most of the security concerns, as well as all the quirks that make Windows so useful on desktops, but less useful on tablets. When it comes to tablets, consumers want to use products that are designed with those form factors in mind. And, to date, Apple and Google are doing the best job of delivering on that.
7. There's a long history there
Let's not forget that Microsoft has been heavily invested in the tablet space for years. Windows XP Tablet Edition is one of the more notable tablet offerings extant. Yet, it never caught on much beyond the enterprise. It wasn't until Apple offered the iPad that tablets officially became a product for mainstream users. If Microsoft hasn't had success in the past, what would make one think it can turn this around in the future?
There is some debate over the viability of Windows 7-based tablets in the enterprise. On one hand, the operating system doesn't seem a good choice for companies that want a simple, intuitive experience for employees. However, Windows is heavily entrenched in the enterprise, and it's the operating system that employees know. It's hard to see Windows 7-based tablets becoming successful in the consumer market, but they might have a slight shot in the enterprise. Unfortunately for Microsoft, though, that won't be enough to take down Apple or Google.
9. The “time and effort” question
Running Windows 7 can be a pain. It is arguably one of the better operating systems Microsoft has released on the desktop, but it still requires constant attention from users regarding both security and general housekeeping. It's a robust operating system that doesn't offer the ease of use and simple upkeep that its competitors offer. That's not necessarily a problem on the desktop, where that kind of upkeep is expected, but it is a problem in the tablet space.
10. Software considerations
One of the key aspects of a tablet-based operating system is a healthy supply of simple third-party apps. Apple's App Store and Android Market are packed with mobile apps. But Microsoft's platform doesn't have a mobile app store, in that sense. Granted, Windows 7 boasts support for Windows programs, but is that what consumers are really looking for in a tablet? Some might say yes, but, when it's all said and done, one can easily argue that mobile apps will rule the day in the tablet space.
In the case of tablets, Android seems to be the future of the business. Microsoft need to work hard to create a little space in the tablet market.