Why Windows 8 and Consumer Tablets Won’t Team-Up at CES

Updated on 19 December 2010 by

Windows 7 Compact

There are Tablet PCs and there are tablet PCs and one’s that are getting the most traction today aren’t the ones that were in the market first. Microsoft’s Tablet PC ecosystem has been around for years but was focused at pen input, productivity and built on an extended (not a cut-down) desktop operating system. The tablets that are getting the attention today are lightweight, finger-focused for consumers and include fun user interfaces, a monetised developer ecosystem and unique features such as ‘always on’ , high quality cameras and social sharing that you don’t get so much on the ‘desktop’ Tablet PC. With the market for tablet PCs growing (estimates run to 20 million iPads, 10 million Galaxy Tabs and, probably millions of new devices from companies like Blackberry and HP) there’s an opportunity for Microsoft to take advantage of their history and re-build a new version for consumers in 2011. Some people are predicting it will launch at CES and be called Windows 8. I find that unlikely.

While the full and flexible desktop OS has advantages for some categories of mobile computing, there are major problems inherent with the ‘PC’ OS build when thinking about consumer products. Think about the PC cruft. BIOS, X86, PCI bus, USB devices, ACPI. A lot of this isn’t desired in a consumer tablet and yet almost every X86 mobile computing hardware platform out there will offer it, regardless of a what a new version of Windows looks like. Even the most recently available ultra-mobile focused Menlow platform from Intel supports all the old PC architecture and as a result, battery life is nothing compared to ARM-based devices. Tellingly, Intels new platform for 2011, Moorestown, doesn’t include many of the elements I mentioned and therefore it doesn’t support Windows either! Intel chose to invest in their own OS for that and that makes complete sense.

A consumer tablet needs always-on, quick boot, small disk and memory footprint, clean core, optimised kernel, slim device driver library, app store, developer ecosystem, touch-focused UI and API’s, sensor support and more. Can you get an idea of the effort required to build a new desktop OS that was able to include all this and still move away from traditional PC architecture support, just because there’s one Intel CPU out there that looks attractive? Nope, neither can I.

Alternatively, Microsoft could skin Windows 7 and hope for the best on existing X86 platforms.


Covering up the cracks won’t help and won’t provide Microsoft a platform for future products. They tried it with a silly Origami Experience skin in 2006 and 2007 and it didn’t impress anyone. Fans still whirred, battery life still suffered and you needed a minimum 16GB disk and 1GB of RAM to support it. Today, that base requirement is up to 32GB and 2GB and those fans are still making a noise.

There is an alternative.

ASUSEeePadEP101TC10inchWindows 7 Compact could be the platform on which to build these consumer devices. It is the next generation of Windows CE (embedded) and supports X86 and even ARM Cortex processors which would be a retaliatory poke in the eye to Intel! Windows 7 Compact  is not available yet but we’ve seen a preview and there are some promotional videos available. The tablet features heavily.

There are questions about the locked-down nature of the platform and whether it would create developer interest for yet another unique application build process. It certainly doesn’t support Windows 7 binaries but that would be a good thing in the long-run right?. Silverlight runtime is included with Windows Compact 7 though; Could that be the platform for developers?

With H.264 support, a new media player, BT, 3G and Wifi support, Office and PDF document readers, multitouch and gesture support, Open GL2.0 support and Flash 10.1 support, Windows 7 Compact is not lacking in consumer-focused capability. License costs are down in the $2-$20 category too so adding it all together, there’s a lot to be said for the operating system.

Moving away from Windows 7 would be exactly the right thing to do for this category. A Windows 8 Tablet Edition would be the wrong thing to use for this category. If Microsoft positioned themselves well with developers, we could see more than just tablets appearing. Cameras, HiFi equipment, Ebook readers, smart-books and more. If they show some sexy products at CES, they have an even better chance.

Could Windows 7 Compact and related products launch at CES? I think so.

Windows 7 Compact Windows 7 Compact Windows 7 Compact
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28 Comments For This Post

  1. Gretchen Glasscock says:

    Why Windows 8 and Consumer Tablets Won’t Team-Up at CES: Read more …

    Related posts:Microsoft and MIDS. Window… http://bit.ly/he6SPR

  2. Anuj Purohit says:

    Why Windows 8 and Consumer Tablets Won’t Team-Up at CES: Read more … Related posts… http://goo.gl/fb/RrpGa

  3. George Endrulat says:

    #technology Why Windows 8 and Consumer Tablets Won’t Team-Up at CES: Read more …

    Related posts:Microsoft and … http://bit.ly/fQIzzq

  4. Jeff says:

    I have no interest in yet another mobile platform. I’m so “done” with dumbed down mobile OSes. I have a set of applications I use on desktops and laptops and what I need is a mobile device that lets me take THOSE applications with me in a form factor more mobile than a laptop. Mobile versions of programs that you find on iOs, Android, Windows Mobile, etc., just don’t do it for me any more. I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of my HP Slate 500 as I think it might be just the device that will work for me. I’m getting really tired of all the punditt wannabes that insist such a device shouldn’t be built. Just because all they want to do is play Angry Birds or watch some mindless drivel on NetFlicks doesn’t mean that’s all I want to do.

