Why Windows 8 tablets won't threaten the iPad (or Android)

As much as today's tablets lack a strong office suite, they vastly outperform Windows 8 for usability

1 2 3 4 5 Page 3
Page 3 of 5

Most applications let you pin them to your Metro Start screen or the "Windows 7" task bar. You'll definitely want to pin Windows 7 apps, as there's no easy way to launch apps otherwise. There's no Start button with a list of apps as in previous versions of Windows, and opening the Explorer and searching for apps from it is a real pain. To pin a Windows 7 app to the taskbar, tap and hold the app preview icon in the taskbar after it launches, then choose Pin. Note that tapping and holding the icon also toggles between minimizing and maximizing the app window, so you may need to try several times before the menu appears.

I truly believe that no one should use Windows 8 on an Intel device. It's simply too awkward to switch between the two very different environments. An ARM-based device has the virtue of running only Metro, so you get a consistent user experience and no cognitive dissonance.

Of course, going Metro only for the sake of a sane user experience may mean you can't use a Windows 8 tablet in a corporate environment. BitLocker encryption is handled in the Windows 7 portion and is not available via Metro. In my case, BitLocker seemed to have corrupted Outlook's mailboxes, rendering the program unusable. Encryption is native in iOS, and Android tablets have a simple control to turn it on if needed to comply with security policies.

Microsoft has suggested it will have tools to let IT manage and secure Metro-only devices, but it appears you'll need a new, separate management tool to do so. By contrast, you can manage iPads and Android tablets with the same Exchange or System Center 2012 tools you can use for Windows PCs.

I should be clear that Windows 8 is not as touch-savvy as iOS. Windows 8's palette of gestures is limited, so it usually takes more steps to accomplish tasks in both the operating system and in apps. On the other hand, many users never discover the more contextual iOS gestures, so the difference in sophistication may not matter to most. Windows 8 supports a stylus, an extremely handy tool for annotations and drawing that iOS sorely lacks. OneNote and PowerPoint in particular show the power of a pen on a tablet.

Finally, there's Internet Explorer 10. It's a real step backward in terms of compatibility in both its "Windows 7" and Metro versions, which is incompatible with a variety of AJAX tools, including recent versions of the highly popular TinyMCE. Worse, the Metro version is highly unintuitive to use, with seemingly random navigation methods. (Hint: Try to swipe only up or down from the screen edges.) So far, the critical consensus is that you'll be better off with Google Chrome on Metro than with IE10.

Office on Windows 8 tablets: Not bad like Windows 8 itself
Although Microsoft wants people to use Office 365 so that it can collect monthly subscription fees ad infinitum and not worry that users prefer to skip new versions, Office 365 requires a live Internet connection and can consume lots of data if you don't have a Wi-Fi connection.

I could not test Office 365, given a snafu in the password setup Microsoft provided on its loaner device. Plus, when I tried to install the Office 365 preview on another Windows 8 PC, it would not install. I will follow up in my Mobile Edge blog about how well it works in a mobile Windows 8 context once that's been straightened out. (Macworld reports that, like the current Office 365, the Office 2013 version of Office Web Apps won't work on other mobile OSes, although Microsoft plans to make its limited Office Mobile product available for iOS and Android sometime in 2013.)

1 2 3 4 5 Page 3
Page 3 of 5
InfoWorld Technology of the Year Awards 2023. Now open for entries!