The single most interesting thing I noted when watching Windows 8 at Build last night was the insistence that the Windows 8 devices were all PCs. Windows 8 on a desktop? PC. Windows 8 on a touchscreen laptop? PC. Windows 8 on an ARM slate? PC. Anything with Windows 8 code on it is a PC while anything that makes calls is a Windows Phone.
A decade ago, Microsoft was all about tablets. There was a period of a few years where Microsoft was trying to sell tablets to users and, after failing miserably, they gave up. Why? Because they kept shoe-horning Windows onto a slate and called it a tablet while the nascent smartphone and declining PDA market ran circles around those ridiculous technological chimeras that Microsoft gave up flogging years ago.
But, in a very roundabout way, Microsoft has gone out of the tablet business. There are no more Windows tablets, just Windows PCs. Let the rest of the world duke it out over form factors: Microsoft is taking their ball and going home.
To be clear, the “tablet” I tested runs Windows and Metro is, at this point, bolted onto the top of it (Gruber says it reminds him of this.) But I think their positioning is both fascinating and bold. For the past two years or so people have been clamoring for a Windows “tablet.” Well now they’re getting a Windows PC.
What they’re saying is that hardware doesn’t matter. I hope this will expand into their sales channels and we won’t have Windows 8 Professional, Windows 8 Gamer, Windows 8 Home, and Windows 8 Drunkard versions in stores (but I’m not holding my breath.) However, I doubt there will be something called Windows 8 Tablet Edition.
In the end, this is all marketing. But, in a massive departure, they’re not calling this the “Windows Horizontal Slate Experience 2012” and instead they’re holding on to the concept of the PC for all its worth. Why? Well, Apple paved the way with their “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” ads and then Microsoft further explored this territory with their “I’m a PC” spots. Now that they actually have a competitor, they need to own their own part of the computing space. This is how they’re pulling it off.
It’s far to early to see how this marketing plan will pan out but Microsoft made it abundantly clear that they don’t want the “post-PC era” to mean this is a post-Microsoft era. What better way to to it by co-opting the terminology people use to describe their products?