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When is a tablet not a tablet? According to Microsoft, when it’s a Windows tablet. No wonder it’s lagging behind Google and Apple, says Chris Finnamore
It may have carried on making an eye-watering amount of money, but the last few years have not been particularly kind to Microsoft. No-one really likes Windows 8 (you get used to it, but it's still a muddled OS), Windows Phone started promisingly but seems to be slipping behind Android, and Windows RT has been cut off without a penny.
Part of the problem is marketing. For example, Microsoft didn’t make it clear enough that Windows RT couldn’t run normal Windows applications, leading to disappointed buyers stuck with the meagre app selection in the Microsoft Store. Most Microsoft tablets now run the full version of Windows 8, but as one reader's experience shows, Microsoft's marketing is still a mess.
One of the big selling points for Windows 8 tablets is that they come with a year's subscription to Office 365. According to Microsoft's Office 365 site, having an Office 365 Personal subscription means you can use Office on "1 PC or Mac, and 1 tablet (including iPad and Android tablet) and 1 phone".
Our reader went ahead and bought a Linx 7 Windows tablet, encouraged by our review, which stated that you could indeed use Office on a computer as well as a tablet. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Microsoft doesn't count a Windows tablet as a tablet; in its infinite wisdom, a Windows tablet is a computer. This means that if you buy a Windows tablet with Microsoft Office, you can't install it on your PC, as your "computer" licence has already been used up. This then means that you can't write a document at home with a keyboard and mouse and continue it on the train. Instead, you can start the document on your Windows tablet, then switch to your Android tablet to continue editing which, as I'm sure you'll agree, is pointless. We have twice contacted Microsoft to comment on this policy, but have been ignored both times.
Our reader had a lengthy tech support chat with Microsoft, during which the justification for this policy was that a Windows 8 tablet counts as a computer as it has "all the capabilities… of a computer". Well, a very slow computer with no keyboard, no USB ports, highly limited storage and an operating system that is barely usable with a touchscreen, perhaps.
We freely admit that we made a mistake in our review, but in our defence Microsoft's marketing is more mess than message. The company is far enough behind Google and Apple in the mobile market as it is, without alienating potential customers by undermining the only real reason to buy a Windows tablet in the first place.
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