Windows 8: Where's our hardware reimagined?

Windows 8: Where's our hardware reimagined?

Summary: I want to see, touch or buy a Windows tablet that will get me excited about Windows 8. Six months or so from launch, there's still nothing filling that gap.

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Along with "fast and fluid," one of the most (over) used catch phrases about Windows 8 is "Windows reimagined." I'd assume we also are going to see some "reimagined" PCs, too, that will make using the touch-centric Windows 8 less painful and more compelling.

The problem is without these next-gen PCs and tablets, it's hard for me -- and I'd think others, too -- to really grok how Windows 8 is going to work from running it on PCs and tablets that were designed for a non-touch-centric operating system like Windows 7. We need some PC and tablet makers to get these new devices out there now (with a free Windows 8 upgrade coupon).

Yes, I know you can run Windows 8 on a number of existing Windows 7 touch-enabled PCs and tablets. You also can run it on the Samsung tablet Microsoft delivered at Build in September and/or on the roughly comparable Samsung Series 7 tablet. Samsung just this week delivered drivers and guidance to make it easier for those with the Series 7 tablet to load the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on there. We've all seen demos of the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, which transitions between a PC and a tablet, which Lenovo touted as a Windows 8 device. And Intel's talking up all the supposedly great clam-shell touch ultrabooks that are in the pipeline.

Especially in the tablet space, the hardware matters as much if not more than the software. I've seen no Windows touch tablets or PCs that have made me excited about Windows 8. I was really hoping the rumor from a while back that Microsoft might allow at least one hardware partner to make the Windows 8 beta/Consumer Preview available preloaded on a new tablet was true. Sadly, it never came to pass.

Think about it. What kind of device are you supposed to load Windows 8 test builds on if you really want to kick the tires and give it a fair evaluation? CNet has a list of a few tablets on which they've test driven the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. The conclusion? None of them are all that great a platform for showcasing the coming release of Windows.

With previous versions of Windows, Microsoft's PC partners felt like it was necessary for them to hold their system cards close to the vest. Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP -- the Windows user experiences were understood and predictable. Users familiar with Windows could envision how each new Windows release would look and feel on new PCs as they debuted in the months following each new Windows release.

With Windows 8, it's a different ballgame. No one -- other than folks under strict NDAs (and possibly not even them, at this point in the game) -- have a real sense of how Windows 8 will look and work on their x86/x64 tablets and PCs or on their Windows 8 on ARM (WOA) tablets. You really need a form factor with solid touch support to fully appreciate Windows 8. Just sticking it on an existing laptop that you have to reach across a desk and touch doesn't offer a compelling or interesting user experience.

I think it's time for PC makers to try something different. Instead of waiting until after Windows 8 launches this fall, why not start delivering some tablets and PCs that run Windows 7 but are optimized for Windows 8 to whet users' appetites for this operating system?

Yes, PC vendors would incur risks by showing their hands to their Windows and non-Windows-based competitors. But perhaps it's time for new tactics and more drastic measures, especially on the iPad-compete front. And maybe showing some prototypes might lead folks who've already been wowed by the new iPad to at least flit with the idea of holding off on a new tablet or PC purchase until Windows 8 debuts.

What do you think? Crazy? Improbable? Outlandish? Or would seeing something that looked like at least a halfway compelling new Windows 8 form factor end up working in OEMs' and Microsoft's -- not to mention customers' and partners' -- favor?

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Software, Tablets, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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83 comments
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  • Sigh

    Surely there is some magical unicorn day where "all will be revealed, seriously". And it can't be a few days before the official release date since the launch has to be announced, along with the likely coupon program for free upgrades. Also, paid apps need to be put into the store, I'm tired of looking at the same 96 apps.

    So July/August I suppose?
    Jeff Kibuule
    • look again

      apps for Win Phone/Tablet are getting near 100,000 now
      mswift@...
      • which sounds like a lot

        until you compare the numbers to iOS and Android markets. Also, different language versions of the same app are counted as different apps. Same may be true for iOS and Android, but the 5-to-1 to 8-to-1 ratios would still apply. So fair to say there are more than a few Windows Phone apps, but no where near the numbers for iOS or Android.
        hrlngrv 
      • Yea right pipe dreams

        [i]apps for Win Phone/Tablet are getting near 100,000 now[/i]

        And I have a bridge to sell you. Wholesale.
        ScorpioBlack
  • Flawed Suggestion

    If OEMs release something that works great with Windows 8 but puts Windows 7 on it, it's you and people like you that will criticize those same tablets as inferior and not as good as the iPad. And they will go on and on about how Microsoft just don't get it because Windows 7 is not optimized for touch. So you know what, keep dreaming or you can just wait for when Windows 8 is ready to be installed on the tablets built and designed for it. In the mean time I'm using the Samsung series 7 slate and I have to say Windows 8 is a joy to use on that machine.
    Sadatay
    • I don't think that's completely fair...