  5. Chippy says:

    Check out ghengiskents blog for info about the hp 500. In theory he gets it today. http://blogs.genghiskhent.com/ Its something were also trying to get for tests on umpcportal.

  6. Dave P says:

    I don’t know if I’d make the distinction between “consumer” and, presumably, “business” as much as between “content consumption” and “content creation”. Tablets with iOS or Android excel at web surfing and media playing. Windows tablets are designed for those who want to add content as well as access it. But this is not confined to the “business” world. I think that a Windows tablet would be an excellent device for a student or for many people with non-business avocations.

    As far as the HP Slate, I’ve had my Slate for a bit over a week and I find it fantastic, except for occasional glitches with the pen when in auto detect mode. The active digitizer makes all the difference when running Windows.

    I’m running MS Office with no problems and I can certainly be productive with documents when editing them or marking them up. If I was writing more than a page, I’d probably want a keyboard but I’d also probably want a bigger screen and I’d just use my desktop.

    I’m also running the Lotus Notes client (which my company uses rather than Outlook) and it’s great for email.

    For surfing, I get the full Firefox including, if I want it, Flash, Shockwave, Air, and Silverlight. I have access to all the ad blockers, privacy extensions, and sync. Likewise, for audio and video, I can choose any of the multitude of programs available for Windows (although I, personally, use the default Windows Media Player because I’m boring).

    The only thing it doesn’t do well is games. Unfortunately, those I’ve tried are designed for a keyboard and mouse rather than touch (and, I suspect, this holds true for most PC games).

  7. Realty says:

    I agree with Jeff. I also don’t want another OS that does not run my legacy Windows programs. As the hardware gets better/faster in the ARM world you will see productive Apps appear there. If I can’t bring my Windows desktop Apps down to my mobile devices, I will bring the coming ARM mobile device productivity Apps up to my desktop. And when that happens, goodbye Microsoft.

  8. jay says:

    I’d like to keep my “legacy” USB and software support. I’m not going to pretend I’m a professional, “prosumer” or do a lot of “productivity” related tasks on my desktop and mobile devices. What I want is that I can do the same things on my mobile device as I can with my desktop. Consumers aren’t just people who browse a few websites and check email.

    If Windows 7 Compact succeeds (more likely than other OS’s like Meego, dumbed down Linux distros, etc.) and software companies write applications in parallel for Windows 7 and Windows 7 Compact without dumbing it down then I don’t mind using Windows 7 Compact devices. Of course, it needs to let me be able to plug in my camera, video camera, external hard drive, printer, external monitor, TV, etc.

  9. animatio says:

    “Of course, it needs to let me be able to plug in my camera, video camera, external hard drive, printer, external monitor, TV, etc.” ….
    and there you are …. does any of the nowadays hyped “mobile consumer devices (smartphones, tablets, .. ) allow to do this? gotcha

  10. jay says:

    If you didn’t understand, I was implying that all these tablets aren’t very useful to many consumers that aren’t part of the typical definition people seem to have. I actually think all these tablets running Android, iOS or whatever are severely limited in usefulness because of their OS. Just to add to that, I think touch input isn’t very nice beyond flicking through simple websites and apps. So I also wouldn’t like a Windows tablet and would prefer to just get a laptop.

    To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what you’re trying to say…

  11. animatio says:

    (no criticism).actually, i’d like to confirm your remarks. if one is looking out for such a device (apart from the ever existing, expensive digitizer slates) no such such device is present on today’s markets.

  12. gizmodude says:

    I know this article is about Windows tablets but I’d like to say that I agree with the comments about the definition of consumers. If anything, the people that call themselves professionals have even less requirements than many consumers. All these professional people seem to mostly talk about word processing and other basic office software or the ability to post on twitter, their blog or some other website. These are pretty basic tasks. I think consumers have a significantly wider variety of requirements from their mobile device due to varying hobbies and interests.

