Windows 8 Pro tablets: Not a good laptop replacement

Windows 8 Pro tablets: Not a good laptop replacement

Summary: The Windows 8 launch is getting closer and many are looking forward to the tablets that will run the full version of Windows. Those looking to use one of these tablets as a PC replacement may be disappointed.

JK eb-surface-three-in-line

As a tablet enthusiast I am looking forward to the Windows 8 slates that will start appearing later this year. The Microsoft Surface tablets look like capable entrants to the field, along with the just-announced ThinkPad Tablet 2. 

The tablets that will run Windows 8 Pro have attracted a lot of attention from many I have corresponded with due to the ability to run not only the apps written for tablets but also legacy Windows apps. Many I have spoken to plan to get a Windows 8 Pro tablet for that legacy support.

I am hearing from more and more people that they see these tablets as laptop replacements. The Surface tablets will have a keyboard cover to turn it into a pseudo laptop, and others are likely to have similar accessories.

Others who plan to get a Windows tablet tell me they want to use it as their sole computer. They expect accessories to be available to let them drop the tablet into a dock that is connected to monitors, speakers, keyboard, and mouse, turning the slate into a full-blown desktop system.

These scenarios look good on paper but I'm afraid many of these tablet buyers will end up disappointed in the actual execution. I have used Windows tablets for a decade and the fact is legacy Windows apps rarely work well on a touch tablet.

Those apps should run fine in a laptop or docked environment as described above, but if that's the primary function of a Windows 8 tablet then a real laptop or desktop system will be far better . The price should be lower and the hardware components will certainly be better than those crammed into a little tablet.

Tablets have their uses, I am on record detailing how they work well for me for productive tasks. What makes that work is the fact I use my tablets (both Android and iPad) primarily as tablets. The ability to add a keyboard and get real work done is an additional benefit in my view. It's not the way I would plan a working system.

Laptops are now so thin and mobile that if someone's primary usage is to run Windows legacy apps there is little question they are the better way to go. Tablets with keyboards are restricted computers, and legacy Windows apps are not written for them. Laptops run these programs with ease and without compromise.

As for the tablet docking scenario, that looks good on paper but will fall short for most folks. I used such a system for two years (HP tc1100) and it worked, but not as well as a desktop PC with a cheap tablet would have worked. The tablet system was too anemic compared to most every desktop system it was replacing so it required compromise to use it.

I am excited about the Windows 8 tablets, but I hope those planning on buying the more expensive Pro version realize it's not going to be a 'do everything' computer. Non-tablet functions will not be as good as on laptops or desktops. 

If buyers use them the way they are designed to be used they will be much happier with the result. They should be used primarily as tablets, running real tablet apps, with occasional use as a PC replacement an added benefit. Not the other way around.

Image credit: Ed Bott/ZDNet


Topics: Tablets, Lenovo, Microsoft, Windows

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  • Give it time

    It's not a desktop. It's not a laptop. It's also not an IPad.

    Win8 will bring us a lot closer to an all-in-one than any device before.

    This is the first tablet that creates as well as consumes. The docking stations, and new form factors that utilize this one OS for everything model will follow.

    Give it time.
    • I don't want "all-in-one"

      I want "big screen" (media centre), "medium screen" (desktop), "little screen" (portable), and "tiny screen" (ultra-portable i.e. phone).
      • Just wait for the invention of

        Resizable screens. Then you'll have the all in one that even you want.

        Until then, the laws of physics shall be obeyed... :(
        • "Resizable screens"

          Wondering where this has developed since announced 2010?

          Roll-Up Video Screen

          • If James says so, it must be true.

            Like most bloggers, he is an authority figure and probably one of the few that have actually used a Surface Pro, so if he says it isn't a good replacement for a laptop, then I'm sure he is right.

            Incidentally, based on his conclusions, sounds like he is saying that a MacBook Air would also make a poor laptop replacement as well as all current tablets?
          • Read again, James did not actually use a Surface Pro!

            Read carefully, he didn't wrote this article based on his actual working experience with the Surface Pro, its based on experience with much older (windows??) tablets, wich had completely different OS user interface.

            @James, I miss information in your blogpost cos the whole article repeats the abstract at the top. Can you be to the point and actually mention tasks performed on a PC in wich a tablet like Surface lacks?
          • Still a "Good Idea" that is mostly a sales pitch.

