Can Windows 8 Tablets Compete with the iPad?

Can Windows 8 Tablets Compete with the iPad?Microsoft is putting a lot on the table with the upcoming release of Windows 8. Not only will it be the most significant change to the platform’s UI since Windows 95 first appeared almost twenty years ago, but it also signals the latest in a long history of attempts by Microsoft to get a firm grip on the tablet and mobile markets.

Just about everyone can remember Microsoft’s early attempts at putting Windows on a tablet platform. The interface, which itself has evolved quite a bit since the days of Windows 95, and even XP, was poorly suited for the touch market, making early tablets released by manufacturers such as Dell a hard sell to general consumers. The medical field still uses Windows-based tablets today to some extent, allowing doctors to examine digital x-rays and other important information en route to a patient’s room, and even share the information with the patient in a format that makes sense.

That said, there really hasn’t been a following of Windows tablets in the consumer market, especially since Apple redefined what a tablet computer could be with the release of the iPad. For the first time, an OS that was built from the ground up with touch and mobile in mind became the primary operating environment for a touch-screen portable computer.

Currently, the iPad holds rank at an astounding 96% of all enterprise tablet computer purchases, and Microsoft wants nothing more than to grab some of this very profitable market for itself. Mobile phones are also an area in which Microsoft is losing ground, with the iPhone holding 53% of the enterprise market there, as well.

It stands to reason that Microsoft would latch on to this growing mobile trend by offering a mobile solution that fits the needs of the enterprise market. We’ve stated before that Windows 8 could lose a great deal of its desktop market should the UI strategy with Windows 8 on desktops fail. After all, what are the chances at businesses adopting a UI if it is largely rejected by consumers?

This is a tale that is yet to be told, though for the purpose of this article, we’ll examine what we know about Windows 8 on ARM and compare its potential with the iPad. While there is still quite a bit we don’t know, there are a few key points we do.

So, how would Windows 8 tablets compete with the iPad, given our current knowledge of the situation?


Microsoft has been burned by high-prices in its previous tablet attempts, with some of the lowest-priced tablets running around $700 and others reaching well over $1,000. This is the result of manufacturers working more laptop into tablet designs to cope with a largely ill-optimized UI for touchscreen interfaces. With Windows 8, an ARM edition promises to deliver the more touch friendly experience of Metro to the forefront, putting the aging Aero interface far into the background. It’s rumored at this point that Microsoft will actually put Aero on the sidelines for this particular edition of Windows 8.

That said, the pricing model for Windows 8 will likely follow along the same lines of Windows Phone 7, giving it a more competitive edge in the tablet market than previous editions of Windows. At this point, we don’t have any numbers from third-party manufacturers as to the price of these devices, and whether or not they will be higher or lower than comparable iPad models.

The iPad itself is no budget device. Made from high-quality materials, the iPad stands toe-to-toe with high-end Android devices while being steeply undercut by the budget market including the Kindle Fire. Android tablets can also be quite pricey, hitting price points well above the iPad in some cases.

One thing is for sure, price is an important factor. While Android may be available for less, the sweet spot for consumers is around the $500 mark. If Windows 8 has any chance at competing in the consumer market (and by proxy the enterprise level) it needs to be available at or below this point.

Edge: Uncertain

Network Options

Microsoft isn’t as limiting as Apple when it comes to network availability. Microsoft is simply a software company, making its operating system available to a number of manufacturers that each have their own network agreements. It stands to reason that unlike Windows Phone 7, Windows 8 may be adopted by a wider range of manufacturers looking to cash in on a more powerful mobile operating system.

At the present moment, Dell, HP, Nokia, and Sony are said to be developing Windows 8 tablets. Undoubtedly, these manufacturers will seek to make their products available for a wide range of 3G/4G service providers.

The iPad, by comparison, is only able to connect to specific service providers. You couldn’t buy an iPad and have it connect to T-Mobile’s broadband service without tinkering with the OS through jailbreaking. This is one of the limitations of the device itself, giving the edge to Windows 8 in terms of network options and availability.

