Windows 7 Tablet: Four Keys to Success Against the iPad

Initial reactions to the iPad earlier this year may have been mixed, but Apple's elegant tablet PC has since caught fire, racking up a devoted following and monster sales.

Between March and June, over 3 million iPads were sold worldwide, and new data from market research firm iSuppli shows that the iPad will dominate the tablet market by almost three to one until 2012.

Meanwhile, all the major computer vendors are working on a tablet. Some are running Google's Android mobile OS; some are running a proprietary OS such as RIM's rumored BlackPad and Hewlett-Packard's planned consumer tablet running WebOS.

And then there's Windows 7. Microsoft's successful client OS is currently running on a few tablet PCs, and according to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will be on a variety of tablets "over the next several months." Two of the most anticipated Windows 7 tablets scheduled for 2011 are the MSI WindPad and the HP Slate.

But can a Windows 7 tablet really break ground against the mighty iPad? In a recent report titled "The Windows 7 Tablet Imperative", Forrester research analysts J.P. Gownder and Sarah Rotman Epps write that Microsoft can compete with the iPad, but it must make an impact quickly and work with hardware partners to match the iPad on design and price.

Slideshow: 9 Real iPad Alternatives

Slideshow: Slate Wars: 15 Tablets That Could Rival Apple's iPad

Slideshow: Tablets, Real and Rumored

In fact, the report states, a successful Windows tablet has become crucial for Microsoft given that "tablets represent the next wave of mass-market consumer computing devices ... demonstrated by the iPad's proficiency in eReading, music and video consumption, and a variety of entertainment-oriented apps."

The main way to a successful Windows 7 tablet, according to Forrester, is through the use of "curated computing", which the research firm defines as "a mode of computing where choice is constrained to deliver less complex, more relevant experiences." In other words, have a simple and streamlined user interface that is easy to navigate.

Curated computing is something the iPad does very well, writes authors Gownder and Epps, and must be embraced by Microsoft if it wants to compete in the tablet space.

Here are Forrester's four keys to a successful Windows 7 tablet.

Enable Curated Computing via a "User Experience Shell"

The worst thing Microsoft can do is to give a Windows 7 tablet the same user interface as a laptop, which is too complex for a tablet, according to the Forrester report. Microsoft and its partners must develop a user experience (UX) shell that simplifies Windows 7 for tablet and touch-screen functionality.

"Windows 7 tablets can only compete if Microsoft embraces Curated Computing by providing a guided experience for users and drawing on the design strengths of other Microsoft products like the Zune HD and the Kin," writes Gownder and Epps, adding that a Microsoft tablet that synchs with the Xbox 360 and enables back-and-forth streaming of videos and games could one-up the iPad.

Microsoft should also take elements from the Surface product to bolster the language of touch screens, according to the Forrester report.

Get Ready to Spend a Lot on Marketing

Microsoft and its partners will need to invest big money in advertising to succeed in the tablet space, according to the Forrester report. Apple is hard to compete with in this category. It has a reputation for being innovative, has an extremely loyal fan base and an easy time getting rabid press coverage. Apple spent $501 million on advertising campaigns in 2009.

Microsoft will need to "pull out the wallet" for tablets, according to Forrester, using social media as a marketing tool as well as traditional advertising and branding campaigns.

Balance Price with Product Quality

The price of a Windows 7 tablet should be lower than the iPad, but if it doesn't meet or exceed iPad's range of features, then price won't matter.

"If a sub-$499 tablet offers a bad consumer experience, it will fail," writes Gownder and Epps. "Yet prices above $750 would almost certainly be too high for a complementary device that acts as a second, third, or fourth PC in the home."

Slideshow: Windows 7 Hardware in Pictures: The Latest and Greatest Laptops

Slideshow: Seven Features in Windows 7 You Probably Don't Know About

Slideshow: Seven Tools to Ease Your Windows 7 Rollout

Making a Windows 7 tablet a "curated, elegant product" is the first order of business, according to Forrester. The pricing must balance the iPad's established stake in the ground with a satisfying Windows user experience.

Reach Consumers Directly

Apple Stores certainly give Apple an advantage to promote a new product and interact directly with customers. The stores are "effective educational channels as well as sales channels," writes Gownder and Epps. Microsoft doesn't have this and Best Buy is not always the easiest place to build a new product category.

Microsoft and its partners must look outside Best Buy here," writes Gownder and Epps. "Instead, promotion in the Microsoft Store pilots, creative new partnerships with retailers, and the use of mall kiosks will take the product to the people quickest."

Shane O'Neill covers Microsoft, Windows, Operating Systems, Productivity Apps and Online Services for Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Shane at

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags AppleMicrosofthardware systemstablet PCslaptops

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Shane O'Neill

Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?