A new report, "Microsoft's Shrinking Window For Tablets," postulates that by the time Windows 8 tablets hit shelves in mid-2012, the competition will have passed them by.
Forrester Research says it's bullish overall on Micorosoft's Windows 8 as a consumer operating system, but when it comes to Windows 8 tablets, timing is everything. And timing is not always a Microsoft strength.
"On tablets, Windows 8 is going to be very late to the party," Forrester analyst JP Gownder wrote today.
Gownder writes that Microsoft has been a follower before in many fields, starting with the browser wars of the 1990s, but that the company was able to succeed becuase it was usually a "fast follower" with its product launches.
"For tablets, though, Windows really isn’t a fast follower," Gownder writes."Rather it’s (at best) a fifth-mover after iPad, Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, HP’s now-defunct webOS tablet, and the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet."
By the time Win8 tablets hit the market, Apple will be on its third or even fourth generation iPad, and quad-core tablets will dominate. (The first quad-core tablet—Asus' Transfomer Prime—is scheduled to ship in early December.) Higher-resolution screens and new tablet OS iterations by Apple and and Android will also be in play.
Forrester writes that consumer interest in Windows tablets has taken a severe nosedive this year. "In Q1 2011, Windows was by far the top choice of consumers—while no touch-first Windows tablets existed, 46% of U.S. consumers yearned for one," Forrester writes. "By Q3 2011, that picture had changed dramatically: Windows was no longer No. 1 in choice preference, and interest among consumers dropped to 25%."
Forrester's numbers are similar to forecasts made by DisplaySearch in October. DisplaySearch suggested that even by 2017, Windows 8 will account for just 8.8 percent of the market.
Gownder wraps up his article with a warning for Microsoft and other tablet late-comers. "For product strategists, Windows 8 tablets provide a cautionary tale: to be a fast-follower, you must amp up the experience — and do so quickly, before the market changes beyond recognition."