While there are still many questions that need to be answered on Windows RT in the long run, I’m really beginning to like the idea of how I can put it to work when it becomes available. After spending some time chatting to Lee Sabow from the Windows Business Group at WPC 2012 in Toronto this week, some new and interesting scenarios are coming to mind.
For many people today, the iPad is really the only game in town when it comes to a tablet option. Yes, there are plenty of alternative options in the market, and combined they can claim some market share, but the iPad is the defacto tablet device. That doesn’t mean that you can’t demand more than what it gives you.
The longer you use an iPad, the more you find annoyances and start building out your list of grievances. You learn to recite these in social situations to show that it’s not the almighty future of computing that some may foolishly believe. These frustrations and omissions leave room for others to succeed, including Windows 8 and Windows RT.
For those who know me and have caught up with me recently, you are probably sick of hearing me discuss the lack of “magic” I am feeling towards my iPad. The retina display is beautiful, the form factor is wonderful, the battery life is great but I find iOS incredibily frustrating. The changes it forces upon my way of interacting with a computing device irritates me no end.
I really think it should be renamed to the Alt-Tablet, as I’m effectively using gestures to deliver the Alt-Tab functionality from Windows. That’s functionality I stopped using a long time ago. User interfaces should be smarter than that today. Much smarter. While Windows 8, and by association, Windows RT, are getting some criticism for making changes that will require some user training, at least they are moving forwards, not backwards. While Apple may release some major UI changes over time, I daresay they will be a long time coming, they will not want to risk alienating their installed base. Simple things like the location of the charms, are well thought out in terms of their location in reference to hand placement, versus a button that is not near your fingers.
Why do I think this leaves an opportunity for Windows RT devices? The things I like about the iPad - the battery life and a smaller form factor, can come to the world of Windows. Like iOS, it is highly resilient to user interference, and the new wave of applications will run under Metro. The inclusion of an Office 15 suite is also a huge benefit. While we don’t know the full capabilities of these Office applications, their mere inclusion makes this a very different platform.
What else makes Windows RT a good alternative? For me the ability to run apps in a side by side fashion in Metro, or to run Word and PowerPoint, for example, side by side to allow easy cut and paste. What makes this even more attractive for me though is that I can use technologies like Remote Desktop Services to continue running existing Windows applications in an RDP sesion side by side with metro apps, getting me the best of both worlds.
So far so good? Okay, how about when using a keyboard, they keyboard works as expected? Yes, that’s something I would expect as well. I’m sorry Apple, but there are absolutely no excuses for not supporting arrow keys properly. They aren’t exactly new to the world of computing. Add mouse support to the mix, and you have something that can be much more useful for productivity as well as consumption. Don’t forget a consistent cut and paste experience, which Microsoft also delivers.
So while these are early days yet, there is definitely an opportunity for Windows RT to carve out a space in the mobile device market. Over time, if AMD and Intel start delivering low power SoC solutions that are x86 and/or x64 compatible, the form factor and battery life advantage for Windows RT may disappear. But for some users, the inability to run traditional Windows applications is going to be a plus from a support and reliability perspective. There are still some applications that I need to see delivered on Windows RT, such as a Lync client with voice capabilities, to help push me over the edge, but I’m definitely much closer to that edge than I was last week.