So in this past week a massive post came out from the Building Windows 8 Blog that discussed Windows 8 on ARM (WOA) devices and one of the elements of that blog post that has gotten a lot of discussion on all the tech blogs is the desktop portion of the system and the limitations the WOA devices will have when it comes to desktop programs.
WOA will have limited apps that will be available out of the box on WOA such as IE10, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Now this does not include all the apps that will be available in the Windows Store and the fact they will be compatible between X86/x64 and ARM devices.
Microsoft also confirmed in this post that there will be no virtualization or emulation of the x86/x64 desktop on WOA and that no existing x86/x64 apps will be ported to run on WOA devices.
Well as you might imagine this caused quite an uproar around the net and many of the comments related to someone’s ability to do the same level of work on their Windows 8 tablet that they do on their desktop, laptop or netbook. That in turn means the tablet is a failure because of that inability to do desktop level work on it.
The reality is that there is not any current tablet on the market, that I am aware of, that can replicate the desktop experience completely. Even during my own experience with the Windows 8 Developer Preview over the last two months I have discovered some real limitations in doing certain things on the tablet. Just for clarification when I say tablet I mean in its touch only mode – the Acer Iconia Tab W500 has a keyboard dock with a built in pointer mouse – in that configuration it can replicate my desktop activity as well as my netbook does.
I can and have written posts for this website on my tablet in Windows Live Writer but using the on screen keyboard just takes longer than the regular keyboard and mouse combo on my desktop. There are also some organizing and site related activities that I just won’t do on my tablet because the process of selecting items is not nearly as accurate as they are on my desktop.
What people are going to have to realize is that tablets are augmentation devices – they are not currently intended to be desktop replacements. The sooner folks realize that the better because it will reduce a lot of frustration and misconceptions.
Ever wonder why so many iPad’s and Android tablets have been sold? They have certainly not been sold to replace desktop or laptop systems. They have however, been sold mostly as consumption devices for people to use on the go or sitting on their living room couch while they watch television or a movie.
Can you accomplish some desktop functions on a tablet? Sure – things like email and web browsing are fairly straight forward just like they are on a smartphone but again who would replace their desktop with a smartphone? Smaller screens with no keyboards like smartphones and tablets are great temporary devices to replace a desktop when you’re on the move but they are not going to completely replace them.
Who knows what this landscape will look like in ten years. It is very possible that all the tech advances being developed today will eventually allow tablets to replace our desktops but over the next five years or so tablets are just going to be able to augment our desktop use.
So until then we will just need to do our major productivity tasks on our laptops, netbooks, desktops and leave the consumption and minor productivity functions to the tablets.
Just one more point of clarification on this dialog – I think Windows 8 on tablets is going to be quite successful. A lot of the installed Windows base wants to have file and program compatibility on their mobile devices – it is one of the reasons Windows Phone is terrific. The Windows 8 OS is also being developed with touch in mind first but is not abandoning the desktop despite what seems like a general consensus otherwise. Windows 8 will bring that same compatibility to x86/x64 tablets and a decent level of that to WOA because of the Office tools mentioned above.
I would love to hear your opinion on this and what your mobile computing experience has been like on tablets. Looking forward to seeing your comments.