With the coming release of Windows 8 tablets (RT), Microsoft is looking to introduce a new form factor to the mass market. A tablet-laptop hybrid. Though this has been done before with products like the Asus Transformer Prime, certain issues have held back the form factor from really taking off.
The hardware is not the issue. Most, if not all reviews of the Transformer Prime, find the hardware to be fantastic, only to have the overall experience tainted by a lackluster operating system. This really shouldn’t surprise anyone. Android apps for tablets are not designed to work with keyboard and mouse. In fact, it’s left up to the OEM to integrate the functionality. The resulting inconsistency between apps and their functionality, breaks the entire idea of hybrid device. Windows 8 will solve all of this.
Microsoft has said many times over that all of the apps designed for Windows 8 are designed to work great with touch, and with keyboard and mouse. Now, I personally find the idea of having all of my content; documents, music, videos on my laptop and tablet to be an extremely powerful idea. This is why the Transformer originally really piqued our interest. When you want to play angry birds and veg out in bed, you can. When you have to get stuff done, you dock it and get a full office experience with mouse and keyboard. None of this Polaris office garbage.
This paired with the ability to properly manage all of your files within Windows Explorer; if pulled off properly by Microsoft, they’ve solved the problem of a tablet’s capabilities being limited to consumption.
Now, like previously said, this a perfect device, if Microsoft can pull it off. They definitely can. As an early adopter of Windows Phone, we’ve seen first hand the attention to detail Microsoft is able to push in a mobile operating system UI. Their authentically digital moto really shines through in Mango, with a clean, no cruft, extremely smooth and speedy experience.
For the first time since Apple originally introduced the iPhone in 2006, a product is looking to actually innovate on tablet UI and touch screen navigation. Rather than a grid of static icons on a huge display; live tiles, gestures, charms and app snapping, are looking to revolutionization touch UI as we know it.
Microsoft has really done something incredible with Zune. Be it on the PC, xbox, or Windows Phone. Zune provides a beautiful UI unmatched by any of its competitors, paired with a fully integrated Zune Pass for all your devices. Providing unlimited access to music, streaming or downloaded, with the experience they provide, is the way music should be done. iTunes falls way short here. Forcing you to purchase single albums you have interest in heavily impedes music discovery and is reminiscent of flawed business models found in other industries today. Not to mention iTunes feels extremely bloated, seemingly running much of the same underlying code since it’s original release in 2001.
If Microsoft can provide an xbox music experience in Windows 8 even remotely as good as they have with Zune, they’ve really got something here.
It’s basic fact. People use multiple devices. Be it a friend’s PC, work computer, phone, whatever, people aren’t always on the same device. Skydrive in basic terms, is exactly what the name implies. A hard drive in the cloud. You can store your videos, pictures, music, documents all in one place, and have them be accessible from anywhere. Though Windows 7 does have some basic skydrive features, it leaves a lot to be desired as far integration goes. Windows Phone however has some really cool Skydrive features, such as automatic uploads to Skydrive when taking pictures and video. From what we’ve seen in the developer preview, Windows is taking big steps to bring Skydrive to the forefront of their operating system and finally get some mindshare to the product, as it really is a fantastic, not to mention free service.
There’s a lot to be seen as far as Windows 8 goes, but for the reasons described, there’s a lot of promise for Windows 8 to be an extremely successful operating system. To this day, we haven’t seen a proper touch UI on a tablet, period. A grid of tiny icons on a very large screen is just not how a tablet UI should be done. It’s great on a phone with a limited sized screen, but a tablet is not a phone, despite it being touch. Apple is not really to blame. They’ve brought a revolutionary product to the market, and decided on the safe choice of following the UI cues from its extremely successful, smaller counterpart. This though, in addition to the iPad selling extremely well, has lead to lack of innovation on Apple’s part.
There needs to be innovation on tablets, because it’s inevitably the future of computing. We need to see more swipes, gestures and innovative ways to navigate the OS and apps. Grids of small icons, tapping tiny navigation buttons on a huge display, is just not the answer. Apple’s not doing it because they don’t need to. Google’s not doing it because in a lot of ways they tend to follow what Apple’s doing. This is where Microsoft has to come in and innovate, and from what we’ve seen so far in Windows 8, they have in a lot of ways. From charms, swiping to show controls, to flicking through your active apps, this is the sort of innovation the tablet needs, and it looks like we’ll finally be seeing it come to market with the release of Windows 8.
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