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I had no idea the Ctrl-Alt-Del button was so ridiculous



Well, this is interesting. Two days after I praise Hugo Ortega for including a dedicated Ctrl-Alt-Del button on his TEGA V2, a sign of his experience with Tablet PCs and UMPCs, every hater on the Internet is bashing the HP Slate for having a dedicated Ctrl-Alt-Del button.

In case you missed it, some dude got his hands on a prototype of the mythic HP Slate and put it on YouTube. In his straightforward overview of the exterior, he points out the Ctrl-Alt-Del button, a standard feature on real Tablet PCs. Ridicule by commenters everywhere ensued. Well, almost everywhere.

In a prime example of how my life works, after going almost my entire Tablet PC-equipped life without mentioning it, I sang the praises of the Ctrl-Alt-Del button twice this month. First, I suggested it be included on ViewSonic’s ViewPad 10. Then I commended Hugo Ortega for actually doing it with his TEGA V2. And now the idea of such a button is the most ridiculous, FAIL-ridden thing some people have ever seen, presumably because they don’t know what it does.

See this photo? This is what you get on the screen on a Windows 7 tablet after you press the Ctrl-Alt-Del button. You can lock the computer, switch the user, log off, change the password, or start the Task Manager. Not seeing the ridiculous part here.

Yes, the button is a failsafe to get to the task manager if the system freezes. However, all desktop operating systems offer equivalent ways to unfreeze the system. The difference is you can’t use an on-screen keyboard for Ctrl-Alt-Del when the system’s frozen. Hence the need for a hard button.

Mock the Ctrl-Alt-Del button if you must, but it’s been a standard part of Windows-based tablets for nine years (It’s in the Wikipedia entry), and it’s not like Android and iOS never get frozen.



  1. Ricky Cadden

    09/23/2010 at 11:25 am

    I saw that it was being labeled a fail, as well, and I think that’s a bit ridiculous. It’s probably the same reason people call touchscreen phones that ship with a stylus (capacitive or resistive) a fail – regardless of whether or not you’ll actually need to use it (some cultures do).

    The biggest reason I think the C-A-D button is awesome is for easy user-switching. I don’t think that tablets are going to be single-user devices, at least not to the extent that laptops and phones are. Imagine a family of 5 – with almost everything being web-based, it’s possible that each family member will use the tablet differently. Thus, a button to easily switch users would be key to how well some family members adopt it.

  2. acerbic

    09/23/2010 at 11:31 am

    Obsessed, scared iFad zombies will certainly yap about everything they can make up. Who gives a $#[email protected]

  3. GTaylor

    09/23/2010 at 12:07 pm

    Any number of buttons scares people who bought their favorite toy for no more reason than the great finger painter in the black turtleneck told them that touch is cool and buttons and styli are sooooo un cool. On the Gizmodo site there were many slams about the C-A-D button, several that said that there were too many buttons, 7 to 8 million (I counted 5) and a nearly constant barrage of anti Win7 gripes.
    The point is plain. That is one noisy and nearsighted crowd. I’m glad they self identify so well.

  4. Kosta

    09/23/2010 at 12:15 pm

    Last I checked, my x200 tablet has a dedicated button for this purpose.

  5. Yuri Andropov

    09/23/2010 at 1:09 pm

    Maybe it’s just me, but after owning a couple of Windows 7 slate-type devices with no physical keyboard or hardware ctrl-alt-del button, I really don’t miss it. I’ve never had the system lock up to the point where I couldn’t do anything else or pull up the task manager. Easy locking might be nice, but I typically sleep or hibernate the device when I’m done which locks it on wake-up anyway. The other stuff on that menu can be easily done through the start menu. Maybe it would be most useful to enterprise users where the login policies require ctrl-alt-del before login. In practice I find it superfluous.

  6. kaybiwan

    09/23/2010 at 2:10 pm

    Ctrl-Alt-Del is mandatory to log on to a corporate network. Without a dedicated button a slate becomes almost unusable i.e. you have to plug in a keyboard. That’s why it’s part of the standard.
    It just shows the limited IQ or IT knowledge of a typical commenter. My biggest concern about the slate is the lack of a stylus & it’ll be underpowered. Touch on Windows is little more than a gimmick (scrolling & zooming only) until Microsoft do what they should have done years ago and provide a proper skin for tablets which also works for applications. Accessing the notification area for example is hard enough with a stylus, it’s nearly impossible with a finger.

    I’ve used Tablets since they first shipped.
    Currently using M700 with resistive touch & J3500 with capacative.

    • Corporate Drone

      09/23/2010 at 3:09 pm

      Thanks, kaybiwan, for pointing out the thing that the GBM editorial staff has consistently failed to recognize. Sad that it took so long for someone to mention the secure logon screen.

      • Sumocat

        09/23/2010 at 4:13 pm

        “consistently failed to recognize”? When has this topic ever come up before?