Edge: Windows 8

Hardware Options

If you buy an iPad, you have a very specific set of hardware options to choose from. You can get the iPad with your choice of a handful of storage capacities and opt for wireless broadband capability. If you want a tablet running iOS, you have to buy an iPad. That’s it.

Windows 8, in the spirit of all Windows operating systems, can be run on any number of potential hardware configurations from virtually any manufacturer willing to pay the licensing fees to put it on their hardware. This is the very reason Microsoft beat Apple in the early days of desktop computing. Windows, like Android, gives the user choice when it comes to hardware.

Edge: Windows 8


Microsoft is working with three key manufacturers at the present moment to create processors for Windows on ARM (WoA) including: Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, and Nvidia. This chipmakers area already working with the ARM standard in the tablet world, with healthy Android tablets currently running impressive processing circles around technology that was cutting edge only two years ago.

The newest iPad is running the A5X chip, an impressive technology which is also based on ARM architecture.

Where Microsoft may be at an advantage is through competition. Three leading chipmakers, all searching for something bigger and better to include in the next Windows 8 (or Android) tablet will undoubtedly be creating new and exciting technologies to plug in to these devices. Furthermore, we’ve already seen that Kal-El quad-core ARM processors do an amazing job with Windows 8.

While we still don’t see any Windows 8 tablets in the wild, it’s hard to overlook the power of competition.

Edge: Windows 8


Windows 8 has very few Metro apps currently available, with more undoubtedly in the works as developers prepare for its eventual release. Microsoft has prided itself on being a great platform for developers, staying somewhat open and less controlling than Apple. However, Windows 8 is somewhat different.

The introduction of an app store to Windows changes things a bit. For the first time, we could very well see Microsoft following Apple’s lead in terms of app management and availability. In order to appear on the Windows Marketplace, you need to pass through the sniff test. This makes it easier for consumers as it takes away the guessing game surrounding potentially malicious software available in the wild, though it does tighten restrictions a bit on developers.

Apple has a pre-existing library of available apps that reach into the hundreds of thousands. In addition, these apps are built with a specific set of hardware specifications in mind, making each app as compatible with one iPad as it is another.

As we’ve seen with the Android platform, a minor difference in hardware can make or break an app’s compatibility. You also can’t discount that the iOS platform has been around for years, with a very active and healthy developer community. It’s hard to give the edge to Windows 8 at this point.

Edge: iPad

Service and Support

If you have a problem with an iPad, you know exactly who to go to in order to have your problem resolved. Apple provides post-sales support, extended warranties, and more to anyone that purchases an iPad.

Microsoft, on the other hand supports just the software. Manufacturers are generally called upon to provide troubleshooting with the customer, making things a little more confusing.

When I think about service and support, I think about how easy (or difficult) it would be for my parents to get the device fixed when something goes wrong. With an Apple product, you know exactly who to call and where to go. With Windows, this is entirely dependent on the manufacturer’s willingness to provide good and consistent support to its customers.

Edge: iPad

Screen Size/Resolution

The iPad has a remarkably powerful technology backing its display. With over a million pixels more than a giant 1080p HD television set, the iPad has the clearest and most detailed display currently available in the consumer market.

Microsoft has promised support for these resolutions, stating that it supports a wide variety of resolutions from a multitude of different devices at a number of different aspect ratios. Windows 8 is built to work on a wide range of devices while the iPad is a single device in itself, with a set resolution and aspect ratio.

Where Windows 8 is more flexible, Apple has the advantage of being the only manufacturer currently producing a tablet with anywhere close to supporting 264 ppi. The edge goes to the iPad, but only until another manufacturer comes out with a Windows 8 tablet that meets or beats this capability.

Edge: iPad

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to compare an operating system to a single hardware device, though it is quite possible to speculate based around what a given operating system is capable of running on. HP, Dell, Nokia, and other manufacturers will undoubtedly be competing to produce the biggest and best Windows tablet possible around launch.

