IT heavyweights like Microsoft need a long time to get going, but once they're started, they are difficult to stop or divert from their planned path.So it's no surprise that it felt like an eternity before people could in good conscience consider smartphones with Windows Phone as market-ready, competitive products.Microsoft was substantially less responsible for the positive development than its collaboration partner, Nokia, which convinced the Redmonders with a multibillion dollar sum to change to the platform three years ago, and now has largely been taken over.
The step was evidently necessary, because the platform's appeal for producers is still limited.According to Strategy Analytics, around 36 million smartphones with Windows Phone were sold in 2013, equaling a 3.6 percent market share.Add to that, more than 90 percent of the Windows Phones bear the Nokia logo.When seen in this light, it's easy to understand why other providers are less than enthusiastic and that Microsoft - as reported - is waving its checkbook at players like Huawei, Samsung and Sony to grease the decision-making wheels.
A similarly unsatisfying situation prevails with tablets, a product group originally introduced by Microsoft.The Microsoft platforms - Windows 8 and the ARM version, Windows RT - achieved a mere third place here according to Strategy Analytics with 11 million devices sold and a 4.8 percent market share - falling far behind the two market leaders, Android (1.4 1 million devices, 62.3% market share) and iOS (74.2 million devices, 32.7% market share).However, Microsoft improved significantly over the previous year, where Windows could claim only a 1.5 percent market share.The software giant only started to sharpen its focus on the tablet segment in fall 2012 with the launch of Windows 8.Although Microsoft didn't exactly drape itself in glory with the Surface tablets that were not market ready, a growing number of appealing models from other producers are joining the ranks.
While the situation in the smartphone market remains difficult, they have decent chances of weakening the dominance of Android and iOS a bit in the tablet market.For one thing, pricing for the new generation of Windows tablets is getting closer to competitors; for another, the devices are catching up in terms of battery life and performance.Last but not least, the integrated business functions should be mentioned - even though ease-of-use is sometimes impacted, with Windows 8.1 it offers a PC operating system with full Office suite.
Where is the journey headed? The first models of product year 2014 such as the Asus VivoTab Note 8 show us. Weighing 380 g, the device has an 8-inch IPS display with 1280 x 800 pixel resolution and includes a digitizer stylus from Wacom for easier input. It comes with Windows 8.1 in the 32GB version, and Office 2013 Home & Student is preinstalled. Very cost-effective starting at €300, it has an Intel Atom quad-core Z3740 processor (1.86 Ghz). Models are available with 32 or 64 GB of storage, which can be expanded with a micro SD card.
While Acer offers a similarly equipped 8-inch tablet for private end users, the Iconia W4, the Lenovo Thinkpad 8 Tablet with its advanced features and higher price primarily targets professional users - essentially as an iPad Mini alternative.It comes with an 8.3-inch IPS display (1920 x 1200) and a 2.4 Ghz Intel Z3770 quad-core processor from the Bay Trail platform as well as 2 GB DDR3 SDRAM.Devices are available in two versions with 64 or 128 GB integrated storage, but also have a micro SD interface.Lenovo claims up a battery life of up to eight hours for the ThinkPad 8 Tablet (weight: 430 g.).
Lenovo was thinking of users who vacillate between a tablet and small notebook with its IdeaTab Miix 2 series: The hybrid tablet devices with removable keyboard are based on Windows 8.1 and come in 10-inch and 11.6-inch format.The essential difference between the two devices is the processor: While the IdeaTab Miix 2 10 only uses a 1.86 Ghz Intel Bay Trail Z3740 processor, the larger model has an Intel Core i3 CPU installed.Although this is only a dual core processor, it should still provide far superior performance.Lenovo also offers the IdeaTab Miix 2 11 with a Core i5 processor as an upgrade option.
Asus also addresses indecisive customers with the Transformer Book Duet TD300: This device is a 13.3-inch tablet (1080p) with dockable keyboard that converts in the blink of an eye to a fast Windows Notebook.Or an Android laptop as well.According to Asus, switching only takes four seconds, so users scarcely need to compromise.The Transformer Book Duet is also nothing to sneeze at from a hardware perspective: The device is driven by an Intel Core i7 processor with 4 GB DDRL3 RAM.The tablet offers up to 128 GB of internal storage capacity and can be expanded with a micro SD card.The keyboard dock has an additional 1 TB.
However, this double life also has disadvantages.The battery life in Windows mode is a mere five hours, and Asus reports an estimated six hours with Android.The combination also makes for a fatter device: The tablet is about 13 mm thick, and the laptop dock is 16 mm.Furthermore, both parts together weigh a hefty 1.9 kg.Nevertheless, at $599 for the quad-mode dual OS device, buyers barely pay more than for a simple tablet or notebook.