Windows 8.1 to get portrait-mode, other small-tablet tweaks

Windows 8.1 to get portrait-mode, other small-tablet tweaks

Summary: Microsoft and its partners are beginning to show and tell more about the features that 7- and 8-inch Windows 8.1 'Blue' devices will offer.


Some Windows OEMs showed off coming small form-factor Windows 8 tablets as part of Computex this week.


Microsoft didn't take the wraps off its rumored 8-inch Surface at the show. But company did share few more tidbits about some of the changes the company is making to Windows 8 with the 8.1 "Blue" release that will potentially make these smaller devices more usable.

Among the new small-screen devices that Microsoft's partners showed this week were the 8-inch Acer Iconia W3 (with the outsized keyboard); the Lenovo MiiX 8, an 8-inch tablet with a stylus and 3G; 8-inch AMD Temash-based reference machines from Gigabyte and Quanta that companies can customize; and the 7-inch quad-core Inventec device.

One of the key changes Microsoft is touting for this coming generation of devices is improved portrait-mode support. Windows Corporate Vice President of Program Management Antoine Lebond explained what's coming on the portrait-mode front during his remarks at Computex this week:

"(W)e did some work in Windows 8.1 to have portrait-specific Start screen layouts that work much better. All of the apps that are in the box actually work just as well in portrait mode as they work in landscape.

"We did some work at the device interface level around edge detection and things like that to make it easier to have smaller bezels on these devices so that OEMs and folks who build devices like this could build exactly the kinds of devices they want, and Windows 8.1 will be great on them."

That's good news for anyone who has been frustrated when trying to use their Surface RT or Pro -- or other Windows 8 or Windows RT tablets -- in portrait mode to no avail.

Leblond also talked up some previously disclosed Windows 8.1 features, such as the Metrofied PC Settings, more versatile Snap options and touch-keyboard autosuggestion improvements as making smaller-screen Windows 8 devices workable. 

Microsoft's disclosure earlier this week that it will make Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote (Office Home & Student 2013) available on sub-10-inch Intel-based Windows 8.1 devices left some scratching their heads, as Desktop versions of these apps on Office are not touch-optimized.

I'm wondering if Microsoft might be making the Metro/Windows Store versions of these apps available in the box, instead. The Metro-Style versions of these four apps are in development as part of Microsoft's "Gemini" wave of products. Maybe there's a Metro version of the Office Home & Student 2013 SKU coming? 

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, Tablets, Windows 8


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).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • These devices need styluses

    I think MS needs to require that these devices include styluses for operation of the desktop. All indications seems to be that desktop Office 13 will be included with these devices. However, if the devices had a Metro version of Office, I think they would definitely be flying off the shelves.
    P. Douglas
    • This.

      I'm not willing to buy a tablet without a digitizer.

      That's why I've held off buying any of the current Android tablets so far.

      In the case of the Note however, the lack of a USB port is a killer for me.

      Long story short, Windows 8 slates are looking more and more attractive.
    • ...

      When Microsoft INVENTED the Tablet-P.C. back in 2001 it was shipped with a Stylus, Windows XP needed it, Windows Vista & Windows 7 both had styli on their Tablet-P.C.'s, Windows 8 is the first Windows to run with fingers, having used finger based touch-screens for almost a decade, I honestly prefer it over styli, Nintendo D.S. was great with it, but most modern Tablet-P.C.'s don't have styli because they have large icons specifically designed for fingers.

      Windows' desktop MIGHT need it, though.
      Agosto Nuñez
      • Note taking

        My main use of a stylus would be hand-written note taking with text recognition. That would be the main reason I'd want a stylus on a tablet. The desktop part might need too, but when I'm in tablet mode, I tend to restrain myself to Metro apps.

        I also have a keyboard dock with my VivoTab RT so I can switch to keyboard/trackpad when needed.
      • Microsoft did not invent the tablet PC, BTW

        While they were certainly one of the early ones in the game, PenPoint got there a full ten years earlier.
        • Re: PenPoint got there a full ten years earlier.

          And died when Microsoft announced its "Windows For Pen" vapourware.
    • I agree with your sentiment.

      But adding a stylus and wacom support will make the tablets too expensive for the small tablet market. They need to maje both stylus and non-stylus small tablets to keep everyone happy.
      Sam Wagner
  • Price factor

    If Microsoft want to kill Android on tablets, then there should be devices at the price range of $150 to $250. The margin may be low but there is huge market for this price range. Tablets in this price range are purely consumption or toy devices for kids and adults and Office is not important.

