Microsoft’s Windows 8 wins in HP’s surrender of webOS but will users support Windows tablets?

HP execs announce TouchPad
Reprinted, in part, from my post on Google+. (Lots of comments over there).

HP announced today that it is withdrawing the TouchPad from the market, which calls into question the future of webOS.

First, so far Dieter Bohn has the best article on how HP failed that I’ve seen so far.

The photo I put on this post is of Todd Bradley, HP executive vice president, and Jon Rubenstein, of Palm, at the announcement of HP’s tablet.

But, there is something else that I haven’t seen yet discussed.

This is a HUGE win for Windows 8.

Why?

Well, when I was listening to the HP announcement I thought that it was a huge snub in the eye from HP toward Microsoft. It was. HP clearly wanted to be free of the Microsoft ecosystem and wanted to have an OS it controlled and that it didn’t need to pay Microsoft $40 to $200 for.

Seemed like a bold move at the time. Today, though, it is clear that strategy did not work.

Now HP has to wimper back to Microsoft for meetings with Steven Sinofsky, who runs Windows, and say “we’re sorry, we’re back to help make Windows 8 rock.”

I don’t see HP having many other choices at this point.

But there’s another part to this story that I’ve been repeating all year. “No apps, no sales.”

If you want to be a leading platform today you MUST get third-party developers on your side. To rub that in a bit, today I was hanging out with Photobucket’s CEO, Tom Munro. I asked him what he thought about the HP news. You can listen in on that conversation here.

Don’t know why Photobucket is relevant? They have nine billion photos. Flickr only has five billion. They just made a deal with Twitter to become the photo sharing system underneath Twitter. Twitter made a deal with Apple to become the official social network for iOS. IE, he’s now the official photo sharing guy for Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

Developers like him keep telling me “Apple is first in my mind, Google is second, and I don’t have time for #3, but if I do, looks like Microsoft has the best future.”

This is quite consistent around Silicon Valley. Even Tom told me that growth on RIM is “flat, going down.” Android, he says, is growing fastest.

This matches what most other CEOs who build apps tell me.

So, can anyone disrupt this? Can anyone sell a Tablet that doesn’t have an Apple logo?

Let’s look at who can:

1. Microsoft still is hot with Xbox, and is struggling with mobile, but Windows 8 at least looks freaking awesome. Yeah, the pundits will dig into Windows and find it isn’t as nice an experience once you dig in, but consumers who see this on TV will be wowed and Microsoft still has lots of fans.

2. Android tablet makers are struggling, except for Samsung, which has built a brand that consumers like. One question mark, though, is how Samsung will deal with Apple’s patent suits. But even Samsung hasn’t sold gobs of a 10-inch tablet, which is where the sweet spot is for tablets.

3. Amazon could change everything. Why? I can see Amazon subsidizing a tablet to lower its price to $200. I also keep hearing about a $99 Kindle coming soon. Having a “one-two-punch” is going to be interesting. Amazon, unlike other tablet makers, can build an ecosystem. Already I’m hearing from SIlicon Valley’s startup world that they are EXCITED by Amazon and are already working on apps for an Amazon tablet. I never heard that about the HP tablet.

The major problem for Microsoft is that its computing brands are starting to look old and crappy and Windows 8 won’t come out until next year. You better believe that Steve Ballmer will be at CES pulling out all stops. One problem for Ballmer, though. Steve Jobs is already planning iPad 3 and will probably announce that right on top of CES. If the iPad 3 really does have a killer screen, like my friends say they are working on, then it’ll be hard for Microsoft to deal with Apple.

Or, maybe, is that where HP comes in? Does HP have something in its research labs that will let it get back into bed with Microsoft? Could HP buy a company like Nanosys which makes a new screen technology that could help get me excited by a Microsoft tablet?

Well, yes, but it’s clear that for now Apple has no competition in the 10-inch tablet space.

No apps, no sale.

Which makes me wonder, what will the users do?

Will they all go iPad? Or will the market split into Apple vs Google, like it is today on smartphones? I can see that happening next year, but I wonder if Microsoft has the right stuff to disrupt Apple and Google?

What do you think?

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

19 thoughts on “Microsoft’s Windows 8 wins in HP’s surrender of webOS but will users support Windows tablets?

