IT managers say they are eagerly awaiting Windows 8-based tablets due out this fall, though some do wonder whether it's too late for Microsoft to successfully take on Apple iPads and various Android tablets.
"We are waiting with baited breath for Windows 8 on tablets," said Greg Fell, CIO at Terex, a manufacturer of construction products, in an interview at the Computerworld Premier 100 conference here this week.
"We'd like a hybrid tablet with Windows," Fell explained, noting that Terex runs many Windows-based applications that would likely work well with a Windows 8 tablet.
Fell is so eager to hear what Microsoft has planned for Windows 8 tablets that he's attending a special two-day informational meeting with Microsoft officials next week in Redmond, Wash.
Terex workers already use "hundreds" of iPads in various ways, and the company recently ordered 250 more. At this point, Fell said Android tablets aren't considered secure enough.
Whether Microsoft can make any headway against Apple's dominance in the tablet market is questionable, Fell said.
"It's a question of whether Microsoft is too late to the game," he said. "If they stumble, they might be out of the [tablet] market."
Lenovo, which already makes a touchscreen tablet running Android Honeycomb, plans to release a Windows 8 in either September or October that will run on similar hardware, booth representatives at the conference said.
Box Chief Operating Officer Dan Levin said the Los Altos, Calif.-based cloud file system provider is already committed to supporting Windows 8 on tablets and other form factors, "even though we're not big Microsoft fans."
He said the limited success of Windows Phone has had workers at Box "laughing at Microsoft. Both Windows Phone users are in Finland."
But he added: "That [attitude] will change with Windows 8. It is a really good OS."
Levin had similar concerns as others at the conference, wondering "if anybody is going to give Microsoft a chance. It's their first tablet."
He predicted that enterprise customers will give Windows 8 on tablet a chance even if consumers do not. "It's going to give Microsoft a kick back into the big leagues, but the question is whether they are too late," Levin said.
One IT executive at a company in the Fortune 250 who asked not to be named said Windows 8 on tablets "won't be a big hitter. It's too little, too late."
Alex Yohn, assistant director of the office of technology at West Virginia University in Morgantown, W. Va., said Windows-based tablets have "huge potential. If the Windows tablet takes off, I see integration of the Windows tablet with Windows Phone."
Microsoft has released a Windows 8 Consumer Preview, which Yohn said a member of his team is testing. Last month, Microsoft said it would offer a Windows 8 version for ARM-based processors with Office software embedded. However,
Fell said he isn't as interested in an ARM-based tablet as much as one running an x86 processor.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.