Apple Doesn’t Need To Worry About Windows 8 On ARM, But Android Does

Apple Doesn’t Need To Worry About Windows 8 On ARM, But Android Does

Microsoft released a number of important details about its plans for Windows 8 on Arm (WOA) tablets. WOA tablets will focus on having a long battery life as well as being light, thin, and inxpensive. They will feature some traditional Windows elements but have a focus on the Metro interface pioneered on Windows Phone and included as the default on all Windows 8 machines. They can be thought of as Microsoft’s response to the iPad, which will certainly be their biggest competition.

Not surprisingly, many of the first pieces discussing the announcements to hit the media have struck on the “Apple should be worried” theme and have used the fact that WOA tablets will include the major Microsoft Office apps to backup that assumption.

It’s a foregone conclusion Microsoft will shake up the tablet market when Windows 8 ships, which is expected to be sometime before the end of this year, with both WOA tablets and Windows 8 tablets built around more traditional PC hardware like x86/x64 processors. Microsoft says all Windows 8 flavors will ship around the same time.

Although WOA tablets had been announced as part of Microsoft’s overall Windows 8 strategy, very little information was availavle before yesterday. Here’s a recap of the major points from the WOA announcement made by Windows President Steven Sinofsky.

  • WOA will ship only on WOA tablets – no install media that could be used to run it on other hardware
  • WOA will only run the built-in apps included by Microsoft and those designed around Windows 8’s new Metro interface and sold through the Windows Store – no legacy apps, x86 emulation, no way to port traditional Windows apps to the platform
  • Microsoft will work closely with manufacturers to ensure a consistent hardware experience that is designed to have a consumer electronics feel rather than a PC feel
  • The Metro interface and experience will be the same one WOA devices as Windows 8 PCs and tablets
  • The Windows desktop, oriented around a touch experience and the Metro UI, will be available with some Windows elements like the Control Panel, Taskbar, and Windows Explorer
  • Desktop and fully function versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that are optimized for touch will come pre-installed

It’s clear Microsoft is making an effort to deliver a true mobile experience on WOA devices, and that it has taken some tactics from Apple’s playbook when it comes to being much more hands-on with the hardware design (as is the case with Windows Phone), with moving away from legacy apps to develop a better mobile experience, and in using an App Store model.

Will that be enough to be a true iPad competitor? Probably. I think the overall effort will result in a more refined user experience than is found on most Android tablets – largely because of the concerted effort towards an integration between hardware, OS, and applications. That integrated user experience is what makes the iPad (and other Apple products) as excellent and successful as it is.

One piece of the puzzle many pundits are seizing on as the iPad-killing feature is the inclusion of full-featured versions of Office. As nice as that will be as a feature, it seems to miss the point that there are some really solid Office alternatives available for the iPad. Quickoffice, Documents to Go, and Office2 are all excellent options (better than iWork in several respects). That makes it hard to see Office alone as a way WOA can outshine the iPad.

Will WOA devices push the iPad out of the tablet space? No. Microsoft is pretty late getting to this party. The iPad’s installed base, the diversity of app options, and the integration with Apple’s ecosystem mean that Microsoft is going to need to come with something much more spectacular to get a significant number of iPad owners to switch.

While WOA may attract some potential iPad buyers, how many will really be up to how the hardware performs, how it’s priced, and on the app ecosystem Microsoft is able to create – all of which are pretty much unknowns at this point.

Quite frankly, WOA devices are going to be the new netbook. I can see them impacting traditional PC and Android tablets long before that make a significant dent to the iPad. In fact, the truly integrated design and user experience focus Microsoft is going with will stand out more significantly compared to Android and positioning WOA tablets as Android tab killers much more than iPad killers.

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  • sn0wball

    well put

  • prof_peabody

    Having a good version of Office on ARM is still rather worrying to me in terms of the iPad’s prospects.  I use my iPad specifically and almost exclusively for writing.  I moved all of my writing projects to it last year and now never use anything else so I’m quite up on the state of Word Processing on the iPad and frankly it’s rather poor.  

    Pages is the only serious word processor you can buy.  Most of the note taking apps leave a lot to be desired also.  The other programs you mention are just add-ons that help you work with Word files rather than serious word processors in their own right.  Apple has also (bewilderingly) not tied Pages to it’s desktop counterpart at all and one simply cannot move files back and forth between the tablet and the desktop without major problems of all kinds.  

    If MS Word came out for iOS in a useable form with a well designed UI, Pages would die a very quick death on both the desktop and the mobile IMO.  Like many apple products, it’s a better design than Word in many ways and easier to use but the caveat is that it works in a very different way than every other word processor and therefore needs to be learned and deliberately switched to.  In other words there is a steep slope for the user to navigate if they want to switch from Word to Pages.  

