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Windows 8: Redmond, We Have a Problem

But there are two more issues with both versions of the Surface tablet that will further hobble the enterprise version: screen size and keyboard.

For enterprise productivity, most workers want a device that's got at least a 12.1-inch screen. The Surface tablets are 10.6 inches. Game over, good night, roll down the curtain.

The screen size also largely determines the size and nature of the keyboard. There are three problems for the Microsoft Surface's keyboard:

1. It most likely is too small, because of the 10.6-inch screen size.

2. At least one of the keyboards Microsoft showed was flimsy. This will work OK on a hard and flat surface, but how about trying to work with it in your lap? It's called a lap-top after all. Try writing something with a pencil on a single 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper in your lap, and you get the drift.

3. A keyboard attached to a tablet will also be top-heavy. Again, if it's not flimsy, it will still be a bit difficult to deal with in your lap. How would the screen stay up? Microsoft Surface has a stand to allegedly compensate for this, but although it works on a flat table, of course it is essentially impossible to use in your lap.

Bottom line on Microsoft Windows 8 in the form of its own Surface tablets: fail, fail and fail.

What about regular x86 Windows 8 for laptops and desktops? Well, the answer is divided into two parts of the market: Consumer and enterprise.

1. Consumer: These users are fleeing Microsoft by the droves into the arms of Apple, and may also begin to go for Google's Chromebooks -- at least if Google manages to significantly turn on the marketing machine. Will Microsoft be able to stem the tide with Microsoft 8? Possibly, but I doubt it.

I have yet to hear a single consumer who has said "I was going to ditch my Windows laptop for Apple or a Google Chromebook, but instead I've chosen to wait for Windows 8 so that I will be more likely to stay with Windows." We shall see, but color me skeptical.

2. Enterprise: This is the big kahuna for Microsoft. I keep hearing all day long that Microsoft is going to have such a fantastic year ahead of us because there is an "upgrade cycle" to Windows 8 starting in the fall. The Windows 8 "upgrade cycle" mantra is repeated endlessly, and nobody seems to challenge it.

Enterprises were thrilled to upgrade to Windows 7 in the last few years, for good reason. It offered much-improved functionality and security for enterprises of all sizes. It was therefore a massive upgrade cycle, the biggest for Microsoft ever.

However, when I ask business owners if they plan on upgrading to Windows 8, they laugh at me. In their minds, all Windows 8 brings to the party is a bunch of really distracting and annoying tiles that will subtract from the attention and productivity of their employees.

A typical comment I hear is, "We want our employees to focus on work, not to be dragged into Twitter and Facebook all day long."

I would go so far as to say that enterprises tell me that they would pay to stay on Windows 7, which works just fine, rather than put Windows 8 in front of their workers. That's bad.

Don't just take my word for it. I've been reading the comments on the Microsoft blog that deals with Windows 8.

Yes, not every single comment is negative, but spend a few hours reading them and you will see many strong arguments against deploying Windows 8 in the enterprise.

For all I know, Windows 8 may have some wonderful attributes if you are willing to look past those flashing social networking tiles.

Perhaps Microsoft will allow you to turn off all of that distracting garbage and focus on only the productive part of the OS that would look just like Windows 7 does today. If so, Microsoft will have averted a disaster. Surely Microsoft will be clarifying this in the near future, in case people like me missed it already.

But if Microsoft doesn't fix or otherwise clarify this and the several other problems with Windows 8, then I doubt that it will have the Windows 8-led renaissance year ahead that the market seems to be expecting.

If Microsoft continues to develop products in such a tone-deaf manner, the year ahead could look more like Palm 2010 or Research In Motion (RIMM) 2011. I hope not.

At the time of submitting this article, the author was long AAPL, GOOG, QCOM, FB and NVDA, and short MSFT, AMD and AMZN.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
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