Last week saw the debut of two Windows tablets with prices so low that they have the potential to shake up the mobile device market.
Previously, anyone looking for a tablet under $150 had to get one running Google’s Android OS. Not any more, though. The newly-released Toshiba Encore Mini has a 7-inch screen and is priced at just $120. Those looking for a slightly larger Windows tablet can wait for the Acer Iconia Tab W, which will have an 8-inch display and cost $150 when it’s released later this fall. Both will run Windows 8.1 on Intel processors and should support the new version of Microsoft’s operating system that’s expected to be released in the coming months.
While Android is undoubtedly a good operating system, a major factor in its success has been the low prices of small and mid-size tablets running it. The introduction of inexpensive Windows device raises the strong possibility that many shoppers who previously would have purchased a budget Android device will opt for Windows instead.
This is especially likely if other companies besides Acer and Toshiba get into the market for sub-$200 tablets … something that’s quite likely to happen.
Microsoft and Intel Encouraging Tablets
Both the Encore Mini and Iconia Tab W use Intel processors to run the full version of Windows, even though Microsoft first created the alternate Windows RT version to run on very inexpensive tablets built around ARM processors.
Toshiba and Acer chose this configuration for a very logical reason: money. Intel has set a goal of getting its chips in 40 million tablets released this year. To accomplish this, the company is paying device makers to use Intel processors.
At the same time, in order to foster the development of low-cost Windows models, Microsoft is giving away copies of Windows to any company that will use the OS in tablets with screens smaller than 9 inches
Together, these moves by Intel and Microsoft have brought about this new wave of very affordable tablets.
Windows vs. Android
People looking for a light-duty second computer for web browsing and email would likely be satisfied with either Windows or Android, but each has some advantages.
Those buying a budget Windows tablet will get a device that can run the apps they have on their laptops or PCs. Small and mid-size tablets running this operating system even come with a free year of Office 365. However, legacy apps written for Windows 7 and before aren’t always easy to use on touchscreens, and the selection of touch-enhanced “Metro” apps written for Windows 8 and above is somewhat limited. Only those who have a laptop or PC running Windows 8.1 will be familiar with the user interface, which has been significantly redesigned since Windows 7.
Low-cost Android tablets have access to a wide array of software, even though much of this was created for phones and isn’t optimized for larger displays. There’s currently no version of Microsoft Office for tablets running this operating system, although that’s expected to change soon, and Google Play offers far more casual games designed to be played on a touchscreen than the Windows Store does. Those who have an Android phone will find it easy to use this OS on a tablet.