A 7″ Microsoft Tablet?

It’s not a good idea.  Well, it *COULD* be, if Microsoft did it right, but they’re not going to…

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal announced that Microsoft is planning to spin up production of a 7″ Windows based, Surface branded tablet later this year.  The tablet is intended to compete with Apple’s iPad mini and the Google Nexus 7. The question one has to ask is whether this is an RT or x86 compatible device.

I think the RT model could work for a 7″ device if the price and margins were right.  Windows RT doesn’t completely suck as an OS or even as an interface. Its usable; though not very popular.  The problem is the ecosystem is extremely immature and there’s little to no native software.  Microsoft could solve part of that if it allowed Windows Phone 8 apps to run on Windows RT, but this isn’t currently the case.

7inchtablet

Intel’s Clover Trail processor can provide a decent x86 option in powering a 7″ MS Surface tablet providing power and battery life at a reasonable price point, but I don’t see Microsoft using the x86 platform and Windows 8 on a 7″ device.  We’ve proven over and over again that full blown Windows on a smaller device (phone or tablet) is not what we want (part of that was due to lack of horse power in that form factor, the other that the apps weren’t designed to run on the smaller screens). People would still try to run Photoshop, or similar desktop app, on their 7″ tablet in this scenario, and it would definitely [still] suck.

I think this is not so much a “can we” but perhaps more of a “[what] should we [do]” situation. IF MS has a plan, now would be the time to publish that, make it known, and then move towards it with expediency.  They don’t have much time left.  The PC market appears to actively be in free fall. Without a clear plan that all of their partners and customers can see and support, I don’t see Microsoft being relevant for much longer.

Believe me when I say I am NO fan of ModernUI.  Windows RT/8’s ModernUI is  the most un-Windows version of Windows in the [modern] history of Windows.  It’s a complete unWindowing of Windows; and Microsoft should not use the Windows name with RT at all. It’s a huge marketing mistake that many industry pundits will attest to.

While neither you or I may like ModernUI, Microsoft could make it work, if it did a little bit of work and enhanced the ecosystem or changed their marketing, or did almost anything to right the ship. Currently, there are no signs that any of this is happening.  As such, introducing a 7″ tablet into the mix is going to do nothing for Microsoft except create an unprofitable cost center.

I think the thing that bothers me the most about this entire situation is, again, that pundits everywhere are panning Windows RT, Windows 8 and ModernUI.  Consumers are looking at alternatives, including tablets, Linux, and Macs. PC sales, regardless of operating system, are in free fall.  Windows 7 adoption is either steady or flat; and Windows 8 adoption is far below that of Vista. For Microsoft, none of this is good.

What other information does Microsoft need before it takes appropriate action?  It kind of makes you wonder if Ballmer, or anyone at Microsoft, is paying attention, or cares.  If I were a shareholder. I’d file  a formal complaint with the SEC at this point, if for NO other reason than to get Microsoft’s attention. It may not do anything in the long run, but it WOULD get press, and would likely require some sort of formal, public response.

Microsoft needs to take these issues seriously; and though they MAY be internally, from an external perspective, they are asleep at the wheel. Unfortunately, there are a couple icebergs in their direct path.  The 7″ tablet with their current marketing plans – price points, margins, etc. – operating systems and UI’s are NOT going to provide a competitive solution and are not the right choices.

Microsoft needs to act.  Based on this news, they are just throwing good money after bad. Why would MS offer an RT tablet, simple – because it offers choice.  Windows  RT doesn’t work if its comparatively priced with the iPad.  An RT tablet needs to be priced between $149 and $199 to work. Microsoft needs to find a way to get there, or they need to get out of the tablet market. They won’t do that at $399 to $599.  They have to make it crazy cheap or it will never take off.

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