Forrester’s take on the Microsoft Surface tablet:

“This product marks a crucial pivot in Microsoft’s product strategy,” writes Forrester Analyst Sarah Rotman Epps on her blog. “It blends the Xbox first-party hardware model with the Windows ecosystem model. It puts the focus on the consumer rather than the enterprise. And it lets Microsoft compete with vertically integrated Apple on more even ground. But — and you knew there was a ‘but’ coming — Microsoft will be its own worst enemy in this market. More so than Apple or Google, the worst thing that could happen to Microsoft’s Windows RT tablet is Windows 8 on x86. Selling x86-based tablets in the same retail channels as Windows RT tablets will confuse consumers and sow discontent if consumers buy x86 and think they’re getting something like the iPad. Microsoft and its partners need to articulate a compelling strategy for how they will manage consumer expectations in the channel. Consumers aren’t used to thinking about chipsets. Choice is a key tenet of Windows, but too much choice is overwhelming for consumers. Apple gets this and limits iPad options to connectivity, storage, and black . . . or white.” Read more of Sarah’s analysis on her blog.

Forrester forecasts that 760 million tablets will be in use worldwide by 2016 and that one-third of Americans will own a tablet that same year. 

Forrester Analyst David Johnson writes about what the new Microsoft tablet will mean for IT organizations: “Windows RT will be perceived as more ‘enterprise friendly’ because it will offer you the ability to ‘manage’ it (updates, deployment, patching, etc.) with Windows Intune or System Center Configuration Manager. We currently believe that only SCCM version 2012 will be supported with RT until Microsoft tells us otherwise. No word yet on which other client management vendors are moving to support Windows RT or to what extent Microsoft will enable third-party management tools to participate. Note that Apple has been very deliberate in the management functions it exposes at the API level for management tools to hook into. Forrester believes that the Metro UI will appeal to the phalanx of people currently prodding you to let them use an iPad or Android tablet, and it presents new opportunities for line-of-business application developers to create highly personalized and well-tailored application experiences. Think point-of-sale systems that employees can take to the customer, while IT keeps the auditors happy with demonstrated PCI compliance. Of course, until the apps appear, it’s anyone’s guess just how appealing RT will be.” Read more of David’s analysis on his blog.