Who's going to buy a Windows RT tablet?

Kindle Fire HD
This year's big tablet question is: iPad or Amazon?

September's one of my favourite months, because there's always a mad scramble to announce new stuff before Apple's annual headline hogging event.

This year was no exception, with interesting new things from the likes of Nokia. The most interesting kit of all, though, came from Amazon: while I'm disappointed there's no Kindle Paperwhite for the UK, I fancy the

Kindle Fire HD.

My esteemed colleague Gareth Beavis reckons Amazon just ruined Christmas for Google, and I think he's right: the Kindle Fire HD appeals to a wider, less techy audience than the Nexus 7. But what Amazon is doing to Google is nothing compared to what it's doing to Microsoft.

Who's going to buy a Windows RT tablet now?

Is different better?

Last month I poured scorn on the idea of super-cheap Windows RT tablets, but I've changed my mind, at least for the consumer market: for consumers, Windows RT tablets need to be super-cheap or they're stuffed. Not super-cheap on some kind of contract, or super-cheap if you subscribe to, say, Office 365; super-cheap full stop. And even then they could prove to be a tough sell.

Amazon and Apple have done a great job of making tablets with immediate and immense consumer appeal, and Windows RT's "but it does Office!" retort isn't a huge plus when the kids want a tablet for tunes, tomfoolery and YouTube.

Come to think of it, it might not be a huge plus for anyone: if The Verge's video showing Office on an RT tablet, a video involving lots and lots of big fingers trying and failing to hit tiny targets, is any indication, then the supposedly finger-friendly Office isn't anything of the sort.

I like Metro, or whatever the hell it's called now, but I like it on Windows Phone too - and for all its joys, that's hardly set the world on fire. As Michael Gartenberg said about Windows Phone yesterday, Microsoft has to persuade people that "different is better".

I think Windows RT faces the same problem. Given the choice between the Apple product, the Android alternative or the wild and crazy Windows option, people tend to plump for the first two options - and given the choice between the Apple tablet, the Amazon alternative and the wild and crazy Windows option, I think they'll do the same.

The great tablet battle of 2012 won't be fought in PC World: it'll be fought in high streets, and in supermarkets - and Apple and Amazon have already dug in.

My local Tesco and ASDA already have prominent displays of Kindles and iPads. By Christmas, I'm sure, those displays will have Kindle Fires and iPad Minis; what they won't have are Nexus 7s or Surfaces or other Windows RT tablets.

That visibility matters. Think of it in terms of MP3 players: when the question was "which one would you rather have? An iPod or a WalkMan?" how many people answered "Zune"?

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.