It's Windows' Time to Shine in Tablets

By Doug Mohney March 07, 2014

International Data Corporation (IDC) says tablet shipments will slow -- but continue to grow in 2014. Among the winners expected this year are tablets featuring Microsoft Windows, as businesses continue to adapt the devices.

The total tablet market, including both tablets and 2-in-1 devices, is forecast to grow 19.4 percent in 2014, according to the March 6 IDC Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker. It is down from last year's growth rate of 51.6 percent and a 3.6 percent reduction in an earlier 2014 forecast. 

Slowing is expected due to less hardware iterations, with consumers buying higher-end tablets (think Apple (News  - Alert) iPad and Android) and sticking with them longer than lower cost devices. The average selling prices of tablets is expected to slowly bottom out as higher-priced commercial (business) shipments grow and consumers move away from low cost products.

Growth in commercial tablet shipments to date has been driven by vertical markets, such as education. IDC believes tablets will continue to "infiltrate" small, medium, and large businesses around the world. Commercial purchases are expected to make up 14 percent of the total market purchases in 2014, with the percentage growing to 18 percent by 2018.

Microsoft Windows is expected to be a winner through commercial adoption and growing purchases of 2-in-1 hardware combining a keyboard with a detachable touchscreen. IDC believes Windows-based devices will capture more than a quarter of the market as people embrace 2-in-1s.

The irony IDC doesn't capture here is history repeating itself in the tablet world.  Apple wowed people back in the '80s with the Apple 2 and Macintosh, only to see initial enthusiasm wear off. Back then, the PC selection became the IBM (News  - Alert) PC due to a combination of lower price and more applications, including business applications.

Windows in a tablet world is a more complicated picture than the '80s PC wars. Apple has the cachet of its brand, an embedded "sticky" base of customers in content, and the first-to-market successful product in the iPad. Google's Android (News - Alert) presents a solid second competitor, with the company starting to actively promote its Play Store for content purchases.

Against Apple and Google's Android, Microsoft Windows brings its ownership of the enterprise and a good chunk of the SMB space. Windows applications are designed to use such niceties as a keyboard, mouse and a larger monitor to create and extensively edit content, unlike Apple's model of "if you can't finger it, it's not worth running." Android has a bunch of me-too business applications, but its Achilles' heel is a dependence upon the cloud -- a lack of broadband tends to lead to a lack of work in many cases.

However, Windows alone won't be a done deal. The growth of cloud-based applications -- regardless of tablet hardware or operation system -- makes the choice of a particular device less important than it once ones. Microsoft will have to make sure its backend servers play well both with Windows as well as other operating systems. 

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

Contributing Editor

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