This Week in Tablets: What would Steve Jobs think about Windows 8?

December 1, 2012
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Over the last week, I’ve found myself wondering what Steve Jobs would make of Windows 8 if he were alive today.

It’s quite possible and likely that he would be entirely dismissive or unwilling to comment on the new OS at all. Even so, I’m betting he would consider the new Windows Phones and the mobile OS to be fairly elegant. And he’d consider Microsoft’s Surface tablet to be nicely conceived if a little bit clunky and poorly executed at the apps and OS level.

The desktop version of the OS? He’d see it as an unmitigated disaster.

Jobs wasn’t a perfect techno-seer, of course. In fact, over the last few months, a few of his theories on tablets have been disproved.

As an example, the market for 7-inch tablets has absolutely erupted, with Apple’s iPad Mini possibly taking a back seat to the Kindle Fire HD.

And Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2 has proven that there is in fact demand for pen-based tablet/phone computing. Especially if LeBron James is the pitch guy.

The one thing Jobs did see pretty clearly, apparently, was the line between tablet and desktop. Where Microsoft charged in with a one-size-fits-all OS, Apple has continued to maintain space between its tablet/mobile iOS and desktop/laptop MacOS.

Thus far, Apple has also refrained from integrating touch into its laptop screens, even if at the same time, it is slowly integrating key features of iOS into MacOS. (It’s also worth noting that focusing on increased visual clarity via higher resolutions instead of touch is classic Jobs logic.)

The Messages application is a great example of this. Apple’s latest OS XMountain Lion release allows users to send and receive text messages to/from the same contacts on their phone, computer and tablet. (By the way, being able to text message from a tablet or desktop/laptop counts as one of my top 10 operating system features of all time.)

Much earlier of course, Apple integrated swipe gestures into MacOS. Not on the screen itself but via the trackpad and Magic Mouse.

This methodology stands in stark contrast to the way Microsoft has forced the issue with Windows 8.

It’s likely that Microsoft is simply ahead of its time with touch desktop and laptop interfaces in the same manner it was ahead of its time with tablet computing at the beginning of the century.

Assuming that tablet adoption continues and that tablets soon become the only computer lots of people have, as Creative Strategies’ principal analyst Ben Bajarin explained at TabTimes’ TabletBiz conference earlier this week, this will be a moot point.  

Tablets provide increased focus

Two years ago, when I was editor in chief of Maximum PC magazine, we published a cover story that was a prediction piece regarding what Windows 8 would be.

I wrote a big chunk of the story myself, and my backing theory was that, given the rapid onset of touch interfaces, Microsoft would have no choice but to rapidly incorporate the emerging interface standardized by iOS and Android.

At the time, I would never have imagined such a fundamental shift as Windows 8, or that Microsoft would release its own tablet device. Not many people did.

In that story, we asked our readers to weigh in with their most desired Win8 features, upgrades, and changes. Two years later, I still can’t get one guy’s request out of my head.

Jeff Miller was the reader’s name, and his request was a simple one. Miller wanted to be able to “lock focus” at the OS level. His complaint was that far too often, Windows allows applications to interrupt our current activities. More than a simple notification, these interruptions are literal. By default, Windows 7 automatically switches to the application triggering the activity or alert.

It’s 100% true. If use Windows, watch how often your OS shifts focus from the app your working on to another app that needs your attention.

Not surprisingly, MacOS handles this fairly elegantly with bouncing notifications and temporary overlays.

Tablets, however—Android, iPad, and even Surface in Metro mode—pretty much automatically lock your focus. You have to actively switch to another app if you want to shift your attention. Nothing, barring a calendar reminder, will take you away.

This week’s winner: Tabby Awards for Business edition

Held in conjunction with TabTimes’ TabletBiz conference in New York, TabTimes announced the 12 winners of the first annual Tabby Awards for Business.

The deserving winners were:

  • In the Productivity category and in the Collaboration category: iAnnotate PDF, by Branchfire
  • In the Communication category: GE Annual Report 2011, by ScrollMotion
  • In the Intelligence, information and reference category: WeatherCaster, by Belo Corp. and Smashing Ideas
  • In the IT or business tool category: Box OneCloud, by Box
  • In the Healthcare and pharmaceutical category: Philips Allura Virtual Medical Simulation iPad App, by Dynamic Digital Advertising
  • In the Education and professional training category: Splash Math Grade 3, by Studypad
  • In the Finance category: Citi Private Bank Mobile App, by Citi Private Bank
  • In the Retail category: CoffeeTable, by Real Valuable Corporation, and Signage, by Meiotic
  • In the Sales category: Sales Mobile PRO, by Savo, and SlideShark, by Brainshark
  • In the In-the-field category: Matchbox, by Matchbox
  • In the Consumer products and services category: SiteTablet, by Property Solutions International

Honorable mention in the winner column this week is Intel. Last week, I pointed out the company’s challenges around shipping its CPUs into tablets and smartphones.

Right at the end of the week however, rumors leaked that Apple is considering a partnership with Intel whereby Intel replaces Samsung as the manufacturer of Apple’s ARM-based chips, and Apple uses Intel’s x86 CPUs in future iPads.

The latter part of the deal seems like a stretch, but given Apple’s struggles with Samsung and Intel’s immense fabrication capacity, the former is entirely believable.

This week’s loser: Microsoft

As more and more reactions to Windows 8 continue to come in, critics and users alike are becoming more vocal in their concerns. Digitimes reported rumors that Microsoft has cut supply orders for Surface RT tablets in light of weaker-than-expected demand.

And when Microsoft finally announced pricing for its Core i5-powered Surface Pro tablets, they surprised everyone with prices starting at $899 for the 64GB version.

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