Late start means Windows 8 tablets will fail, warns Forrester

By Preston Gralla

Windows 8 tablets will be so late to market that there's a good chance that they'll fail, warns a new report from Forrester. The only hope, the report concludes, is if Windows 8 tablets are much less expensive than the competition, and chockfull of compelling content.

The new report was done by Forrester analysts JP Gownder and Sarah Rotman Epps. It found that in the first quarter of 2011, Windows tablets was consumers' top choice, with 46% of consumers wanting one. By the third quarter, it found, it had dropped to 25%. And that was before the release of the Kindle Fire and NOOK Tablet.

Gownder, in his blog, pulls no punches, saying that "Consumers' interest in Windows tablets is plummeting...Microsoft has missed the peak of consumer desire for a product they haven't yet released."

Gownder believes that Microsoft may well have missed its window of opportunity for tablets. He notes that companies that are "fast followers" in their markets often succeed, and has this to say about Microsoft:

For tablets, though, Windows really isn't a fast follower. Rather it's (at best) a fifth-mover after iPad, Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, HP’s now-defunct webOS tablet, and the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. While Windows' product strategists can learn from these products, other players have come a long way in executing and refining their products -- Apple, Samsung, and others have already launched second-generation products and will likely be into their third generation by the time Windows 8 launches.

He concludes:

For product strategists, Windows 8 tablets provide a cautionary tale: To be a fast-follower, you must amp up the experience -- and do so quickly, before the market changes beyond recognition. Windows 8 tablets must provide consumers with a more differentiated product experience than it otherwise would have, had Microsoft entered the market sooner.

I think Gownder is on target. By the time the first generation of Windows 8 tablets are available, the iPad, Android tablets, and media consumption tablets like the Kindle Fire and NOOK Tablet will have the market sewn up. They'll also be several generations in development, while Windows 8 tablets will be in the first, with its inevitable bugs and issues to work out.

So unless Windows 8 tablets are extremely inexpensive and come packed with unique content, they'll have a very hard time competing.

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