  13. Jeff says:

    Professionals often have very specific niche software they need to run and often need the security provided by joining their device to a domain. This, for example, is the real purpose of the ignorantly maligned CTL_ALT_DEL button on the HP Slate 500. It’s a relatively tamper proof way of bring up a domain login screen. In addition to the standard Office Apps, I need FrameMaker for writing technical documentation. No mobile OS app is ever going to be a suitable substitute for that. Also there is no app or application even close to OneNote for note taking. And finally, I need access to Logos4 (Yes, there is an iphone/ipad app, but you can’t access all your ebooks on it, and it doesn’t have all the features of the Windows app).

  14. shell says:

    Thank you for providing a different definiton to “professional” beyond the typical office apps. I agree with gizmodude, too, that there isn’t one particular definition for a consumer. There also isn’t one type of professional either. A Windows, OS X and full desktop Linux device is the only way most of the consumers, professionals, buyer or whatever you call them will get what they want.

  15. animatio says:

    you made the point. same with all the scientific software i’m running on my devices (from desktop to netbook). apart from probably linux, no mobile os present will provide these natively, nor the possibility to run these. professionals run/use professional software developed for their professions.
    office suites only are commodities in this sense.

  16. Steve S says:


    I’m running Logos4 on my Viliv X70 and it does fairly well. It’s slow, but one would expect that. I loaded the whole thing on a SD card, copying most from my PC installation. I love the Viliv because it also has built-in GPS and a windshield mount. It’s a great device and I would like to see updates. BTW, mine is running Win7 Home Premium.

  17. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    Hmm. Tech News Today spent 60 seconds on the CES Windows Tablets. ;-( Here's my version…http://bit.ly/gWlTwq @natelanxon

  18. koolereye says:

    Full-blown OS tablets have been around for years but they never progressed much past the niche markets/consumers. Most of the markets/consumers that required a full OS still need one in order to run/access MS-based software. The big difference now is that they are expecting better hardware and better performance but I think the market is still limited just as it was years ago. The “tablet” industry now is not not driven by full OS devices because the bulk of the new generation of users are App-centric and not OS-centric. They can take their experience from their phones and apply it directly to their choice of mobile OS tablet. It is also easier for non-techie folks to work these type of devices with a very small learning curve. This is the reason the iPad took off and the Android tablets will be popular. The apps have changed people’s perception of how to interact with computers. It is also one of the reasons Apple is bringing that same touch experience to all it’s OS X computers through different touch interfaces and incorporating apps into the upcoming Lion OS X. There will still be people who desire the full OS experience on a tablet but more people are aware of the “tablet” now because of devices like the iPad and Galaxy Tab and not because they needed full OS support.

  19. Nicole Scott says:

    Strange, the article wasn't even from our site http://bit.ly/fjmxGO @jasondunn @nokia_fan

  20. Nicole Scott says:

    Why Windows 8 and Consumer Tablets Won’t Team-Up at CES http://bit.ly/fjmxGO

  21. Netbooknews says:

    Why Windows 8 and Consumer Tablets Won’t Team-Up at CES http://bit.ly/fjmxGO

  22. 同志 meowcenary says:

    RT @netbook_news: Why Windows 8 and Consumer Tablets Won’t Team-Up at CES http://bit.ly/fjmxGO

  23. Jeff says:

    The reason tablet pcs have been such niche products for the last decade is largely because of price. Until recently, the price premium of a Wacom active digitizer (the only pen technology that actually works well) has been north of $1000 and has been gimped to boot. Now that Ntrig is offering some, but still inferior, competition, the price premium can be as low as $300.

    Unfortunately, the Wacom digitizer, on tablet pcs an still gimped. They offer less precision and no tilt. Until) just a few months ago, they didn’t even offer pressure sensitivity in Photoshop with reliable drivers!

    The whole graphics arts industry still buys Intuos and Cintic USB tablets from Wacom. It should have been a slam dunk to sell them Tablet PCs, but those have been mostly useless to them.

    Things are starting to change. There are working wintab drivers from both Ntrig and Wacom at long last, and the price premium is becoming reasonable. Personally, I’d pay an even bigger premium to have an Intuos 4 digitizer in an HP Slate 500.

  24. Benjamin David Start says:

    Wired doesn't know their stuff. Bad Article. RT @netbook_news: Why Windows 8 and Consumer Tablets Won’t Team-Up at CES http://bit.ly/fjmxGO

  25. Gearsguy says:

    I know this is off topic, but are the forums broken for anyone else?

  26. Chippy says:

    Checking this out now. . .

  27. Chippy says:

    And I found the problem. Fixing database table as I write. Should be back in a few…

  28. Clayton Costa says:

    Interesting article Why Windows 8 and Consumer Tablets Won’t Team-Up at CES | UMPCPortal – Hand: http://bit.ly/g2Ywad

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