Nick Parker, the head of Microsoft's OEM division, confirmed with analysts during Computex 2013 in Taipei that the company has indeed cut the prices of Windows 8 and Windows RT licenses to ODMs building tablets with screen sizes between 7 inches and 10.1 inches. This is to help drop the end-price for consumers and spark an increase in Windows-based sales.
In addition to the licensing fee drop, the company is also bundling Office Home & Student 2013 with Windows 8 on those devices. Previously the suite was only bundled with Windows RT, packing Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and Word apps. The Windows 8 version will have the same four applications, and the Outlook email client – a must-have for business users -- is expected to make its debut later this summer.
Acer is the first to bat with the industry's first sub-10 inch Windows 8 tablet, as seen on Monday. It packs an 8.1 inch screen, an Intel Atom Z2760 chip and a full-blown version of Windows 8, not the ARM-flavored Windows RT. Even more, it has Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 pre-installed and a starting price of $379. That's not too shabby considering the Wi-Fi only version of the 7.9 inch iPad mini with the same capacity (32 GB) is $50 more.
That said, it seems that Microsoft may be undercutting Apple in that specific form factor, but will it be enough to win customers over from cheaper Android tablets? The 10 inch Nexus tablet from Samsung/Google with 16 GB of storage costs just $20 more than the Acer tablet, yet it can't run software designed for x86-based Windows desktops, laptops and tablets. For now, Office will remain a Windows exclusive.
Wes Miller of Directions on Microsoft said that the inclusion of Office could be enough for some customers to finally gravitate to x86-based Windows 8 tablets. "It's an incentive to those Office-heavy consumer users," he noted. "But I'm not sure it's going to encourage the sale of smaller [Windows] tablets. Maybe it's not supposed to."
Many analysts have concluded that Microsoft thinks its best sales tool is actually the Office suite, not Windows itself. This assumption is based on Microsoft's reluctance to fully bring its popular productivity software to Android and iOS. Instead, the company is using Office as a carrot to lure customers to Windows-based devices. The inclusion of Office on the new Windows 8 tablets is a perfect example.
However Miller points out that Office RT "wasn't terribly touch optimized", and Office 2013 is even less touch-oriented. Imagine that experience on a 7 inch or 8 inch device. That said, what's the point? Moorhead seemingly agrees with the status of the apps, but is a bit more optimistic overall, saying that Microsoft is "on track with their platform strategy."