∞ Windows 8, Amazon tablets will hurt Android more than iPad

Microsoft last week unveiled Windows 8, the company’s new desktop and tablet operating. With the announcement, Microsoft joins Amazon as companies that are expected to enter the tablet market within the next 12 months. However, I don’t believe they will be taking much market share from the iPad, rather I think, gains will come at the expense of Android-based tablets.


I have to give credit to Microsoft for coming out with a strategy that’s different than Apple. I have been calling on companies to be innovative and not just copy Apple since the iPad was first released. Finally, someone is doing it.

There are still a lot of questions surrounding Metro, Microsoft’s tablet operating system, but we’ve seen where the company is going and it looks like they have a plan this time.

While Microsoft is clearly aiming for the iPad, I don’t think Windows 8-based tablets will have much affect on Apple’s popular device. Instead, Android tablets will suffer the brunt of Microsoft’s market share gains when its partners release products.

The reason, I believe, is very simple. People are looking for an alternative to existing Android tablets, but nobody is looking to replace the iPad.

Microsoft will have a built-in customer base with Windows 8, but previous projects like the Kin and Courier show that you can’t rely on that base to make a new product successful.

Apple customers these days are also Microsoft customers. The iPhone, iPod, and iPad transcend those operating system and company battles that have raged for decades. People are happy to run Windows and own an Apple device too.

Microsoft are going to have to prove they have a device that can beat the iPad — I don’t think they can do that.

What I think they can do is provide users with a viable alternative to Android. It’s an alternative that many people will try.


While I believe Microsoft will be successful in its tablet strategy, I also think that Amazon will be successful too. Again, this will be at the expense of Android-based tablets.

Amazon has a solid name among consumers. Millions of people shop there and they are trusted. As soon as Amazon comes out with a tablet, people will start buying.

Even though it will be based on Android, consumers will only see as far as the Amazon name. People will look at the device as an expanded Kindle rather than a tablet and buy it for that reason.

There is a whole subset of users that would be happy to have a tablet to read books, surf the Web and get email. That’s all they want, and all they need. Amazon’s tablet will be perfect for them.

Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple

All Apple has to do at this point is not screw up. If they continue releasing solid hardware and software, they will continue to rule the tablet space with little other effort.

Of course, I expect Apple to continue to innovate and maintain its wide lead on other manufacturers, but they could sustain the margin even if they sat still.

Microsoft and Amazon will offer solid alternatives to Android-based tablets and they will all fight for second place and whatever scraps are leftover from that.

The battle remains for second place.

  • Anonymous

    There’s hubris, and there’s (deserved) lack of humility, which I think are different things but often sound the same. Time will tell in which category this opinion falls.

    What I think is the key is that both Android and Microsoft have attempted to differentiate from Apple with a similar premise: that you can get “real work” done on their tablets. Or, put more broadly, their tablets are attempting to replace the laptop, while Apple’s tablet is attempting to live alongside it. That, I think, is the best reason to consider Microsoft to be taking Android customers: they’re going after the same market, which is a different (though how much different remains to be seen) market than Apple’s. They are each trying to convince consumers that they want to be in their market and not Apple’s, but they’re also fighting with each other for people already in that mindset.

    Amazon is, I think, in a better position (how much better, I don’t know) to compete directly with Apple. Their tablet, at least what we seem to know about it, is also, like iPad, a more focused device. And it’s got a focus that’s already familiar: for a while consumers had to figure out what they wanted to do with iPad. What position did it fill in their lives? The newest Kindle already has a well-defined space for itself. It’s going to try to expand on that space, but it has a large niche it comfortably inhabits. No one will have to ask, “What will I use it for?”

    My own experience is anecdotal and not very broad, but the people I know that either have made the choice or are considering the choice of an e-reader, they would rather purchase a Kindle (or a Nook) than an iPad. Though it’s worth noting that the main reason for this seems to be the readability and the comfort of the device: perhaps the newest Kindle (which, I understand, does not use e-ink) will lose out on those advantages.

    What Amazon has that Android and Windows didn’t is an already healthy ecosystem. It’s a different, more focused ecosystem than iTunes, but millions and millions of people already pay money to purchase things from Amazon: that’s an important segment.

    Then there’s this: as Horace Dediu often writes on Asymco, disruption usually comes from below. Could Amazon’s tablet be said to be coming from below? It’s “just” an e-reader. I do not believe that most people purchase an iPad just for e-reading. But what if I’m wrong and many people do? What if many consumers would, given the choice, spend less to get something optimized for e-reading and pass up on all the other things iPad excels at?

  • I believe 12 months is bravado and optimism on Microsoft’s part. They almost always announce something major before it’s ready to show, and they almost always take a lot longer to release it—with fewer features—than they originally promised. This is part of what happens when your Sales team drives your entire company’s culture.

    • Anonymous

      so true. we probably won’t see W8 Metro products in the market at scale until 2013.

    • Anonymous

      I’m guessing that you weren’t paying attention to the Windows 7 release schedule.

