Mid-Range Tablets Will Turn Microsoft Around

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You don’t have to look very hard to find articles discussing Microsoft’s problems, most of which focus on weak adoption of the latest version of Windows. But there’s certainly reason for optimism that this is going to change, thanks to the sudden explosion in affordably-priced, mid-sized Windows tablets.

Lenovo ThinkPad 8I was checking out the new Windows models unveiled at CES 2014, like the Lenovo ThinkPad 8, and it hit me: this time last year, these devices would be debuting with Google Android. But the market has changed in favor of Microsoft.

Getting Windows Tablets in Peoples’ Hands

There are a number of reasons why Windows 8/8.1 hasn’t gained widespread acceptance, but the main one is that it just doesn’t provide a very good experience on a desktop or laptop. It was designed for tablets, and it works quite well on that class of devices.

Obviously, Microsoft needs to get more Windows tablets into the hands of users. The company’s first attempt at this was the Surface line, but while the Surface Pro 2 and original Surface Pro are outstanding, they are very expensive. And though the Windows RT-based models like the Surface 2 are more affordable, they are so hobbled they have yet to find a market.

But now consumers can find good tablets running the full version of Windows 8.1 for $300, or less on special. A year ago, people looking for a mid-size tablet in that price range could choose from the Apple iPad mini or one of a range of Android models, like the Google Nexus 7. However, following the release of some really compelling Windows devices, including the Dell Venue 8 Pro, Microsoft is a serious force in this market.

Good for Microsoft, Bad for Google

As Apple is the largest tablet maker in the world by a significant margin, buyers can be broken into two groups: those who want an iPad and those who don’t. The ones who aren’t fans of Apple typically turn to Android models looking for lower prices or features like removable memory card slots.

Lenovo ThinkPad 8Thing is, the new generation of Windows tablets have these too. Plus they have Outlook and can run software written for laptops and desktops. This makes the devices good options for those who want an inexpensive mobile computer for casual use that can also help them get some work done.

While the popularity of the iPad has forced companies to (sometimes reluctantly) accept Apple’s iPad, those who bring a Windows tablet into their company’s IT department are likely to be embraced. For the most part, businesses have shown little interest in Android tablets because they are notoriously insecure.

And the advantages go beyond work. Just as one example, sites like Hulu block iOS and Android devices, but Windows-based tablets get in without a hitch.

AnalysisThe rise of affordable Windows models is not just good news for Microsoft — it’s a boon to other companies that have had a hard time breaking into the tablet market, like Acer, Dell, and Lenovo. These have long experience making Windows devices, and that experience is now becoming more useful.

Keep Your Mind Open

I’m not suggesting that everyone in the market for a mid-range tablet would be happiest with one running Windows, but the days are definitely over when someone could automatically dismiss devices running Microsoft’s operating system as being expensive battery hogs.

And that’s probably the best news Microsoft has had in years.

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