            Roll up screens have been demonstrated several times. But, if you want high definition, they are going to disappoint. They just don't unroll all that well. Think of a wrinkled magazine page, and you'll see what I mean. that still hasn't been fully addressed. Until it is, you will continue to see the roll up screens at trade shows, but not be able to buy one.
      • One is all you really need

        I just want a phone...... where:

        @ Office it goes in a dock, and use network & monitors -- workstation

        @ Car you place it on the dash -- gps/radio/handsfree

        @ Home you plug into another dock -- media

        @ Road you would have notebook dock, and every desk at Hotels would have a dock, Monitor, keyboard and mouse, just like they have a pen & paper now.

        Windows 8 can do this.
        • phone?

          oh yes tell me about autocad/matlab/premiere running on a phone...
          all the people that spends thousands of $/£/€ on a full blown workstation with xeon processors quadro graphics are all idiots???
          Filippo Savi
          • Niche...

            And that is where the niche market of laptops and desktops will forever remain...
          • No, they are not idiots

            They are just NOT Tojuro.
            Not everyone has the same needs but you'll find there's room for us all.
          • Windows 8 Pro tablets: Not a good laptop replacement

            @Filippo Savi
            it is just the first iteration of this product, give it the chance it deserves. autocad/matlab/premiere used to work on those anemic processors of yesteryears. the current processors powering today's phones/tablets are more capable than those processors. don't be like the people who maligned jobs' effort to launch the newton, and then fully embraced the same concept renamed as i Pad. the phone/tablet format for computing is long overdue, remember the star trek toys, they are here now and here to stay whether you like it or not. to wit, the current i7 processors are more complex and capable than that of the supercomputers of the 70's and 80's and drained a thousandth times less power and occupy a millionth times smaller space, the brain of the upcoming crop of handheld devices will be more than enough to handle the computing requirements of the future without the requisite space needed by the current desktops and laptops. and by the way, the form factor that we all love is just our human requirement...nothing to do with computing requirement.
        • Keen observations

          But it needs to have the power to game also ;)

          I think you hit the nail on the head Tojuro... In fact, you could even have the format of the 'hotel' plugin in such a way where your phone's touchscreen becomes the trackpad...
          • Gaming in the clouds

            Gaming will soon be in the cloud, with the graphics pushed down to the screen. That breaks many boundaries with online gaming & requirements on handheld devices.

            This isn't far off either (2014-15). Look at the company Sony just bought, and that was purely in reaction to what Microsoft is getting ready to deliver.
          • Gaming in the 'cloud' is limited by speed of connection

            If you're having the connection carry every part of the game (and you clearly imply graphics in your argument) then gaming simply will not work in the cloud. It's obvious you haven't been playing any MMOs where simply the number of graphical elements sent to the client is enough to stall the game--not even considering what the client has to do to those elements.

            No, with gaming you need a decent graphics card on the client end or gaming is a no-go across the board.
          • no you silly goose

            Lets look to the future, shall we?

            Cloud gaming could run the game for you, sending you a picture of whats going on. It would be equivalent to streaming your games. As long as your device could run a hidef video, then it could stream literally ANY game, no matter how powerful (as long as the cloud server could run it).

            This ignores processing power requirements that the 'cloud servers' would require to actually play tons of different instances of games...but were talking about the future...not now. It would also most likely require a different way of 'running' games...but again...the future.

            Just wanted to point out that its not an impossibility.
            Ricky Mason
          • It's called OnLive and it's been around for a while.

            And with a 6 Mbit/s connection, it works well.
          • Wrong. The Xbox 360 is still far more powerful graphically...

            ... than the kind of thin client projected for the average tablet. The console still does the graphics.
          • No it doesn't...

            On-Live is a horrible experience even with a fast connection. The lag in button presses kills all games for me.
        • Why Not? In a few years...

          My now old Droid BIONIC has a dual-core and HDMI and I can run Netflix and Hulu on that plugged right into my 46" HDTV. So, why not? In a few years, that little box you're carrying will quad-core-or-more, super advanced graphics processor, tons of RAM and a massive solid state drive. Why will it not be a "brain" that you dock to your car, etc.? (for those that want that... there is & will be no single solution...)