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Are Tablets Really PCs?

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Microsoft insists tablets are Windows-powered mobile PCs. Even Windows Phone president Andy Lee, who should be pushing for a WP7 tablet, said, "We view a tablet as a PC."


Since the early days of the Origami project, Microsoft has looked at the tablet as a desktop replacement. Slates ran Windows XP or Windows 7; never Windows Mobile or Windows Phone 7. This desktop approach hasn't worked so well in the past, but the company just won't let it go.


Microsoft probably believes its tablet strategy will work out better this time with Windows 8; but the runaway success of the iPad suggests otherwise. The iPad is popular because it is an oversized smartphone and not a notebook replacement. The lightweight OS makes using a tablet fast, easy and enjoyable. Agree? Disagree? [Electronista; Shutterstock/Tom Wang]

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Isn't microsoft saying pretty much the same thing as everyone else? Everyone talks about how tablets and touch-screens are the future of computing, and Microsoft has been pushing that idea for 12 years.

The mistake they made early on was that they overemphasized the stylus and undervalued or even forgot about the finger. Had they given importance to finger-based touch as they are now (thanks to Apple of course), then I doubt we would be having this discussion.

The problem with the iPad as the future of computing is that it still is very much a toy. While it certainly has some powerful work applications, they are still fundamentally limited compared to their desktop counterparts. Instead, we see apps like Adobe's Photoshop Tools, where they simply become accessories to a desktop counterpart.

As a culture, I believe (or I hope) that we are trying to move in direction where we consolidate our gadgets. Having a tablet and a computer feels redundant. Windows 8 seems to be going the farthest reaching that goal of having that all-in-one dream.

It has the simple finger-touch based interface we all know and love when it comes to basic and fun tasks, but it also supports the desktop based interface when we need to switch to a mouse/stylus in order to take advantage of all the screen real estate and fine point options that our fingers are too fat to operate.

Of course, they are still a lot of questions to be answered. Will it really perform as fast and smooth in real life hardware as it did at the All Things D demo? Will the mass public accept the metro-style UI (as opposed to the classic UI on iOS and Android)? Will the switch to ARM hurt at first, and if so, for how long?

More importantly, will hardware manufactures be able to produce devices that can really take advantage of Windows 8's multiple UI's? Previous-gen convertible PC's were ugly, heavy, and thick. Can manufactures take laptops like the Macbook Air or Dell Adamo and give them swivel/touch screens. Otherwise, you have slates that can't take advantage of the desktop UI and life doesn't become much different that it is now and windows 8 really has no point.