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Windows tablets no more than 'niche' player in Q1, research firm says

April 25, 2013 02:50 PM ET

From the start, prices for Microsoft's own Surface tablets have been higher than prices charged by third party makers of Windows 8- and Windows RT-based tablets. Despite the availability of those lower-priced tablets, the platform has yet to rise above the single digits in market share.

King noted that confusion surrounding the Surface tablets late last year was compounded when Microsoft proclaimed it wanted to keep its plan for the device "top secret."

"A piece of hardware from guys with no track record of making any hardware successfully, with the exception of Xbox, combined with a totally new touch version of Windows, combined with a high price tag, is hardly the recipe for mass on-line purchasing," King said.

When Microsoft began selling the device in limited retail locations at the end of last year, it was too late to take advantage of holiday shoppers. "They totally missed the important buying season," he said.

"Today, distribution is still very limited and there are very few stores where you walk in and expect to see an RT or Windows 8 tablet," King added.

While Apple has 350,000 tablet apps, "Windows is starting from scratch with tablet apps. Right now it would be a hard call to choose to develop [apps] for Windows [over Android or iOS]. This is a crucial issue, because unlike for a phone, a tablet is not nearly as useful without great apps," King said.

He also noted that potential buyers have long been confused by Microsoft's tablet plan. "Was RT aimed at consumers? If so, why was Microsoft not filling consumer [sales] channels from day one? Why so highly priced? And is the Windows 8 tablet aimed at enterprises? If so, why would enterprises choose that over an ultrathin or convertible PC?"

King said part of his optimism about the future of Windows 8/RT tablets is based on new features that could come in the next generation Windows Blue operating system -- as well as price reductions.

"Microsoft's partners will be anxiously waiting to see what improvements can be made, and be hoping that they are made soon," King said.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at Twitter@matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed Hamblen RSS. His e-mail address is

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