What's still up in the air - and will likely be revealed this week at CES in Las Vegas - is how Microsoft will take Windows 7 and make it tablet-ready with either Intel or ARM-based chips, and get some devices out into the market. Today's confirmation that Windows 8 will work with ARM chips for tablets doesn't really solve the current problem because Windows 8 won't be available until 2012, which gives Apple, RIM and others basically an eternity to make consumers and businesses forget about Windows-based tablets.
Do tablets have a strong chance to infiltrate the enterprise? Yes, as long as they are called iPad, according to a recent blog post by Ted Schadler, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, which recently forecast that the US tablet market will reach 82 million tablet owners by 2015.
Despite having enticing features like Flash media support and enhanced security, non-iPad tablets - what Schadler calls ABi (Anything But iPads) - will struggle with enterprise adoption because:
iPad and its thousands of apps have a one-year head start; iPads are sold directly to businesses and are being brought in by consumers/corporate users, giving IT more flexibility; and iPads are entertainment devices that can moonlight as work devices and users have come to expect tablets to support business and pleasure.
ABi's like RIM's Playbook, Cisco's Cius and whatever Windows tablets Microsoft has in store will need to be dual devices to win the hearts and minds of workers and IT managers, and all seem to be business-minded devices only.
One ray of light for Microsoft, according to Schadler, is the advantage of full Microsoft Office support that a Windows tablet could offer. It's the one feature that could help the tablet graduate from a third device and replace the laptop in full.
That is if Microsoft can join the tablet race, which is becoming a race against time.
Shane O'Neill covers Microsoft, Windows, Operating Systems, Productivity Apps and Online Services for CIO.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Shane at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about applications in CIO's Applications Drilldown.