The Macalope Daily: Uncompromisingly optimistic

Abdel Ibrahim and Jon Dick think that Microsoft is poised for tablet resurgence with Windows 8 (tip o’ the antlers to Daring Fireball).

Their argument makes the Macalope wonder how it is we’re the ones who always get accused of blindly adhering to faith.

Windows 8, you see, will roll out across desktops and tablets. … Microsoft hopes to introduce nearly identical experiences (or as close as the hardware will allow) to each.

Well, that’s the trick, isn’t it? Microsoft says there are no compromises with Windows 8. But you’ll have to forgive those of us living here on planet Earth who wonder how tablets are going to run full Office suites and Photoshop and compilers and still have good battery life and not be priced out of the category.

If Microsoft pulls that off, and we have no reason to suspect it won’t, it’ll make a very powerful argument to embrace whatever tablets it simultaneously debuts.

You have no reason to expect it won’t? None? None at all? Not even one? Sweet, crunchy alfalfa, it’s as if you didn’t even read the previous paragraph the Macalope wrote.

And it’ll do that for the same reason consumers have gone gaga for all things iOS: people like intuitiveness and familiarity; they like unwrapping a new product and not having to learn the ropes.

Who, exactly, is supposed to find Metro to be “familiar”? All those gazillions of Windows Phone 7 users? The Macalope installed the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, and he can vouch for the fact that it’s fairly intuitive—but it will be familiar to very few. iPads, on the other hand, are familiar to millions of iPhone users and (since Android “borrowed” so heavily from iOS) fairly familiar to Android users, too. Of the three, the Metro interface is the most different. Again, credit to Microsoft for coming up with something original, but some of this is going to be a hard sell.

And that’s precisely the sort of seamlessness the hundreds of millions of consumers who are bound to line up for the desktop version of Windows 8 (if Windows 7’s reception is any indication) can look forward to with Microsoft’s next tablets.

Ibrahim and Dick don’t think this resurgence will happen immediately, because the Windows 8 effect (which is a terrible name for a band) will take a while to creep into the unconscious mind or something. But come 2013 (or 2014 or 2015—these things take time, you know) you Appletards may be laughing out of the other side of your iPod socks!

Hmm. Boy, we’ve never heard “Just you wait! Microsoft will be kicking butt in [category where Microsoft is not kicking butt] in a couple of years!” before.

It’s funny how people still insist that the phone market is “standardizing” on Android because it’s ahead in market share, while the tablet market is somehow still wide open, even though Apple absolutely dominates the category. Weird!

People seem to have a hard time grasping just how behind the eight ball Microsoft is here. Consider the fact that, as of October, more than half of all current Windows installs were XP or Vista. Why? Because most Windows installs are at corporations that are a) risk-averse and b) still working their way out of a bad economy and not willing to shell out money for an expensive enterprise-wide upgrade project. Windows 8 doesn’t exactly help that equation, unless Microsoft ships an enterprise version with Metro turned off. Given the number of versions the company seems to be planning (that number being nine, believe it or not), that doesn’t seem far-fetched.

But if Microsoft does do that, then all the air goes out of Ibrahim and Dick’s argument about Metro driving adoption. In order for that argument to be true, you kind of have to ignore the problem of Windows 8’s schizophrenic interface modes.

Here’s another issue with the “Yay, Metro!” school of thought: While Windows Phone 7 has gotten some great reviews based on the Metro interface, that doesn’t to date seem to have translated into sales. While consumers may upgrade to Windows 8 on the desktop because it’s a comparatively small investment, buying a Windows 8-based tablet is a riskier proposition than buying an iPad or even a Kindle Fire.

Consumers are now accustomed to Wi-Fi tablets costing between $200 and $700. Remember that in Microsoft’s ecosystem, in addition to the Redmond tax, the hardware vendor needs to make some scratch, too. What’s Microsoft going to charge tablet OEMs for Windows? How are OEMs going to be able to make hardware that can run Windows desktop applications (remember, Microsoft is telling you you don’t have to compromise!), pay Microsoft, and still sell the things at a price people want to pay?

The Macalope’s not saying it can’t be done, and he thinks there’s a lot to like about the Metro interface. But it does seems to the horny one that there are plenty of reasons not to count this particular resurgence before it’s resurgencing.

[Editors’ Note: In addition to being a mythical beast, the Macalope is not an employee of Macworld. As a result, the Macalope is always free to criticize any media organization. Even ours.]

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