      If an OEM releases hardware NOW that is designed for Win8 (with a free upgrade to boot) I think people would take that into consideration. In fact it would be a breath of fresh air for consumers that I would DARE any tech reporter to criticize.
      d20dad
    • Not a good move

      @drunkenscholar. What you suggests sounds too muh like Vista Ready and Vita Capable. I doubt that MS will follow that dastardly route again!
      Wakemewhentrollsgone
    • @Sadatay

      So how much did they pay you to make that suggestion?

      +21 votes in one hour counting sock puppets, fellow shills, Loverock Davidson trolls and canned responses make what you say highly suspect.
      ScorpioBlack
      • You're pathetic

        Are you jealous?
        Patanjali
      • Patinjali

        ... youre clueless of whats going on, being smarter is not being jealous -
        21 puppets, shills and members of the MS PR squad...
        theo_durcan
      • See?

        [i]Are you jealous?[/i]

        My post right above yours was talking about you.
        ScorpioBlack
    • Connected Standby presenter at BUILD said the giveaway didn't support it

      Does the CP on the Slate support live update of Metro apps while asleep?
      I am genuinely interested.
      Also, how load is the fan? I could not listen to it properly in the shop.

      I think MJ is missing the point here. Win8 is a new paradigm as far as data currency and power management goes.

      At BUILD, the hardware requirements for Connected Standby ('live' update while sleeping) were not finalised, and so any hardware at that time would likely not be compliant.

      As at this date, unless ALL hardware requirements for Win8 are finalised and completely given to OEMs and chipset manufacturers, then providing hardware is risky. However, hardware designers can design most of their machines and leave unfinalised bits for inclusion on their own PCB.

      Now, Samsung never said the Slate was fully Win8 compliant, but any buyers of it get a decent, flexible replacement for almost any current laptop. It is 260g heavier and 4mm thicker than an iPad, but it is running a full x64 CPU, with all the software that can run on it. It demonstrates that the hype about Windows on tablets being power hungry and hot were just FUD.

      I would expect that the best of the fully Win8 compliant x64 tablets would do better in all departments, but I would not expect them to be publicised until close to the actual Win8 release data, so that they can incorporate as much of the technology current at the time.

      I bet a few OEMs upped their intended display specs once the iPad[3] was released, if they hadn't already (as display resolutions had leapfrogged the iPad2 already).
      Patanjali
    • Flawed comment

      "or you can just wait for when Windows 8 is ready to be installed on the tablets built and designed for it"
      I don't have to wait for Microsoft's kludge of a tablet. I have an iPad. They actually exist.
      AnalogJoystick
  • Windows 8: Where's our hardware reimagined?

    You need to contact the hardware vendors and ask them where the hardware is. As a blogger I'm sure they will send you test units of some of the up and coming tablets and touch PCs. I'm willing to give it some time, especially since Microsoft Windows 8 is still in a testing phase.
    Loverock Davidson-
  • Patients

    I think it's more likely Windows 8 hardware providers will wait until the fininshed version is ready. Your last projection for Win 8 completion version would be May or June. That should allow plenty of time to review Win 8 on the new hardware. I understand your angst, but releasing too much information too early might not be wise.
    nztjbv116
    • It's "Patience", not "Patients".

      I don't enjoy being the spelling police, but just couldn't let that one stand. :)
      Userama
      • Might be Patients after all

        The way Microsoft threats their customers and partners, that is. :)
        danbi
    • wrong they are working on new hard ware now

      do you think they are going to tell you.you dont count get it .
      sarai1313@...
  • Bad idea

    Sorry, but doing an upgrade install of Windows has *always* been "Not A Good Idea(SM)". It's like building a new house on an existing, termite-infested foundation. So WHY would anyone think it would be a good idea to roll out some new tablet with an old OS on the hope that it could eventually be upgraded? Those razor-thin margins would quickly begin to bleed as people called tech support for the inevitable hand-holding during an OS upgrade.

    Sorry, to me, that is officially a Bad Idea!
    bmgoodman
    • I upgraded

      I upgraded my Windows 7 machine and the only symptoms I've noticed are shorter boot times and faster user switching.
      x I'm tc