    The next Word Processor for iOS that reads and writes Word file formats will sweep the floor.  I’m hoping this will still be Pages, but if it’s not .. Pages is history.  

  • vistarox

    Couldn’t agree more. Google needs to step up their game in the tablet market. Right now the best tablets are:
    1. iPad
    2. Windows 8
    3. Android (a distant third)

  • Guest

    Android tab is just like linux popularity in PC. I’m not a fan of iPad either. They’re just toys in the mobile world. If I just want e-reader, i’ll rather buy the cheaper kindle. But if true experience I want when in it comes to productivity in a serious business environment, Windows 8 is the practical choice. Hey, if I can have both worlds where I can play, work and be entertained, why should I buy expensive iToys/iDroids?

  • 300AShareMakesMeSmile

    Would someone please explain this belief that everyone is going to be clamoring for a Windows tablet now when nearly no one has wanted a Windows tablet for the past ten years?  What exactly has changed?  I’m sure all the past Windows tablets supported Flash, USB, pen/stylus input, MS Office and every other desktop Windows application.  Were consumers pounding the table begging for Windows tablets?  Hell, no.  You couldn’t even force consumers to take a clunky Windows-based tablet.  In a way, it’s almost admitting that Apple set the standard on how to build a tablet and tablet ecosystem now that Microsoft is suddenly going full force.  It’s practically admitting that Microsoft sat on their asses for years with the tablet market without even breaking a sweat until Apple challenged them.

    So, now that Apple had the foresight to build a tablet in the form of the iPad that consumers actually are fighting to own, Microsoft, Windows PC vendors and Windows fanbois are suddenly and absolutely sure that consumers are just dying to get their hands on some Windows on ARM tablet.  Tell me exactly what has changed from the last ten years that has cleared consumers’ eyes to realizing they desperately want a Windows tablet.  The Windows fanbois are always arrogantly disparaging Apple about how they build “toys” because their products are simple for non-tech consumers to use.  It never occurs to the Windows geniuses that average consumers want a simple to use device and they’re mocking those users and Apple for providing that for them?

    If corporations are starting to adapt Apple devices, it’s because it’s consumer and employee driven demand or don’t the Windows fanbois quite get this concept.  The corporations are not forcing Windows devices down employees throats anymore.  Employees are getting a choice that wasn’t offered before.  Consumers and employees are bringing what they have to work and that’s Apple devices because it’s what they enjoy using.  If paying consumers don’t want Windows 8 tablets, then they’re not going to succeed.  I’ll need to see this proof that consumers will actually get more use out of a Windows 8 tablet than an iPad.  Don’t talk to me about things like file system access.  That should be the developer’s job using an API.  A non-tech user doesn’t give a damn about that stuff.  It has not been proven that consumers all want pen input either.  That remains to be seen.  I’m not knocking Windows 8 tablets before they’re even on sale, but the fanbois need to stop this nonsense of how a Windows 8 tablet is more useful than an iPad when consumer versions of a Windows 8 tablet don’t even exist yet.

    Apple should be worried?  Please.  Do fanbois even have a clue what Apple can do with $97 billion dollars in the bank and 300+ Apple global retail stores?  Fanbois think Microsoft merely has to place a Windows 8 tablet on the table and consumers will run out and buy them?  I doubt very much they’ll be as excited by Windows on ARM as Windows fanbois are.  The fanbois also think Microsoft and partners will be able to undercut the iPad in price?  Unlikely, since a WoA tablet will definitely require greater hardware resources than an iPad running iOS.  Apple already has a fairly decent consumer base in the tablet industry and Wall Street seems to be backing up that fact.  Apple can clearly throw more money at the tablet industry than Microsoft, so this isn’t the same as way back when Microsoft was the 800 lb. gorilla.

  • freighttrain2126

    I would actually put the play book ahead of Andriod on that chart.

  • 5imo

    How would windows 8 be more productive than iOS? for a start windows 8 has 0 apps, and it dosent look like the masses of new iOS and Android developers will jump ship “Windows has shit loads of developers” I hear you say, well most produce poorly designed crap and do the minimum to keep up with microsoft stealing from the competition I mean innovating. Do you seriously think they will rewrite all there apps for ARM and touch? even with out 3rd party support Win8 will have Office so will the iPad if recent trends continue. On the desktop; Office vs iWork: no competition, Pages is twice as good as Word and Publisher combined while being really simple and powerful.  Keynote Vs PPT: Keynote, as it cuts out the crap and simplifies production. Numbers Vs Excel: Excel as it has more functionality.

  • ddevito

    Windows 8 is nice – you’ll like it

  • gigaSproule

    Why should Apple be worried? True, WOA seems like a stripped down version, but as the standard Windows 8 can run EVERYTHING that has ever been developed for Windows 7 and for Windows Phone 7, popularity will ROCKET, attracting developers and the demise of the iPad. That is why they should be worried.

About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

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