Microsoft is throwing everything it has at the mobile market with Windows 8, and just about everyone in the tech world has weighed in on whether or not it’s too late for Windows to make a splash in the tablet world.

Bottom line: We don’t know very much about the upcoming Windows 8 tablet market. Whether or not manufacturers step up, developers hop on board, or even if consumers will want to buy these things is still up in the air. If you asked anyone at Microsoft, they’re likely keeping all fingers crossed that the answer to every one of these questions is yes.

What do you think? Could Windows 8 tablets provide strong competition to the iPad?

18 comments On Can Windows 8 Tablets Compete with the iPad?

  • If the tablet can do better like a desktop, supports several devices/peripherals like external drives, mouse, keyboard, usb, etc., why not? Why should I limit myself into just browsing, playing, and do any minor work? I should definitely get Windows 8 that can do better than my current iPad2.

    •  I agree. After all I’m typing this on my Latitude, not my iPad 2. Also, I know that the tablets and androids will shortly work with the TPM and advanced security from the Trusted Computing Group. Whether Apple goes that way is still up in the air, and real security for critical data become more important every day.

    • So, a keyboard and a mouse = productivity?

      • For many many jobs yes. But I don’t think that’s the whole meassure of a tablet.

        Microsoft has a bit of a tough road ahead, Windows 8 has potential but it will be a difficult balancing act between easy of use and capabilities.

    • I have to ask you… Why do you feel a Tablet needs to be more like a Laptop/Desktop? It’s really not intended to but with the Windows 8 Tablets, it certainly will be more productive than an iPad as your favorite Windows Titles will most definitely be made available (perhaps not Metro ready but can run in “Desktop” aka Aero).

      Yes, a lot of cloud solutions exist for the iOS but the truth is, it doesn’t have near the power or possibilities as Windows 8, on-say, a Samsung Series 7 Slate as you can run it not only on your Primary machine (Desktop/Laptop) but the experience will be the same and continue working even on the go but will also be a highlight of Windows 8 (not having to re-learn something).

      Also, you can speak or even use handwriting with the Windows 8 Tablets… Why not write your password with a Stylus? You can also dictate to write a letter or Tweet… Keyboards are not needed with the new Windows on a Tablet, the world has evolved and Microsoft is at the front of the line to show you.

  • metro easily  can  but not with aero like it is right now , surely microsoft has seen the feedback about this 

  • I think the price will not be a problem. It will fall because of market competition. There are more different hardware developers for microsoft/linux based systems than iOS and MacOS systems. The big problem for microsoft will be their release cycle. Linux release a lot of different systems and updates and Microsoft have a lot of time between launch of new systems. So if win8 fails, they are screwed. 
    I really hope they bring something new to the game instead of ripping of an Ipad.

    I don’t own a tablet myself, but have tried an Ipad for a few months. It is okay, but the thing i really miss about tablets in general is a pen (and handwriting recognition software) so that I could use it as an alternative to pen and paper in meetings (and in general for scribbling down good ideas and notes). I don’t think tablets are “grown-up” yet. They need a good basic text editor, easy access to compilers and stuff like mathlab, remote desktop/server access, task manager, videoeditor and photoshop (a usable version) and the list goes on. Tablets are good at few things right now (like internet acces on the go). I really hope that Microsoft and Apple will take care of these things so that the laptop truely could be replaced. (Hey i know this is a lot. Casual users may never use these things, but it is critical for companies and commercial use).

  • The only thing that the ipad and windows 8 devices have in common is a tablet form factor.  I can see how people see this as ipad vs windows, but I don’t.

    Windows is… windows.  It’s a productivity OS.  When you buy a windows machine, you’re not buying an overglorified media player or toy.  You are buying a FULL pc.

    An ipad is not a pc.
    A mac is a pc.

    So what is windows 8 competing with?  A mac?  An ipad?  Both?

    Imo, most people who’ll go for a win8 tablet are people who have no use for an ipad or droid.

