As Apple sweeps up the dust from their latest launch event, Microsoft is preparing for the most extensive operating system launch ever, expecting to reach 2.1 billion people with its Windows 8 marketing launch over the next several months. It's as good a time as any to reflect on the state of the Windows tablet landscape and draw some conclusions about what it means for Infrastructure and Operations Professionals.
For the past year I have been passionately explaining to PC vendors the criticality of building a handful of products up to a standard instead of down to a price in a commodity market. If you can't differentiate in ways that people will pay a premium for, the only competitive levers left are quality, price and service…and you can't afford to make any mistakes. In this case, the people in question are those willing to spend their own money (without reimbursement) on tablets and laptops for work. Forrester data shows that it's a $10B market today and a $19B market by 2016. "IT Consumers" may be the only PC growth segment left.
Apple continues to prove this market's viability and they're placing a bet that tablets will remain tablets on their merits, and will continue to be an addition to the computer bag alongside the laptop, and they're building both up to a standard instead of down to a price. Microsoft is betting that what people want is a tablet and a PC all in one, and that apps which behave both as touch and desktop apps on the same device are the future. The Surface represents Microsoft's attempt to make the best possible case, and ensure the device is built to its own standards. Even though the latest Forrsights Employee data show that employee preference for Windows 8 on work tablets is already 20% vs. 26% for iOS, the one-device strategy is an incredibly risky bet. Let's look at some of the numbers from what's on the market:
This trip is off to a rocky start, I remember thinking as I walked off the plane through the same gate I'd boarded it 30 minutes earlier. Seems there was an engine problem. No outlets available to plug my MacBook Air into so back on battery while the airline swaps aircraft. I should have taken it as a warning. I finally did reach Paris, only to have the French military storm the TGV station at Charles de Gaulle with machine guns because someone left a bag unattended outside the station. Missed my train, re-booked on the next one but downgraded to the seats with no power outlets because there were no seats left in 1st class. More time on the battery.
Switched trains in Lille, France station to board the Eurostar. Sat down in my seat at a table across from an attractive woman who looked annoyed to have to share the space. Finally plugged in the Mac after more than 7 hours use since the last charge, and promptly fell asleep before I could do any work. All in a day's work for the road warrior. I'm carrying two computers on this trip so I can get a good sense of what one of the better entries in the Ultrabook class of PCs is like to work with on the road, alongside my longtime favorite MacBook Air. So far, so good but a few things to note:
With a little conservation of screen brightness, shutting off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on the plane, and making sure I close down resource-intensive apps, I can usually get 7+ hours' use on the MacBook Air before I have to find an outlet. That's fantastic for international travel days.
The best I've been able to do on the Dell so far is a little under 5 hours. To be fair though, I haven't had much time with it yet to find out how best to optimize power. One problem though is that the Dell seems to chew through its battery in 24 hours on standby.
Technology Vendors for IT Focus on IT Spend
Forrester's technology vendor clients prefer data over analysis, whereas our IT clients prefer analysis. The vendors are gracious and will sit through a few slides of customer problem examples and politely let me wax on about where their real opportunities are, but most only really perk up when I get to the data slides. Having been responsible for product strategy for software product lines myself, I understand precisely why this is the case: When you're in middle management, your ability to get oxygen (read: funding) to sustain your team depends on your ability to make a case, and the case is usually predicated on IT spend.
Their Strategies are Often Tied to the IT Buyer Data so They Miss the Underlying Human Factors
Why? Because the garden variety general manager in the technology business understands numbers. Human factors? Not so much. For many of them, understanding the underlying human reasons for a disruptive technology shift like, say, the rise of Apple, is not in their DNA. Only the numbers matter. It's tragic really, because if they could reflect on the human factors that I bring with the analysis, born from observation of hundreds of firms who are not yet their customer, their investment priorities would be clearer because significant unmet market needs and competitive risks would be obvious. The best possible question a vendor can ask: What are we missing?
Vendor Strategists Need to Combine Market Data with Human Factors