  1. Something to note about wp7. If i was a dev who could buy a wp7 device I would definitely go for it. Sure its good for you when youve been tech crunched to get to the Android market asap but lets face reality

    A) Android may be the fastest growing platform in terms of users but studies show that just 10 apps take up nearly 50% of user time on the devices. The rest of the people don’t have a way to be discovered. Doesnt that even out the playing field for Android and wp7 right there? Make a few educated guesses and you’ll be able to say that wp7 offers the same 10 apps. For techies we will still find a lack of fav apps but for the general public. They should be fine

    B) even if there was a way to be discovered I’d be wary of any new apps that come onto the Android market because of the extremely high chance of it containing malware

    C) tech sites and Google can gush all they want about number of apps. But browse through the Android market and all you find is junk junk or just me too and still junk apps.

    D) developing for android is a nightmare. Even Google has to release device compatibility updates to their own apps. Check the latest YouTube app update to see what I mean. And they talk about no fragmentation? Horse crap! Every wp7 device I’ve tried out has the same beautiful smooth feeling to it and I’ve already said if the mango update raises the bar enough I will simply say buy wp7 over Android

    So why is the number 2 choice Android?

    A) sales are still good enough that people are willing to risk the issues and dev for it as a second option. Major reason sales are so bad for wp7 is that ms screwed its marketing all over again. Instead of spending so much on advertising they should have gotten into bed with the actual sellers and offered them incentives for selling the devices. Right now Android devices have incentives for employees of those sellers and therefore they say don’t buy wp7.

    B) devs can also afford to go look into Android at least because of the ability to dev on macs or Linux. I’m willing to bet that a LOT would change if MS made their free dev tools available on mac as well

  2. Microsoft have been trying to shoehorn Windows into tablets for a decade now, with nothing resembling success. Fundamentally, Windows apps are designed for the desktop environment: lots of disk, CPU and power, slow boot up times and explicit load/exit steps, with hardwired ever-present mice and keyboards.

    Supposing I could run, say, Sage Accounts (my most frequently used legacy Windows app, which they’ve just launched in web app form anyway): how would I navigate around the transaction entry forms, which normally use tab to move and function keys to populate half the fields?

    Wearing my developer hat, converting a Windows UI to work properly on a tablet is probably not much less work than re-working it into a web application instead – with all sorts of other benefits down that route: instead of having a product limited to Windows tablets, a market which is still hypothetical right now, I will have a product I can offer for any tablet and indeed for regular computers as well.

    Ask yourself: if you’re a developer thinking of creating a new tablet app, which will you target? Thinking of porting a legacy Windows app? If you’re buying a crate of tablets for your staff, will you go iPad (and use whichever of the 100 000 apps apply to you), or gamble on Microsoft managing to create a viable platform from scratch this time and somehow catching up with Apple before the devices are obsolete?

  3. Microsoft has been squeezing “the desktop experience” into tablets since 2001.  It has been a complete failure.  I am yet to hear one good reason why Windows 8 will be different.  “Yeah, but now it’s enabled for touch” …was said over and over about Windows 7.  How’s that doing?  

    To truly make Windows into a tablet OS, Microsoft will have to get rid of every vestige of “the desktop experience” including third party desktop software compatibility.  At which point we are arguing about semantics.

    And who is going to make these Windows 8 tablets — Microsoft?  It sure won’t be HP.

    And, BTW, iOS started out as a tablet OS, which was then squeezed down to phone size for the iPhone.

  4. Everyone seems to look at the tablet market as though it should follow the trends of the smartphone market. Yet, the tablet still hasn’t proven itself to be a viable form-factor. It wasn’t 10 years ago when Bill Gates stood up on stage and demoed Windows XP Tablet PC Edition with a stylus and handwriting recognition. It isn’t today, despite the artificially-inflated popularity the iPad continues to receive for no good reason other than the fact that this severely underpowered version of what has been around since 2004 happens to have a picture of a fruit on its back.

    Smartphones make sense because the platform is an evolution of mobile phone technology that has been coming for decades. Their sales reflect that demand. Tablets aren’t selling because there is no place for them in the computing ecosystem. Desktop PCs serve offices, homes, and stationary environments, laptops take most of that power and make it mobile, and smartphones take a subset of that power and make it more mobile. Why would anyone want a device that’s large enough to have a keyboard, but doesn’t? Why would anyone want a device that’s large enough to have the power and capabilities of a laptop, but doesn’t? Why would anyone want a device that’s small enough to be used like a smartphone, when they likely already own a smartphone?

