Windows 8 tablets will replace laptops -- by being laptops

Windows 8 tablets will banish most limitations weighing down the current crop of tablets, notably by not acting like tablets

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In many cases, Windows 8 devices will address these limitations by being laptops, not tablets. Rather, they'll blur the line that separates laptops and tablets to the point that a gadget is a laptop when you've attached a keyboard and mouse, and a tablet when you haven't.

There's nothing wrong with this and quite a lot that's right about it -- which is to say, when taking the view from 50,000 feet, the Windows 8 approach looks just about perfect. But Microsoft's problem is a problem in-house IT faces every day, too: the Edison Ratio.

Getting the view from 50,000 feet right is cheap and easy. All it takes is a few PowerPoint slides and you're done.

The Edison Ratio, though, states that genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration -- you have to sweat the details. When it's in-house IT, those details are made up of the dozens or hundreds of exceptions business applications have to deal with, each of which requires as much effort to analyze and code as the two or three cases that take care of the bulk of the work being automated.

When it's Microsoft, the details are in the overall design: how appealing it is and how easy it is to figure out, which is determined by dozens of little details few of us will notice unless they're done wrong, at which point we'll notice how annoyed we are. Many of the details aren't just matters of design. They're in the small things: how smoothly windows move, how cleanly fonts render, how quickly applications open, how often you have to reboot instead of going into standby mode, and how fast the machine boots when you do.

With Windows, we've always understood we were working with an OS that seemed like a Macintosh without the sandpaper and varnish needed to polish it up. Windows systems did what they had to do and were a lot less expensive, but jeez, it sure would be nice if they were just smoother. That all happened at a time when PCs were mostly a business technology that expanded its range into our homes.

Now, the flow has reversed. Technology is consumerized, and with tablets, our expectations for fit and finish have been set by the iPad. Microsoft's old habits of providing all the functionality we want and more, but in ways that are frequently obscure and hard to decode, and clunky when you've figured them out, aren't something tablet users are likely to accept.

Yes, IT can decide to standardize on Windows 8 tablets. Architecturally, it will be the optimal decision, as it simplifies and streamlines the architecture, making it easier to manage.

IT will have the authority to do this and will be able to marshall all of the usual business benefits to make its case. For all the good it will do -- if employees hate the suckers, they'll insist on iPads anyway.

When they do, IT will end up looking like King Canute, who had the authority to command the tide not to come in, for all the good it did him.

This story, "Windows 8 tablets will replace laptops -- by being laptops," was originally published at Read more of Bob Lewis' Advice Line blog on For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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