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

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I also could not test Outlook, which for some reason would not connect to my company's Exchange 2007 server, even with Microsoft's attempts to help -- something the standard mail clients on Android, iOS, OS X, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 have no problem doing. Worse, as noted above, turning on BitLocker encryption seemed to corrupt Outlook, making it impossible to test with my other mail accounts.

In any event, tablet users should be thinking local so that they can work on their Office documents whether they have Wi-Fi access at the moment or not.

Assuming you upped the text and other display settings in both the Metro and Windows 7 portions of Windows 8, Office 2013 at first is quite usable on a touch tablet. Office 2013 sports a different user interface than either Metro or Windows 7, presumably because it is designed to work on both. The UI is reminiscent of Office 2010, but not as cluttered.

At this point, Microsoft says it has only OneNote and Lync running as native Metro apps. The rest of the Office suite runs in the Windows 7 Desktop, though CEO Steve Ballmer promised a room full of reporters yesterday that Office would work on both Intel and ARM tablets. Presumably, he meant the full downloadable Office 2013 suite and not just the cloud-based Office 365 version, which, like Office 2013, will run only on Windows 7 and Windows 8 devices. Microsoft has been vague about many details.

I have to say that although it's a much simpler app, OneNote does feel very much like one of the standard Office 2013 tools. It's also the savviest in terms of touch support, which really helps its annotation, scribbling, and drawing capabilities. In addition, it sports the very innovative spiral menu, an option wheel well suited for finger motions, and an example of some welcome Microsoft innovation.

Office 2013 assumes you work on documents stored on Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service; it's the default location for saving and opening files in Office. I'm fine with that, as -- like many users -- I find Apple's iCloud and the third-party Dropbox service hugely convenient when working on documents on both my computer and tablet. However, I wonder what Microsoft will charge for that SkyDrive access. Note that Microsoft will offer a premium version called SkyDrive Pro that integrates with SharePoint, so IT can apply SharePoint's permissions to users' files in SkyDrive Pro.

What's unclear is whether you can work with other vendors' cloud storage services or if you are stuck with SkyDrive and Office 365. On an Intel-based Windows 8 tablet, you should be able to open and save files to a Dropbox account by using Dropbox's ability to create a virtual disk, but Box doesn't have that capability. Given Box's enterprise version with SharePoint-like management functions, I suspect many businesses will be forced to choose between Box and Windows 8. Ditto for Google Docs, though that's hardly a surprise, given that Microsoft's distaste for Google surpasses even Apple's distaste for Google.

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