    • Anonymous

      They would have to get Windows 8 done in about 10 months from now in order to make the holiday season in 2012, and that is a complete impossibility. Even Microsoft says it will take longer than that, and they are always late. So we are looking at 2 more holiday shopping seasons before Windows 8 is released. So it will be a long time before we see any impact from Windows 8.

  • Anonymous

    I like that strategy. I like it a LOT!!!

  • Maybe you’re right, and 12 months is a long way away, but don’t forget that Microsoft has strong ties to business users. In that sense, Windows 8 tablets are a threat to the iPad.

    • Only if they work as well as whatever iPad is available by then.

    • Anonymous

      No, Microsoft has strong ties to CTO’s and CIO’s and I-T staff. They do not have strong ties to any users. Very, very few of their customers are users. It’s the users who drive a lot of I-T purchasing now, because Windows-based traditional I-T was totally unresponsive to core business needs. They just fed you the next Windows, whether it made you more productive or not. And then users started bringing in their own iPads and productivity soared. The game is up. You can’t make the users innocently accept the next Windows anymore. I was just working at a company where there was a user revolt against Windows 7, the users refused to go to training. They are happy with their iPads. They don’t want Windows 7. They do not hunger for Outlook and gray, gray Windows. So it is not that Windows 8 tablets are a threat to replace iPad; what it going on is iPad is replacing Windows XP PC’s as the standard in business computing. Now that iPad is going standalone with iOS 5, this is only going to get much, much worse for Microsoft. The fact is, you can see iPad paying for itself again and again even just over the first few months you put it into some role. Even with vast studies, it is hard to prove Windows 7 or Vista get you anything over XP in productivity, but it is easy to prove they cost an arm and a leg in I-T management.

      And also, users are getting hooked on Keynote, Pages, and Numbers for their office work. I have trained MS Office users on iPads and they are THRILLED that they can 1) find all the tools they need very easily, 2) that output always looks so good, 3) that they can carry all those tools with them 24/7 in their purse or briefcase without even noticing it is there. And the people who do the purchasing like that iWorks costs $30 per user and works on their phone as well, and costs $0 in IT hours to install, and almost no time to train.

      Things have fundamentally changed in business computing. People were asking for a simplified OS and simplified office tools and much more mobility and much more reliability for years and Apple delivered it. I don’t think Microsoft is going to have a chance to undo that reputation. They took thousands of dollars per year per seat for years to NOT deliver iPad. Then Apple comes out of nowhere, $499 plus $30 for iWork, almost no IT, almost no training, problem solved for 2 years.

      • Prof. Peabody

        I agree and have been seeing the same thing.  IMO the biggest indicator that Microsoft has still got the wrong end of the stick is what you mention about users wanting simpler mobile applications.  

        If Microsoft was really serious about users and mobile computing there would already be an iOS version of MS Word, or failing that, a serious attempt to make a “Metro Word” but in fact they are not doing either and apparently have no plans to do so.  

        A Windows 8 tablet, that requires the user to use the same old hyper-complicated version of Word that’s on the desktop, is a fail from the get go.  It’s rather obviously not what the users actually want and if the company is that disconnected from the users … well the writing is on the wall IMO.

  • Anonymous

    Obviously, being one year away is a huge disadvantage. But you can’t forget the advantages. Bugs get squashed and features are refined by millions of beta users. OEMs also get time to customize their hardware and services for the OS. The app store will also have thousands of tablet ready titles at launch. If only my Honeycomb tablet had gone through this process.  

    • I hope you’re correct about all of those things, but I don’t believe Microsoft will actually be that efficient about this project.

  • Driver Cyrus

    I don’t agree or maybe just cuz I’m one of those PC users that prefered to go for a iPad instead of a android tablet but after seeing what metro can do and lets not forget MS still has about a year more to tweak the OS I’ll defo be getting myself a win 8 tablet as soon as they become available my biggest problem with the iPad and iPhone is the lack of any filing system and having to always use an app & iTunes to transfer any data between the PC and devices atleat that won’t be a problem with win 8 to say the least.

    • Anonymous

      > my biggest problem with the iPad and iPhone is the lack  > of any filing system

      That is solved by installing Air Sharing.

      Air Sharing is equivalent to Finder on the Mac or Explorer on Windows: files, folders, FTP, WebDAV, zip files, file viewers of all kinds, including music and movies.

      You can live all day in Air Sharing if you want to, same as you might live all day in Explorer on a Windows PC. You can watch all your movies there, you can listen to all your music there, you can read all your documents, you can upload and download to your heart’s content.

      > and having to always use an app & iTunes to transfer > any data between the PC and devices

      Solved by installing Air Sharing.

      If you have Air Sharing running on your iPad, and your iPad is named “iPad,” then you can go to a Mac or Windows PC and connect to the WebDAV server “iPad.local” and a server icon will appear on your Desktop. That is your iPad. You can drag files on and off. There is no need to use iTunes to transfer anything.

