Windows tablets: All about the keyboards

Summary:Unlike tablets on other platforms, Windows tablets need good keyboard accessories to round out the user experience.

Microsoft undertook a big challenge in making Windows 8 work well on both desktops, laptops, and tablets. That Windows works so well on tablets is why we’re seeing so many brought to market. Unlike tablets on other platforms, having good accessories available is important for those running Windows.

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Image: Lenovo

Odds are you see iPads everywhere, and a few Android tablets, too. They may be used without accessories, or perhaps with minimal covers like Apple’s Smart Cover. That’s due to the thin, light form of the tablet which is good to use in the hands.

Windows tablets are another thing. They are full PCs in tablet clothing. While it’s certainly possible to use them naked in the hand, I’ll bet most get used with a keyboard.

Windows tablets are another thing. They are full PCs in tablet clothing. While it’s certainly possible to use them naked in the hand, I’ll bet most get used with a keyboard. Microsoft realized this would be the case early on with its Surface tablets. It produced a line of keyboard covers, now numbering three, from the get-go with the Surface. The company knew that many buyers, perhaps most of them, would end up using the Surface as a laptop rather than a tablet.

That’s been my experience with other Windows tablets, too. I’ve used several with laptop docks, and one with a mobile Bluetooth keyboard. While all of these tablets work fine in the hand, Windows 8 seems more natural when used with a keyboard. That’s how I end up using every Windows tablet more often than not.

I’m not alone in this regard based on conversations with many Windows tablet users. Having a good keyboard solution is vital for attracting buyers for the tablet, and for making them happy. Whether this is the form of a laptop dock that turns the Windows tablet into a full laptop replacement, or a portfolio, or a simple cover, OEMs should release one at the same time as the tablet hits the market.

Lenovo understands the need for good keyboard accessories. The recently unveiled ThinkPad 10 tablet has not one but two options for keyboards that fully leverage the strengths of Windows 8.

Microsoft also understands this and has produced keyboard covers for its Surface tablets since the launch. It continues to improve these covers as they are vital to the success of the Surface. The newest model for the just launched Surface Pro 3 is even better than the previous models.

Neglecting to build such a keyboard accessory, or better yet multiple styles to give buyers a choice, will likely see that shiny new tablet languish on the shelves. People expect to use a Windows device with a keyboard at least some of the time, and the lack of one will likely put them off.

Some Windows tablet makers are already producing such accessories, and that’s a good thing. Buyers like choice, and that’s what you give them with more than one keyboard option. Be sure and price them realistically, though, especially if your tablet is already expensive. If you only build one keyboard option for your Windows tablet, think about throwing it in with the tablet. If any accessory is likely a necessity for the majority of your customers, put it in the box with the tablet.

See also:

Topics: Mobility, Tablets, Windows 8

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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