        • Dan

          09/24/2010 at 5:45 am

          That comment was likely a little harsh and exagerated, however, notice the ‘justification’ article for why the button should be there. There is no mention of the corporate login. On boot, each and every day at work, that is the first thing I need to do. I have never had to use it to unfreeze my Win 7 devices.


          • Sumocat

            09/24/2010 at 6:10 am

            If people want to ping me for not mentioning corporate login, that’s fine. I didn’t mention it. I’m not disputing any of them. But I don’t see how this one time makes for “consistent failure”. If I was one for one from the free throw line, that wouldn’t mean I consistently make the shot.

          • Dan

            09/24/2010 at 7:22 am

            Try not to take it personally, the ‘net’ is full of hype on all sides.


        • Corporate Drone

          09/24/2010 at 11:00 am

          Not that anybody’s keeping count, but you’ve brought up the C-A-D thing at least 4 times this month without mentioning the connection between the secure attention sequence sequence and user logins:
          1) Viewsonic Viewpad 10 writeup
          2) TEGA V2 writeup
          3) HP Slate writeup
          4) this article
          Maybe C-A-D is in the old Tablet PC spec, but this the reason why it’s there. You’ve also gone on to give Ars crap for their interpretation of the function without acknowledging that their point is at least premised in fact – a fact that, outside of this comment thread, you have not acknowledged in any of the 5 articles on related to this ridiculous subject. Can we please just move on?

          • Sumocat

            09/24/2010 at 11:45 am

            And how many times would I have had to explain what the button does or defend its inclusion? I haven’t had to defend it before; only explain that it’s always been there. And you should be able to infer from my write-up on Ars why I’m avoiding connecting the button to enterprise use (and you’ll see I stated upfront their statement was true and credited Josh for his explanation).

    • aftermath

      09/23/2010 at 4:59 pm

      Um. Your comment isn’t just right. It probably deserves its own editorial post. In fact, it’s indicative of a perspective (a very valid one) that probably deserves its own blog. Back when we were a culture of technology enthusiasts, computers were just tools and were leveraged by businesses. However, technology has stratified a lot in recent years. In many ways that’s a good thing, but unfortunately the stuff with wide spread appeal is now low-end consumer devices. Because as a culture we’re now a community of product hypers rather technology enthusiasts, it’s easy to forget that the little toys that we distract ourselves with the these days aren’t necessarily valid business tools like the technology of the past was.

      People would be well served to look at what computer OEMs’ hardware and which companies’ software get deployed in large businesses, government, and the military. There may actually be sound technological reasons why your favorite low-end consumer technology device or brand isn’t embraced in those environments. Your computer may be consumer garbage and not a business tool, and because businesses tend not to be emotional addicts (mostly because they’re businesses and not people), it’s harder (but not impossible) to trick them out of their money with a lot of nonsense marketing.

      Because I’m not out to embarrass anybody through the power of self-inflicted awareness, it’s worth pointing out in the most nebulous, gentle way possible that there are certain popular low-end consumer platforms that, despite their perception amongst the tech ignorant as being “virus immune” and “more secure”, are so far the opposite, so insecure and unstable, that they’re almost never supported by IT departments. Believe it or not, as much as you love your KFC “Double Down”, it’s never going to be Chicken Cordon Blue from Michelin Guide listed restaurant. Because business make money from technology purchases rather than waste it, they need quality stuff with specific features. A control-alt-delete button is just the beginning.

      • GTaylor

        09/24/2010 at 8:51 am

        Although your comment covers a very large field, you do bring in the nature of the basic landscape of computer use. This might be tangential to Sumocat’S original past, but I don’t think so. I think it is an an unavoidable condition of the subject under discussion. It bears on other posts on GBM as well to maybe it needs to be addressed by the staff in various dedicated relevant articles.

  7. Joe

    09/23/2010 at 2:34 pm

    I really do hope that the uninformed masses on the consumer tech sites don’t give this product such a bad reputation before it ever launches that we never see it.

    • acerbic

      09/23/2010 at 3:57 pm

      I think the hordes of zombies and flocks of flying monkeys have already given their best shot at killing it with internet yipping and yapping but haven’t succeeded in anything but making HP redesign it into a real, usable tablet computer with stylus instead of a lame “iFad killer”.

      • ChrisRS

        09/23/2010 at 11:12 pm

        It would be nice to know the specs. IT seems tha HP has beeen sitting on this all year. It is time to release it.

        • acerbic

          09/24/2010 at 12:29 am

          My guess is that they haven’t been actually sitting on it. When the first version was demoed, it was a touchscreen only, as cheap as possible iFad competitor. This new “enterprise” version is probably quite a different design inside: as high end as you can make an Atom and with a digitizer, so it’s understandable that it’s taken some time to get it ready.

      • Jeff Jackson

        09/24/2010 at 6:12 am

        > usable tablet computer with stylus instead of a
        > lame “iFad killer”.

