Will Windows 8 be for the tablet or the ultrabook?
Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2011 - 08:56 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: ultrabook, tablet, windows 8, microsoft, Intel
Two contrasting opinions appeared this morning on the internet, concerned with not only the future of mobile computing in a possibly post-PC market but also touching on the impact Microsoft's Windows 8 could have on that choice. DigiTimes has a report from Wistron, an original design manufacturer based in Taiwan, which is concerned with the ultrabook. They see the coming year as dominated by the contentious ultrabook platform which Intel has been talking up recently. The company managed US$21.1B in revenue last year, so they are neither a small player nor uninformed about the industry. That does leave one wondering how they plan on making a profit if the bill of materials is as high as some manufacturers have claimed. Still, that is where the manufacturer sees Windows 8 making the most difference to the market.
Ars Technica sees a different path for Microsoft to take, one that would be very different from the theory discussed by DigiTimes and very different from anything Microsoft has previously done. In this article, Ars suggests that the PC market is at a standstill because we have hit a post-PC market thanks to the tablet. While Microsoft has always considered the tablet to be a PC in a different form factor, Apple and other successful tablet marketers have visualized a completely different model. While Apple may have taken it to the most extreme, with no visible OS nor even a USB connector so you can transfer files directly from a camera or thumbdrive, nor hook up a wired peripheral. Other manufacturers have taken a less extreme approach but still hide the OS and have removed associated tasks like driver installation. That is very different from Microsoft's version of a tablet or phone which runs a trimmed down but still very recognizable OS and tends not to sell very well.
The question becomes one of design incompatibility; if Microsoft wants to release a Windows 8 which emulates the successful tablet OSes of the competition it will have to design something so different from their past OSes that it would be unrecognizable as a PC. In order to hide the OS and offload applications onto the cloud to make a perfect tablet the design choices would limit the effectiveness of Win8 as a PC OS. On the flip side, if they choose to design for the Ultrabook, risky in that we still have yet to hear the end of the pricing issues, the OS will be much lighter than previous versions but will still have a recognizable file system, the ability to update or customize drivers and all the other features common to netbooks through laptops. It will however not be a successful tablet OS, as history has shown with the failures of Microsoft's tablets and phones, some of which died before every being released.
The one thing that they can't do is try to make Windows 8 do both service as a laptop and a tablet OS. If they go that way, users on both sides of the divide will likely lose as you end up with an OS not customizable enough to do duty on a more powerful notebook or desktop. As well, it will have an interface which is similar to previous attempts by Microsoft to sell tablets which to this date have all failed against the competition.
"The launch of ultrabooks and Microsoft's Windows 8 OS will serve as growth drivers for the notebook industry in 2012, according to Simon Lin, chairman of Taiwan-based notebook ODM Wistron.
Shipments of ultrabooks will account for 10-20% of Wistron's total notebook shipments in 2012, Lin estimated.
Despite current economic turbulence touched off by debt issues in Europe and the US, Wistron's target to ship 30 million notebooks in 2011 remains unchanged, said Lin, who added that notebook Wistron's shipments will grow by a single-digit rate sequentially in the third and fourth quarters.
However, the company has slashed its LCD TV shipment target for the year to 8.5 million units, from 10 million units projected previously, while also scaling down the target for mobile devices from 10-12 million units to nine million.
Wistron has reported net profits of NT$4.5 billion (US$154.77 million) for the first half of 2011, down 20.44% from a year earlier. The earnings translated into an EPS of NT$2.28 for the six-month period."
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