  • The American market for Apple iOS devices is insane! You just buy an iPad here in Europe and you decide what network you use. You aren’t locked to a provider. How come consumers have put up with this for so long?

    If anything I hope more open Windows 8 devices will force Apple to reconsider its approach in the USA.

    As far as the Windows 8 question. Well, I think only a fool would discount Microsoft. But we won’t know for sure until the Windows 8 tablets launch. I do like your article, it summarizes the situation well. I think it will largely come to capabilities, vs. simplicity. No question about it, Windows 8 tablets will be more capable, but can Microsoft manage to do this without making it too complicated? Only time will tell…

  • Derrickrebello

    I agree. The Ipad has created a serious craze for others to try and get a piece of the pie. I own several tablets, the iPad 2, and the new iPad. The galuxy 10″, and Motorola xoom ( unfortunately). I just love apple but also get excited for the tablets to come out. Maybe one will top the IPad one day!

  • The only thing that can be better on windows than anywhere else is in apps, but with ARM, that good thing is not there anymore, plus i dont see where you can do more with a windows 8 tablet when you dont have more than 100 apps available…

  • I think that iPad has the edge on pricing, at least here in Australia. If you compare prices for current hardware (Samsung Series 7 Slate) there is currently a significant price difference between US and AU $ for the same equipment (up to 77% more expensive).

    With Apple, the difference is less than 9% different:

    I accept the iPad may do less in the long run but cost is extremely important to a consumer.

  • I used to sell retail electronics & computers- up until a major car accident last year.  Anyway, I can tell you that the general public conception of iPad is the exact same as for the iPod- that it is the “true, first, best” device, and all others are lesser-thans & imposters. Most people who were shopping for mp3 players would ask for an iPod- when I asked if it had to be an actual iPod- or would another brand do- they would look at me and say, “aren’t they all iPods?”. The name “iPad”, becomes synonymous with “tablet computing”- there isn’t any other contender as long as this is the conception. All the techie-talk in the world doesn’t sway the majority, it seems.


  • Why do you think that a tablet is a tablet and a laptop is a laptop. There are hybrids that you can use as a tablet and a laptop. Why would you cary two devices with you if one is enough? I admit that you would most likely use the aero interface if you are using a keyboard / mouse and you would use Metro if you are using toutch.

    More important however is the integration with the rest of a bussiness network. Windows 8 will seamlessly integrate but an iPad is in a bussiness still a sort of standalone device. Many system admins don’t allow them on the production network because these devices can hardly be managed. If iPads are allowed on the network then it is with Citrix or View but not directly. With Citrix or View you are actualy running Windows on your iPad.

    But so far the software. Now the hardware. Apple offers a one size fits all product. You can chose the amount of memory and if you want to use 3G but that is it. Windows 8 will be available on many devices. Some of them are tablets, some of them are hybrids some of them are touch desktops, some are touch laptops, we even saw table computers. I currently work at a academy and we have even a touch schoolboard. Currently running Windows 7 but Windows 8 would do better. I type this on Windows 8 desktop with a resolution of 2560 x 1600.

    Like you say it is hard to predict how hardware will compare to an iPad. The only thing you can be certain of is that you will have more choice. You will have hardware that is faster than an iPad, there will be hardware with higher resolutions than the iPad, there will be hardware with better baterylife than the iPad. The question remains however if there will be hardware that is faster, has a higher resolution, has a better battery life, is lighter and is cheaper. If everything fails you can still run Windows 8 on a iPad with Citrix 😉

  • Before iCloud, the iPad would be filled up from “1080p Video”. But now iPad wins.


    It’s a foregone conclusion. Windows 8 will fail.


    First of all, let’s be clear. Mobile is everything.
    Anyone who thinks that mobile is a niche or won’t utterly displace the desktop
    in the next 5 to 10 years is wrong.


    There is exactly one thing keeping smartphones from being
    the ONLY computing devices people generally need:  standardized and widely proliferated wireless
    video and input devices.