        I don’t see any evidence of a stylus there. As far as I can tell, the stylus is dead. No phone or tablet device made from this point forward is likely to have a stylus. They even appear to have disappread from all the new convertables too. I am greatly saddened by this turn of events, but Steve Jobs as spoken (that stylus==FAIL) and no one, but no one, is willing to defy the great and powerful Steve Jobs.

        • JOE H

          09/24/2010 at 8:06 am

          I think you are wrong on the stylus issue, for two big reasons:

          1. Windows still believes in stylus, and is doing research on how stylus nad touch can interact.

          2. There is a thriving market for stylus’s for the ipad, even though jobs said it was a failure.

        • acerbic

          09/24/2010 at 10:39 am

          The dude said there was a stylus, although he wasn’t using it. HP website has mentioned a “digital pen” as an accessory for the slate.

        • Nameless

          09/26/2010 at 12:58 pm

          Well, I’m certainly not going to sit back and let that happen if I can help it. There’s a reason we use the phrase “pen and paper”, not “finger and paper”. It’s really the paper I want to get rid of, not the pen. I don’t care what Steve Jobs or anyone else says, I am the one who decides what tool is the best for me.

          The problem is that nobody has the vision to make a proper pen computer and show why it’s a viable product…well, Microsoft Research did with the Courier, but you know what the greater Microsoft bureaucracy did there already. With the Courier concept videos, people started to understand that the pen isn’t supposed to be some sort of mouse replacement like on past interfaces, but a different input method-one suited to handwriting and drawing. It is a very flexible tool, not limited to particular typesets or other such things, just by the user’s vision and imagination.

          And if the digital pen was well and truly dead, Wacom would be out of business…oh, wait. They still seem to be doing pretty well for themselves, being the standard for art/graphics industries and all.

  8. HARV

    09/23/2010 at 4:18 pm

    The iFad electronic jewelry crowd can’t understand why something so useful may be on a device they simply want to wave around at parties, and carry around on campus, until it is no longer a way to look more fashion forward and affluent than everyone else.

  9. acerbic

    09/23/2010 at 4:48 pm

    What’s with the spambot all over this site? Some kind of link exchange to boost Google News ranks or simple spam?

    • Sumocat

      09/23/2010 at 5:49 pm

      It’s just trackback.

  10. Josh Einstein

    09/23/2010 at 5:31 pm

    It’d probably have more success if people referred to it by it’s other name, the “secure attention sequence”. SAS is the only keystroke that cannot be trapped or simulated in Windows so when you press it, you know you’re looking at a bona fide login screen. Compare that to a Mac elevation dialog which can be faked so easily. Thanks for the password you dirty hippie. Now I just cancelled your subscription to High Life.

  11. Chris Davies

    09/24/2010 at 1:30 am

    The sad thing is there are people out there who you’d think would know far better than to immediately cry “FAIL”. Don’t get me wrong, I like my iPad well enough, but it’s no enterprise tool: from everything we’ve heard, HP are going to target the Win7 slate as just that, which means it has to have a way of getting to the login pane. Consumers don’t have to worry about it, because the webOS tablet will come along and keep them content.

    Of course, perhaps people look at me when I write about DSLRs or gaming (topics I know little about) and call me ignorant too, though I try to avoid saying anything has FAILed if I’m not 99% in the know about it.

    Hype: 1, Common Sense and an understanding of how there are different niches for different users and room in the market for more than one device: 0.

  12. dstrauss

    09/24/2010 at 10:42 am

    C-A-D button or not, the conspicuous absence of a stylus and docking silo is the real “fail” of this device. As much as enjoy tinkering with my iPad, nothing in that stable of iTunes Apps can match the inking experience in OneNotes, and I’ve tried (paid) for them all. To date, there is no capactive screen solution that comes close, because a capacitive screen expects a sausage, not pencil (pun intended).

    • Nameless

      09/26/2010 at 1:04 pm

      It uses the N-Trig Digital Pencil-a battery-powered pen for N-Trig digitizers that can’t power the battery-less pens by themselves. Apparently, the HP Slate uses one, and the Lenovo ThinkPad T400s also currently uses such an N-Trig digitizer.

      Not having a pen silo and the digitizer model used in the tx2 and Dell Latitude XT(2) was an odd choice, but maybe they have their reasons…also, I’ve seen a few smartphones with resistive digitizers that had the stylus dangling externally.

  13. Kix R

    09/25/2010 at 2:58 am

    Unfortunately HP didn’t implement this button on the TX2 and so I have to crack open the thing a bit to get at the keyboard. Sucks. I’d think that not implementing this button on a new win 7 tablet would be a major fail.

  14. Joe

    12/20/2010 at 2:22 am

    iOS has a system watchdog that terminates apps if they hang for a certain amount of time- so, no, it doesn’t ever freeze indefinitely- and if the OS itself did ever hang a ctrl-alt-del equivalent wouldnt be much good at that point, would it?

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