When the touchscreen-friendly Windows 8 OS becomes widely available on tablet devices later this year, will it make the current incumbent, the Apple iPad, look less appealing in comparison?
But, performance-wise, the Series 7 Slate is pretty top-of-the-line, featuring the latest Intel Ivy Bridge processor and the all important solid-state drive (SSD).
Windows 8 is very different in that it was designed from the ground up to be touch-friendly. Its default screen sports the Metro interface first seen on Windows Phone 7. Icons and menu items are large to accommodate finger taps and there are various swipe actions users can perform to bring up context menus
Furthermore, Microsoft has provided developers with tools and guidelines on designing apps for the Metro interface. This should result in tablet-purposed third-party programs that can be easily found on the Windows Marketplace app store.
Even though you get the Metro interface as a default view, the old Windows desktop is still there. Programs designed for Windows 7 work in Windows 8 and you simply have to add a keyboard and mouse to get the familiar Windows PC feel. Those who regularly carry both a laptop and an iPad and find that cumbersome may see the merits of a Windows 8 tablet.
Microsoft also unveiled the latest version of Office, its popular productivity software suite Office. While you can do word processing, edit spreadsheets and give presentations with an iPad, Office is still a dominant force in this area. This is especially so for the spreadsheet application Excel, an indispensible tool for many business users.
In the new version, Microsoft has made changes to the user interface so it is more suitable for touchscreens.
The Samsung Series 7 Slate weighs 872g, while the latest iPad tips the scales at 652g. Just over 200g heavier doesn’t seem like much, but when you have to hold it up when reading or watching a movie when riding the train, it makes a huge difference. Of course, this situation may change later this year as Intel said there are more than 40 touchscreen Windows 8 notebooks in the pipeline–perhaps one of them will be super light.
Even then, the iPad still has a huge edge when it comes to screen specs. The resolution of its 9.7-inch display is 2,048 x 1,536 pixels, which is way higher than what most manufacturers have on their notebooks. Quality-wise, the iPad’s IPS panel is also excellent with great viewing angles and color accuracy. Once again, there’s a chance that other brands may get close to or match that spec in a new tablet this year.
Related to the form factor is price. Apple has a huge advantage getting components cheaply because of the sheer volume of products made. Furthermore, Apple gets preferential access to many of these parts because it’s a big client to many of these component manufacturers. Other tablet makers may struggle to acquire these high-end components, and even if they do, may not be able to offer the final product as cheaply as Apple can.
iOS is peerless when it comes to apps. As an entertainment device, the number of cheap, or even free, high-quality games is mind-boggling. You can argue that a Windows 8 tablet has a huge catalog of PC games, but most of these require keyboard and mouse input–you certainly don’t want to whip out your peripherals when commuting.
Microsoft is actively engaging developers to make sure there’s a good catalog of tablet-purposed apps when Windows 8 launches. As of now, some popular games such as Fruit Ninja are already available on the Marketplace and the Tweetro app for social-networking is pretty good. It will take some time to catch up with iOS in this aspect, and many iPad users won’t be able to ditch their Apple tablets that easily.
iPad users are accustomed to having their tablets come alive immediately upon pressing the power button. Even with a fast Intel Core i5 processor and an SSD, Windows 8 on the Series 7 Slate still takes a few seconds to wake from sleep, making it a less compelling experience.
Sure, there will be a group who want to do serious work on a tablet, and a Windows 8 device would fit that bill because it will also be a full-fledged PC. But for the majority, an iPad will still fit their needs, and they will probably wait and see what Windows 8 offers before making a choice.