Microsoft may end up facing even steeper competition in the tablet arena than it expected. Seeking to establish a a foothold in the tablet market at a lower price point than full fledged Windows 8 tablets, Microsoft developed Windows RT. Windows RT is a variation of Windows 8 that will run on tablets powered by ARM processors rather than Intel x86/x64 chips,. While the full details about Windows RT tablets aren’t yet available, the information that is out there makes it pretty clear that Windows RT tablets could be a tough sell to business and enterprise markets.
Competing just on business and enterprise features actually gives the iPad a leg up over Windows RT devices. Making the situation look grim for Microsoft, research firm IDC believes that the company may not be able to compete against the iPad on price in either the business or consumer markets.
IDC analyst Tom Mainelli told Computerworld that, based on his company’s research, Windows RT tablets are likely to sell in the same price range of the iPad or a possibly a bit higher. Mainelli and IDC peg the price range to be between $500 and $700.
That range is dead-on for the new iPad’s price points and $100 higher than the entry-level iPad 2. It’s significantly higher than the $199 range for e-reader tablets like Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes & Nobel’s Nook Tablet.
That price point could end up being a problem for Microsoft because it misses the entry-level consumer niche completely. Given that Windows RT (and Windows 8) is an untested platform without the range of apps that the iPad has established over the past two and half years, customers may very well be wary of the platform. After all, Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform and its Metro interface, which Microsoft is porting to Windows RT and Windows 8, hasn’t even made a dent in the smartphone market.
Windows RT will have some enterprise and device management capabilities, but it won’t use Active Directory and Windows Group Policies for management. That means retraining or retooling by IT departments in order to manage the devices. Without a more compelling price point, that could mean slow adoption by business and enterprise customers.
Group Policies can’t be used manage iPads, but there’s a very robust set of mobile management solutions that can manage iPads and iPhones including Apple’s free Apple Configurator. More importantly, the processes for managing, securing, and supporting the iPad are well established and are common knowledge. Without a better price point, that means that put Microsoft in a difficult and surprising place – competing with Apple in one of its core markets and doing so at a disadvantage.
Of course, these numbers are speculation based on the specs that Microsoft is dictating for Windows RT rather than fact. To date pricing for Windows RT devices hasn’t been announced. That being said, IDC’s estimates do track with estimates from other analyst firms like the Enderle Group, which is anticipating a $499 price point.