    If MS is charging a licencing fee for Office on 8 inch devices then these devices are going to be pricey. This won't be good for volume sales.

    MS should give the OS/Office for a very low licencing fee for devices less than 10 inch.
    • nobody's killing anyone.

      Android couldn't 'kill' ipad but was able to scoop up the cheaper end of the market. Its too late for MS to be apple and they can't be cheap enough to beat android. Over and over MS is like a "gravitationally and mentally challenged person" running for a closing door and is too late and it gets slammed in their face.
    • Re: If Microsoft want to kill Android on tablets

      First, they need something better than a toy OS that doesn't have orientation-change support tacked on as an afterthought.
  • Small Tablet-P.C.'s

    The moment Microsoft will create a FULL Windows 8 Tablet-P.C. I'd buy one,
    not just Microsoft, Acer, ASUS or some other Chinese (Taiwanese)
    high-quality company, the hardware won't even matter that much,
    Microsoft's software can compensate for ANYTHING as long as it integrates
    in the Cloud and works well.

    The only thing keeping me from buying a Windows 8 Tablet-P.C. is their prices.
    I do have an Android Tablet-P.C. but I miss the high quality Microsoft software,
    Microsoft makes more applications for Android than Google does itself, but I
    still miss Bing and full integrated Microsoft SkyDrive.
    Agosto Nuñez
  • Portrait mode? That's innovation

    I wish iOS had that... Huh.
    • Portrait Mode

      Windows 8 already has a Portrait mode - 8.1 just makes it even better in that small form factor.
      • Re: even better in that small form factor

        Love those PR weasel words: "even better"⇒"not quite as crap"...
  • Metrofied

    I like that term: it conjures up an obsolete, frozen-in-time thing ... one which has long since been extinct and superceded by a more advanced and evolved design ;-)
  • Has anybody asked?

    How would the type-cover keyboard work on an 8" Surface tablet? Would their not be a distinct size difference? Perhaps the keyboard would be foldable?
    • The Lenovo link in the post above

      Shows something that seems to have a built in cover. Not sure if that would be a keyboard too. The Acer Iconia W3 has that big, weird keyboard to be used with it... Will be interesting to see what MS does with the 8-in. Surface... MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
    • Even if you don't shrink the size, there are still possibilities

      One thing that I was surprised that Microsoft didn't include in the Surface was a way to make the stand work in Portrait mode (with a stand similar to what you get on a desktop picture frame) and to include two touch-cover connectors, one for landscape and one for portrait.

      If you leave the cover/keypad the same size it is now, it's not a great "cover", but it's still a good keyboard. Being able to use it on an 8" device, in either orientation, particuarly if it included a stylus, would be acceptable to me. The only problem is that the cover and the tablet would be *much* more likely to get separated (one part at home, the other on the road) than they are now (when they are nearly always joined).
    • No portrait mode, but for MS sheep, this was just fine,

      they are gullible enough.

      Who would need portrait mode in a tablet, euh? just look the Microsoft Windows Surface ReTard, that's gives a clue of how unimportant is portrait mode, Or at leat, that was the brilliant people from MS were saying. Who needs portrait mode?
  • Portrait Mode not useable on 16:9 - Just silly

    Portrait mode really works best on 4:3, which is why Apple that wen that way. They know about good design and comfort of users.
    Windows 8 in portrait mode is just barely useable on 16:10 devices, but its quite frankly ugly, uncomfortable and looking pretty stupid on 16:10 portrait mode. Microsoft really messed up there.

    Office is a long way off being Touch friendly to office on Tablets yet. Those screen shots, with all those orange X Close icons, juts go to show that Microsoft really doesn't understand how to make Office Touch Friendly. It little different than all those Mobile PCs being prodded by tiny stylus pen. So No, we are still a long way off using manipulating Excel cells on a Tablet. I would be keen to see the videos on how user friendly Office is on Small tablets , cos I haven't seen any on Windows Phone Office !

    One of the reason why OEMs are not interested in Windows RT, is because they possibly realise that Windows 8 Pro with the full pen digitization, does finally offer a more compelling input device, well beyond stylus ! Good Digitized Pen entry, DOES make the case that Windows 8, even small factor Tablets, can be more than a consumer consumption device.