I had written, "I think Windows 8 will be a winner in the tablet market, though I do have some reservations on how the OS will fare in the traditional desktop and laptop segments, since the UI is so heavily geared toward touch." For the most part, I still stand by this statement.
Mind if I cut in?
I don't think Windows 8 tablets will beat the iPad 3, but that doesn't mean it can't be successful in its own right. Apple
Echoing my skepticism of the operating system's desktop and laptop prospects, IDC says, "Windows 8 will be largely irrelevant to the users of traditional PCs, and we expect effectively no upgrade activity from Windows 7 to Windows 8 in that form factor." In fairness, IDC is extremely bullish on Windows Server 8's possibilities.
WinARM versus Wintel
IDC believes Microsoft will have a tough time delivering a "successful" tablet experience as it ambitiously embraces both x86 processors, like those from Intel
One of the biggest challenges WinARM will face is that applications will need to be rewritten to be compatible with ARM architecture, and existing ARM mobile devices will already be even more mature by the time Windows 8 hits. Apple has set the ARM-based standards in mobile, so Windows 8 will be facing an uphill battle.
It's been done
It's worth mentioning that Apple has successfully made such profound processor architecture transitions in the past. Apple transitioned from Motorola 68k processors to PowerPC chips in the early '90s, only to subsequently proceed to Intel processors in 2006 -- the difference being that Apple provided software emulators every step of the way, to help hide the seams of the switch; Microsoft is not providing any emulator to allow x86 applications to run on ARM.
A new level
Apple's biggest criticism of Google
I think Microsoft needs to change its mind and include emulation so that both versions of Windows 8 can play nicely together. The confusing part is that it doesn't seem like Microsoft is taking a stance over which it prefers. That ambivalence may end up hurting the OS, since developers may have to pick which architecture to focus on, adding fodder to the fragmentation criticism.
What's the point?
The argument that current PC users will have little to no reason to upgrade to Windows 8 is particularly valid, especially considering enterprise customers who may have just finished migrating to Windows 7. It makes little sense after just making a switch to embark upon an OS whose touch-centric "Metro" interface has dubious value when used on a traditional mouse-and-keyboard PC.
Back to tablets
IDC thinks Windows 8 tablets will be "disappointing." Forrester Research
In my Foolish opinion, Windows 8 tablets will have much better odds if Microsoft fully embraces ARM-based tablets while leaving x86 offerings to desktops and laptops. It will need to wow the market to compensate for its unfashionably late debut, and the only way to do that is with decisive focus.
This story is just beginning, and only time will tell once Windows 8 is released next year. Stay up to speed by adding Microsoft to your Watchlist. Speaking of the mobile revolution, don't miss this free report on 3 component suppliers who are cashing in on the move to mobile.
Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of ARM Holdings and Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel, Microsoft, Apple, and Google and has bought calls on Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Intel, Microsoft, and Google and creating bull call spread positions in Apple, Microsoft, and Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.