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Microsoft is banking on Windows 8 to reverse its fortunes.

With all the buzz over the iPad and Kindle Fire lately, we don’t need a study to tell us that Microsoft Windows is will be playing catch-up in the tablet computer market. But a new report from the Forrester research firm this morning quantifies the effect in a way that will be sounding alarm bells in Redmond.

Windows tablets were the top choice among consumers in the first quarter of this year, with 46 percent of people in the U.S. saying they would prefer one. But as of the third quarter, the figure is now 25 percent, according to Forrester data. Forrester’s JP Gownder draws this conclusion in a blog post about the report.

For product strategists, Windows 8 tablets provide a cautionary tale: To be a fast-follower, you must amp up the experience — and do so quickly, before the market changes beyond recognition. Windows 8 tablets must provide consumers with a more differentiated product experience than it otherwise would have, had Microsoft entered the market sooner. They’ll have to take a lesson from Amazon’s product strategists, who fundamentally changed the tablet product experience by leading with content and services rather than feeds and speeds, at a compelling price point. In the rapidly evolving tablet market, Amazon — and Barnes & Noble, with its Nook Tablet — demonstrate fast following done right.

Microsoft unveiled Windows 8 this year, with a tablet-friendly interface, but hasn’t yet given a release date. Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet has more on the report and the underlying data.


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