    The iPad will continue to sell so that 7-year-olds can play cartoon-style games with flinging birds in this post-GameBoy era. Meanwhile, adult iSheep will continue to buy iPads to feel superior when the novelty of their MacBook Pro and iPhone wears off, while feigning some level of productivity when they connect their Bluetooth keyboard and prop the iPad up like a laptop display. They are buying a product that makes it harder (and more expensive) to get the same work done that could be accomplished on a $300 netbook or $600 laptop. When it comes to real productivity there is no place for the tablet in the modern computing ecosystem.

    1. If the iSheep number in the 100s of millions are they still iSheep?  What happens when they cross the billion mark?  

      As for the iPad being productive, why don’t you talk to Alaska and American Airlines, huge bunches of doctors and hospitals, etc., etc., etc.

      1. Precisely! Airlines are saving weight/space for their pilots by replacing 40 lbs of flight maps, books, and other dead tree required for flights. Segments of the military are already using the iPad in theater (and have “Army Marketplace” established). Some hospitals are beginning to adopt iPad (though the ubiquity of, and capital spent on, secure workstations in every room will make that a bit slower).
        And, from personal experience, and anecdotally from others, it has been one of THE most significant platforms in assisting my autistic son with some of his basic communication skills.
        I was highly skeptical of Mr. Jobs when he said this was a “magical device” in 2010. Now, having bought one for a friend in an international non-profit and, this year, for our family, I’m a believer.  …And my primary area of tech is in the enterprise world of .Net.

  5. “Now HP has to wimper back to Microsoft for meetings with Steven Sinofsky, who runs Windows, and say “we’re sorry, we’re back to help make Windows 8 rock.””

    Talk about a prediction immediately proven false — HP just exited the PC/Tablet business — they aren’t going to be whimpering to MS for anything.  I’d say that MS is even more screwed now than they were a day ago.  HP’s move has underlined that there is no tablet market, just an iPad market.  And scarier still, Apple is eating up all the profits in the consumer PC space.  

    1. Yeah, they are basically selling Compaq.

      So this is a HUGE LOSE for Microsoft. Their largest hardware partner wants to sell its profitable PC business, even though they are the #1 Windows PC vendor and #2 PC maker overall after Apple. This is like a white flag going up over the generic PC industry. A lot of HP’s customers are going to go to Apple, not Compaq.

      1. A lot of HP’s customers are probably going to go with Sony, ASUS, Acer, Toshiba, Samsung, and Dell, actually.

        Personally, I’ve never been a fan of HP computers. The only American company that makes good PC hardware is Apple, but they only offer OS X, obviously. The vast majority of the market buys Windows-based PCs, so I see one or two of the East Asian companies quickly filling the void that HP will leave.

  6. Never understood the WebOS push. It is not surprising that it is dead before it even started. Microsoft is loosing ground every day to Apple. Look at the OS  upgrade policy of apple. it is much more affordable then MS upgrades. Just the Apple upgrade policy has me thinking that my next computer may be an Apple. It is tought to shell out over $100 every time the win OS is upgraded. With Win 7 you were lucky if you bought one of the short lived Family packs for 3 PC. 

  7. Microsoft isn’t good at UI design, and you NEED good UI design for a tablet. Apple gets it. WebOS got it. Android gets it. MS doesn’t get it. I’ve seen the UI for Windows 8 and it makes me wonder who’s running the show in the UI department at MS.

    Here’s what should happen: HP should open source WebOS and give Google and MS competition.

    1. Michael I disagree I think Windows 7 is an awesome UI design compared to XP and Vista. I’d also say their UI design for their latest mobile OS is more original then the Android or iPhone (yet I am an iPhone user). I think it comes down to the fact that Apple have so much control over it’s own software and hardware then any other company out there. If Microsoft built it’s own hardware (meaning not using 3rd party companies anymore) I’m sure we’d see more interesting things then what HP, Acer, ASUS etc. all bring out.

      The other thing to note is Apple’s Lion OS isn’t being loved by all, I’ve heard more complaints about it from diehard Apple fans then any other OS.

       I think the next 3 years will be big, I think Apple will win the phone and tablet market (which it already had) but will lose the Desktop market because they assume consumers will like everything they are give (not the case with Lion obviously), Microsoft has won more support for it’s Windows 7 OS then any other OS it’s ever created. Windows 8 is using technology that people today are excited about (touch screen uses CSS3 and HTML5).. Where is Apples support? They haven’t even launched a new version of Safari in a long time.

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