      Once the files are on there, you can view them in Air Sharing’s viewers, or open them in any iPad app that can handle them. For example, a PDF document in Air Sharing has the option to “open in iBooks,” while a Word document shows “open in Pages,” and so on.

      This problem is also solved for users who don’t have Air Sharing by iCloud in iOS 5.

      > atleat that won’t be a problem with win 8 to say the least.

      That is not necessarily true. Very little is set in stone with regards to Windows 8 running on iPad class hardware. The hardware maker will have the option of enabling iPad-like security (which is the only security that has yet resulted in a 100% malware-free platform) because that is what users (especially corporate users) want. You may have to buy an Intel tablet for 2-3 times as much money and more weight and less battery life to be able to run Windows Explorer.

      And as I have pointed out, why would you need to? You could run Air Sharing on both iPad and iPhone for about 3 years before Windows 8 ships.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s great; Kindle will be around $350 for a 10 in. tab, and Samsung et al will have to go to $200-250 to clear inventory – I can’t wait until January for my android tablet at a bargain price!

    • Anonymous

      The color Kindle is said to be  $299 or $249 for a 7 inch tablet, which has 46% of the screen area of a 10 inch tablet.

  • Anonymous

    “With the announcement, Microsoft joins Amazon as companies that are expected to enter the tablet market within the next 12 months.” Um. Hasn’t Microsoft been in the tablet market continuously since 2000/2001?

  • Anonymous

    I think you are right, because there are only 2 ecosystems: Apple and Generic. Another generic tablet option will of course hurt the existing generic tablet options, not the Apple tablet options. To go from iPad to a generic tablet, that’s not just an operating system switch, it’s also a hardware switch, but worst of all, it’s a switch from Apple being your free I-T consultant to being on your own. Many people bought Apple devices in the first place just so they were not on their own with them, lost in a maze of I-T.

    So Windows 8 will be going for new tablet customers more than current ones. But Windows 8 tablets will not be available during the 2011 holiday shopping season, and they will not be available during the 2012 holiday shopping season. At the end of 2013, they will go head-to-head with iPad 4 running iOS 7. Good luck getting some mindshare in tablets at that point, when iPads are outselling Windows PC’s.

  • Cappac53575

    I disagree with your conclusion. Windows 8 will compete with ipad as it will be more expensive then android devices and run normal MS programs. A much more likely candidate to replace a desktop or laptop.

  • Anonymous

    I sort of see Windows 8 tablets competing with Android, because the marketing attack is similar: “real productivity”. Each seems to be saying “the iPad is limiting, we open up more possibilities.”

    So if you feel there is a segment of the market out there that, as a label, is the “replace my laptop” group, then Windows and Android are really fighting over that. I do believe that Metro, by virtue of it’s being different, will also get some of the other segment, that portion that iPad is going to score more highly with: those that understand and welcome the tradeoff of elegance and reliability in exchange for versatility.

    And Microsoft is definitely attempting an elegance, and as many have noted, it’s definitely different than iOS, and frankly I think it looks pretty cool and interesting. But I’d have to wait to try it, of course.

    (Note, I’m using the term “elegance” because I think it is the best word for it. I don’t mean “pretty” or even “stylish” though that’s part of it; I mean simplicity and efficiency and a combination of form and function.)

    But as long as Microsoft puts a marketing focus on being able to “be productive,” inasmuch as that is the focus of the marketing, then they are skewing towards the kinds of users that Android is targeting. And if that’s the way you are looking at the decision to purchase a tablet, then probably you’re not buying an iPad anyway. Whether Windows 8 takes customers from iPad will have to wait on the reaction to the shipping version.

    With Amazon, though, I disagree with the premise that it won’t compete with iPad. I see Amazon as having some significant things in common with Apple’s pre-iPad situation:

    –They already have a very popular device with which the market seems very happy –They already have a thriving ecosystem, which is perhaps more narrowly focused than the range of iPad apps but which is very mature –They have millions of experienced customers. They’re used to buying from Amazon, they’re used to receiving content over-the-air from Amazon and their experience doing so has been reliable and positive. –The ability to sell at a lower price. –Technophobe friendliness

    If you’re considering an iPad because it will make a good e-reader and it also does other things, then you may very well be more interested in a tablet $100 cheaper that will make a good e-reader (and comes from Amazon, after all) and also does other things. Perhaps there are fewer “other things”, but maybe that’s a trade-off you’d make.

    From what we’ve heard, Amazon has done an excellent job abstracting away Android. I’d guess many many users (most? almost all?) that would buy an Amazon tablet wouldn’t even know what Android is, or care.

    I guess I think Android goes right up against Apple because at their core the product strategies are very similar: “This device doesn’t do everything, but it does an important set of things very very well.”

  • Scott Earle

    I wish people would stop referring to Windows 8 as “Microsoft’s new operating system”. It is Microsoft’s future operating system, and the first developer preview version has been shown to developers – it may not be released for another year or so.