Nov 262012

This is the second part post related to my experience with Windows 8 and will cover the hardware part.

First of all, I do not really own a Windows 8 tablet. I have Win8 on my development as well as on my home PC and I had the opportunity of playing around with a Samsung tablet running Windows 8.

The desktop

Until now, there was 100% support for Windows 8 on both my desktops. The performance is better than Windows 7  – startup time is minimal, overall performance is good. I didn’t have any issues with drivers so far so for this I am really happy.

The tablet

I only had the tablet for a few days, during which I could play around with it. The first impression is that it’s heavy. I would have expected it to be a bit lighter, since it’s a ultra portable device. On the other hand, it has a powerful i5 CPU,  which requires active cooling. Screen was 16:9, which feels a bit strange on a tablet since it’s very long but not so wide. Anyway, 16:9 is a standard today, so I cannot complain.

The overall experience of using Windows 8 on a tablet is far better than the one on the desktop. The swipe gestures feel completely natural and the interface is very very responsive. The only thing which I don’t like so much is that the keyboard takes up too much screen estate when open.

Some gestures are only supported on the tablet. For example, if you open up a photo using the Windows 8 WinRT photo viewer, on the tablet you can swipe left/right to navigate between photos. On the desktop you can’t do that.

The part that looked strange from the desktop point of view is the opening up of the top app bar vs closing an application. Actually the gestures are clear on the tablet. Slow swipe opens up the app bar, quick (throw away-like) swipe will close the app.

Overall I can say I like the feeling of the apps on the tablet. I am waiting for the prices to drop a bit to be able to exchange also my Galaxy S2 for a Windows 8 phone. I expect there to have the same natural and flowing interaction as on the tablets (maybe even more on the phone).

The ecosystem

One thing that I feel lacking is the support for other devices. Currently you can buy Windows 8 for Intel-class processors (Intel/AMD) but the support for ARM is only for hardware companies. This means that you won’t be able to install Windows 8 RT on an ARM device that doesn’t come with it out of the box.

The part where this feels necessary is hardware used for various non-entertainment appliances (think of info kiosks, embedded devices such as car navigation systems etc.). Of course Apple also lacks this, but on the other hand Android is very widespread. You can even buy a custom, USB-stick sized computer that is able to run Android. I would really like to see the same for Windows. Enabling developers to create such systems would increase the reach of the new OS to the public.

I am aware that there is Windows CE or Windows Embedded for small devices, but I also think there is a lot of potential for Windows 8 – based systems that run on cheap ARM hardware. Think of (already mentioned) info kiosks, electronic ticket counters etc. and also think about cheap hardware for universities, libraries and internet cafés, where the main activity is internet browsing, or using dedicated, simple apps.