    (..and we’re almost there with WiFi/WiDi/BT/etc…)


    Think about it. Your phone is more powerful than a
    computer that could run MS Office a few years ago. We’ve been buying processor
    cores we haven’t remotely needed for years. Our current crop of desktops that
    are ~5 years old or newer are grossly overpowered for almost any task typically
    performed in the business and home environment. The computing power currently
    offered in most smartphones will easily handle this typical office-email-power point-excel
    workload. In short, we already don’t need the desktops we have but have nothing
    better to switch to yet.


    So, just imagine this: you walk up to your desk or
    workstation area, plop down in your chair, and have the monitor/keyboard/mouse
    come to life right in front of you. No wires. No boot. How awesome would that
    be? No more lugging around your laptop or ridiculous boot times. No more having
    one computer’s settings out of sync with another… computing nirvana! I
    promise you, this is where we are headed in computing. The desktop will die for
    95%+ users out there in the next decade. I promise. The moment this wireless-proximity
    usage model becomes normalized, the desktop will be abandoned faster than gamma
    rays from a nuclear detonation.


    So, unless Microsoft succeeds in the mobile space with
    Windows 8 (and only Windows 8: the “window” for success in this segment is
    closing… pardon the pun) they face some pretty dire future scenarios. Users
    of Android and iOS are currently being enabled, rapidly and in great volume, to
    do many typical enterprise tasks on non-MS mobile platforms. Microsoft
    absolutely must find a way to become relevant in this process if they have any
    hope of market share outside of what is rapidly becoming a niche desktop


    Other reasons?

    – They don’t have a content ecosystem that anyone cares
    about. No content ecosystem = fail in mobile.


    – The chose the -absolute stupidest- response to a
    multi-platform OS approach: the same OS (literally) over all segments. I will not
    surrender 8GB to a windows kernel on my phone. I won’t. That’s ridiculous. …Never
    mind the “Metro is the worst choice for desktop PCs and give me the start
    button back!” problem. I’ve said this to my peers: watching Microsoft try to
    break into the mobile market is like watching a retarded giant try to ride a
    pony. You can’t ride a pony. You’re a retarded giant.


    – The don’t have any productivity apps that work in
    mobile… at least none that aren’t already available elsewhere. Full office on
    a tablet or phone? Nope, not touch enabled. Not this year anyway. By the time
    they do, no one will care because they’ve all figured out how to do their jobs
    on android or iOS devices. Epic fail.


    -They will cost far too much because no one who’s been
    enjoying the desktop cash gravy train for the last 10 years will have the
    epiphany that, unless someone takes a loss for the time being (or just lowers
    their profit margin expectations) will consider changing their ways until it’s
    too late.


    A perfect storm is coming for Microsoft: Great, powerful
    phones. Great wireless technologies. Great, highly polished, content-rich, MS
    alternatives. Incredibly awesome user experiences for us!  


    It’s coming.

  • It would be nice just to have a Windows 8 tablet that can seamlessly integrate with your other Windows computers. A tablet that allows you to do what you could/can do on a Windows PC (be it: laptop or desktop).

    Obviously, like ‘Glenn54321’ said, Desktops and Laptops are going to fade out over time when mobile computing hits its peak and everyone can use it.
    It’s just moving that line between ‘I can actually do something productive on my mobile device like I could when I used to use my laptop/desktop’. People want to be able to do the stuff they could do on Windows computers and have that productive factor as well as being portable and not having all those pitfalls of their current or previous laptop or desktop. Factors like: a clunky keyboard and mouse and horrendous boot up and shut down time. From personal opinion, I could not do everything I can do on my Windows 7 laptop on a currently available tablet on the market. I am sure that will change as tablets progress. The cross platform compatibility isn’t really there yet unfortunately. When everyone can seamlessly use their tablets at; home, work, school or college and be productive with them as well as using them like they could with their old PC, is when mobile computing is successful in my opinion.

  • It would be great to have one device, Dock it in a desktop setting and use windows. Then undock it and use it as a tablit. ++++++

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