Desire for Windows 8 tablet shrinking: Forrester

Tablets with Microsoft's Windows 8 will have to be competitive on features and price to draw user interest

Interest in tablets with Microsoft's Windows 8 is plummeting, Forrester Research said in a study released on Tuesday.

Microsoft will be late to market with Windows 8, and lagging well behind competitors such as Apple and Google, which have refined their OSes for the fast-changing tablet market, wrote JP Gownder, vice president and research director at Forrester, in a blog entry.

About 46 percent of U.S. consumers "yearned" for a Windows 8 tablet in the first quarter this year, but that has dropped to 25 percent in the third quarter, Forrester said in its study. Microsoft has not officially announced a release date for Windows 8, but Intel executives expect the OS to arrive on PCs by mid-to-late next year.

Microsoft's touch-oriented Windows 8 will work on x86 processors, which are used in PCs, and ARM processors, which are used in most tablets today. Windows 8 will join a tablet OS field that includes Apple's iOS, Google's Android and BlackBerry's Playbook OS 2, which is due for release early next year.

Microsoft has a better chance to encroach on Android, which has failed to be an effective competitor to Apple's iOS, Forrester said. Windows 8 will enable better interoperability between tablets and PCs, but could face a tough time catching up with Apple's dominant iOS. Apple's mobile OS enables many laptop-like features such as productivity tools and iPads are now being used in enterprises as a PC alternative.

Microsoft will also have to provide a unique experience through Windows 8 to attract consumer attention. Tablet features are changing rapidly and prices have been falling, driven by the recent releases of the US$199 Amazon Kindle Fire and the $249 Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet, Gownder wrote.

"They'll have to take a lesson from Amazon's product strategists, who fundamentally changed the tablet product experience by leading with content and services rather than feeds and speeds, at a compelling price point," Gownder wrote.

Customers on average are willing to spend $308 for a tablet, Forrester said.

But Forrester did not discount Windows 8 being a successful tablet OS because of Microsoft's history with OSes. Windows is used on most PCs and netbooks today, despite Microsoft lagging Apple in the graphical user interface, and Linux on netbooks.

Top PC makers Hewlett-Packard and Dell have already announced plans to release tablets with Windows 8. Microsoft's Windows 7 is already being used on some tablets like Dell's Latitude ST, HP's Slate 2 and Fujitsu's Stylistic Q550, which are targeted at businesses.

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