Will Windows 8 Tablets Be Just As Crappy For Productivity As The iPad?

The future of desktop applications on Windows 8 tablets appears fuzzy at the moment thanks to Microsoft’s tight lips on the subject and conjectures based on rumors and unnamed sources. Will ARM-based tablets get the traditional desktop interface or just the Metro UI? Will desktop apps get a chance to play as long as they’re certified, or will Microsoft only certify their own apps?

No firm answers at the present, though we may get a few later this month when the first beta of Windows 8 is available.

Through all the haze and confusion around this, I worry that the end result will be that Win8 tablets will suffer from a problem that currently plagues Android and iOS tablets: lack of really good productivity apps.

Samsung Windows 8 tablet

Tablets are great multimedia and entertainment devices, no doubt. But I always warn people away who are looking to do robust productivity tasks. At this point it’s still not possible to, for example, create a semi-complex blog post with images without a lot of frustration, cursing, and disappointment on the iPad. Tablet apps simply do not work as well as desktop apps or web apps designed for desktop.

That’s why there is still a dedicated group of Windows tablet fans that cling to their convertibles and give the iPad and all these Android pretenders a serious side-eye. Windows 8 offered the prospect having your cake and eating it, too, as far as productivity and robust software married with an eminently usable interface.

For some devices this will absolutely be true — the Lenovo Yoga, for instance — but maybe not on pure tablets running on ARM chips.

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Windows 8 will effectively have two different interfaces. One will look like a Windows 7 environment with some updates. The other will look similar to Windows Phone 7. Users will be able to switch between them on traditional desktop or laptop computers that use an x86 architecture — the chips you find in computers now, primarily made by Intel and AMD for the U.S. market. Computers and tablets based around ARM chips — those found in today’s smartphones and tablets made by Qualcomm, Samsung, Texas Instruments, and Nvidia, among others — will get the Metro UI and either no desktop interface or one restricted in some way.

Why the restriction? Battery life and resources, mainly. Programs made to run on the desktop tend to take up more resources than those made to run on ARM tablets. It’s not too complicated or time-intensive to make a tablet app ready to run in a desktop environment on an Intel chip; the reverse is not true.

In the end, Windows 8 tablets may end up with only tablet apps, and that could put them at the same disadvantage in the productivity arena as the iPad and Android slates. Not sure that’s Microsoft’s aim.

The software maker is apparently working hard to ensure that Office 15 will run well in either environment on any kind of chip. But will the slimming down make MS Office as pared down as QuickOffice or Documents To Go? If so, I don’t want it.

Microsoft is going to have a time trying to manage people’s expectations across devices. The average consumer probably doesn’t know the difference between a product with an ARM chip and an x86 one. And I can see a lot of anger erupting when people buy Windows 8 tablets expecting them to act like Windows 8 desktops and run the exact same software.

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Will this potential issue spur developers to step up and create apps that offer the robust functionality traditional computer users need while also working in the Metro interface? It’s a tall order, I know. But a necessary one.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    I agree that the ipad I owned was junk. I just bought a new all in one for the reason you have stated. Unless tablets are made more useful, Ill skip that line again, but I think Microsoft can pull it off with Nokias help.

    • Anonymous says

      I think we are still in the first generation of tablet format, it is still difficult on the long run to know how they would evolve  to fit our needs.

  2. DNel says

    This just brings up the point that there needs to be terminology that is consistantly used to differentiate between tablets (android, iOS) and tablet PCs (x86). It is too easy to slip into calling them all tablets or slates and that can be confusing when you are looking for one or the other. For years the term tablet was for tablet PCs then the iPad came out and stole the term for a limited slate experience. Whatever is selected, tech blogs need to stick to it regardless of general consumers

  3. Avatar Roku says

    I can say with 100% certainty no they won’t be “crappy” because Windows 8 tablets will be compatible with millions of keyboards and mice. Some of them will have docks that transform them into laptops/desktop replacements, some of them will be hybrids that transform between tablet and laptop, and all of them will be compatible with Office, Office 365, and Office web apps. Windows 8 also allows IT to distribute their own custom software and comes with free virtualization software and the ability to house the entire OS and all of your apps on a USB thumb drive with Windows To Go.

    • Anonymous says

      Windows 8 seems to be totally different OS in term of openess and usage possibility depending on the architecture ( ARM or x86 ). The ARM version seems to provide a more iPad(tm) like experience (that is, closed ecosystem, and consumption oriented device ).

      • DNel says

        Avatar Roku seems to be mixing the different Windows 8 OS’s (tablet, and tablet PC/laptop/desktop). Tablet PC (x86) will be the full OS able to switch to a windows 7 experience where you can use Office and all the productivity software available and the Metro UI which is more of an iOS, Android, WF7 experience. Tablets (ARM) I’ve heard will only be able to access apps made for Metro UI (no Office). This shows why we need a standardized terminology to distinguish from ARM tablets and x86 tablets. I wouldn’t say either form of Windows 8 will be crappy, just that you can be productive and entertained on the x86 OS and merely entertained on the ARM OS. I expect that in the future ARM will become more robust (be able to handle full applications) and x86 chips will become more power efficient (longer battery life) so consumers won’t have two forms of OS but one full OS

        • Anonymous says

          There is Office for ARM… And in what way is ARM not robust now? Why wouldn’t it be able to run full apps now? If it’s just that they need to be recompiled, that isn’t a robustness issue…

        • DNel says

          alxlr8, I would be pleasantly amazed if you could point me to the full Windows certified Office 2010 version for ARM based devices (Android or iOS) I would love to be able to use it on my Galaxy Tab 10.1. What I don’t want is the wash down, crap ware office-to-go or documents-to-go lite versions that are not even close to the full versions. Robustness means complexity of actual programs that the cpu can handle. Full Photoshop CS, Final Cut pro, full Office, full CAD, no lite versions. No recompiled (to a lesser ability) versions. Full robust versions of currently only Mac or PC level computing.

  4. Roger J says

    The people who have been waiting for the next generation of Windows tablets will be far more productive than the fan-boys who allege that they are productive on the iPad, this site’s resident experts and readers excepted.

  5. Batman says

    I am sorry to inform you guys but Windows 8 for ARM is something in the middle of 9 year old programmer creation and a dog shit.
    It is running quite smooth because it is like LG platforms – it is cool, but actually can not run anything.

    Windows 8 for ARM will never run applications which is designed for x86 PC’s.

    It was mention as a cheap advertisement at the birth of Windows 8.

    Anyway this – which is the MAIN issue to have Windows will never hapens on ARM.

    So i assume Google will took over the whole Tablets trade just a couple of weeks after Windows 8 been released.

    I am sorry to bring the bad news to Micro$oft – but this time their product really sux !

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