Windows 8 tablets: Perfect for the courtroom but they aren't there

Windows 8 tablets: Perfect for the courtroom but they aren't there

Summary: Tablets have the reputation of being media consumption devices, and that slows adoption in the workplace. Attorneys do a lot of content consumption but they aren't turning to Windows to do it.


Tablets are beginning to make their way into the workplace in growing numbers, but often not for the reason you might think. While many think of media consumption when it comes to tablets, attorneys are picking up the slate to do content consumption in the courtroom. Tablets are perfect for long days in the courtroom where lawyers work and they're often picking up the iPad for this content work, not Windows tablets.

Content consumption is very different from media consumption, as the former is often a work-related activity while the latter is mostly personal in nature. Watching cat videos is firmly in the media consumption category while content consumption often means referring to documents for work.

You'd think that content consumption, reviewing Word documents is a common task, would make Windows tablets the perfect vehicle for doing that activity. From the many professionals I speak to in my quest to meet people daily, it's often the iPad they use instead.

I run into a lot of lawyers in my daily excursions due to the proximity of the extensive local court system. There are several courts just a few blocks from my regular work venues, and that means I meet a lot of lawyers.

That most of them use iPads is surprising to a degree as Windows and Office go hand-in-hand. Even so, attorneys I speak with use the iPad in court to refer to Word documents related to the working case at hand, and Word documents sent them by support staff back in the office. Windows tablets are tailor-made for this, yet attorneys I speak with are overwhelmingly using iPads for this content consumption.

The primary reason I'm given for this choice is the good battery life of the iPad. Attorneys can head to court in the morning without fear the iPad will run low on juice on even the longest days. I've heard several horror stories from attorneys about the laptops they used in the past getting dead batteries on long days in court, leaving them scrambling to find the printed documents they needed. Most importantly, having the dead laptop cut them off from receiving significant new information from the office.

When I point out that there are now Windows tablets that can do that, I'm met with universal resistance. The iPad does what they need in court without issue, and it's easy and worry-free. They have no desire to investigate Windows tablets at all, even though I tell them they should. Showing them a good Windows tablet doesn't change their mind or even bring doubt to their conviction.

Maybe this will change when Windows tablets with Haswell inside start appearing in volume, but the feedback I'm getting from attorneys makes me think that might not be the case. They are effectively using iPads in court for taking case notes on the fly and for the all-important content consumption. They don't need to edit those documents in court, just refer to them. This minimizes the importance of one of the strengths of Windows tablets, the ability to run full Office for content creation. This is not what these attorneys want.

Using the iPad effectively for accessing Office documents has separated Windows from Office, and attorneys I've spoken to see no reason to change that. This is something Microsoft will have to deal with to get traction for both Windows and its Surface tablets. 

This is not a scientific survey by any means, but it is the result of speaking with dozens of attorneys. 

See also: 

10 reasons the ThinkPad Tablet 2 is a top Windows tablet

ThinkPad Tablet 2 and accessories photo gallery

10 advantages Windows 8 has over the iPad and Android

ThinkPad Tablet 2: Best Windows tablet

Epiphany: Windows 8 is a very good tablet OS

Windows 8 tablets: A confusing world for buyers

Windows RT: DOA to almost everybody

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2: First impressions (review)

Topics: Mobility, iPad, Tablets, Windows 8

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  • Exception that proves the rule?

    One of my relatives is a corporate lawyer. He seemed quite impressed by my Surface RT on a recent family vacation and stated that it would be the perfect device for him to use at work. He and his whole family have traditionally been users of Apple products. I'm sure he didn't switch, but it was kind of neat to see him express such interest in my tablet.
    • Ya?

      Until he realized that you can't run Outlook on a Surface RT until Windows 8.1 is released. That and a myriad number of reasons why Surface RT isn't a viable purchase at this time. Even Office isn't ready for RT. It's still coded for the old Windows. Only reason it runs on RT is because they use a special compiler.
  • It makes sense

    in court you're refering to documents, not updating them, as the task at hand is that the lawyer should be focused on the case, not the technology. Imagine being focused on the iPad's keyboard and not the case, and then missing something.

    Many still jot down points or notes on pads as it's still far faster then typing on an onscreen keyboard.
    William Farrel
    • bluetooth wrist keyboard

      The solution to the onscreen is a bluetooth wrist keyboard. The bluetooth wrist keyboard senses the movements of the tendons and muscles in your wrist so you can type on a table top or your knee, etc without having an actual keyboard. Most of us have fingers that are so trained to the keyboard we don't need to look anymore. A wrist keyboard leverages this training by learning the combinations of tendon and muscle movements for each keystroke.
  • Re: I'm met with universal resistance

    Translation: Nobody wants Windows anymore. Even worse, nobody wants to do anything with Microsoft, if possible.

    Well, the iPad made it possible. The 'cheap' types might look at Android as an substitute, but you really need to be Microsoft/Windows fan to look at Windows based tablets.

    That miserable laptop that just died was running Windows, right? That's bad memory and people look for an alternative.

    Also, editing documents is for the lower paid staff at the office... and this is yet another reason those people do not want to deal with Windows. Sounds elitist and well... might be in those attorney's eyes.
    • Im quite certain that most of these lawyers James refers to bought their

      laptops before the surface came out. Just like iphones in their first round they became a status symbol, regardless of actual utility. There's not even a need for haswell here, they could have ipad equivalent battery life and office with an WRT tablet. Lawyers as a class are more caught up in status than average workers. A haswell device may come in handy for a lawyer who wants to take hand written notes though. It's very nice to take hand writing and pictures and automatically do ocr on it and save it in a doc that can be emailed or added to another document.
      Johnny Vegas
      • Status is part of their job.

        That is, projecting an IMAGE of wealth and confidence helps lawyers acquire clients (if he's that wealthy he can make a living treating clients honestly, without having to cheat them, clients may think unconsciously, whereas a lawyer who looks disheveled might need to win THIS case so desperately that even his clients may not trust him), impress jurors and judges, and thus be more effective in the courtroom AND the law office. Clothing, watch, pens, neatly organized paperwork, and today, a tablet with an image of professionalism, all contribute to the aura of competence. And so do the cars; except for an environmental lawyer driving a "green" luxury car, most clients would be leery of hiring a lawyer driving a Smart car, Honda Civic or other car priced for "working stiffs." The Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, etc. make a better "good lawyer" image; Lexus especially because its name is reminiscent of LEX, the Latin word for law, and a legal oriented search engine (originally a dialup bulletin board!) named Lexis Nexus (great challenge for a spelling bee!).

        Of course attorneys, like anyone else, also think about status on a personal basis. But for certain professions, looking successful is almost a job REQUIREMENT.

        As far as Windows tablets vs iPad, since the iPad was the first device available to avoid carrying paper to the courtroom, other than a bulky full size laptop, that was what the legal profession bought. Since many lawyers are part of a multi-attorney firm, whose senior partners would want all their members to use "corporate" standard tools, the firm would have to switch en masse, which is unlikely. Windows just got into THIS market too late to satisfy attorneys, at least for several years longer.
    • The problem with MS

      Is people like you that try to speak for the millions of happy Windows user. Please stop speaking for me...I have no desire to run an apple turn or an android fritter.
    • Attorneys

      As a trial lawyer myself I can say truthfully there is nothing elitist at all about having an iPad or one computer over another. We, like professionals in every other industry, buy what works.

      Windows laptops, especially ThinkPad X series, were the most common until a few years when MacBook Airs started to rise in popularity. Until 2010, the X series remained perhaps the most common laptop I would see as the original MacBook Air was too expensive and had insufficient battery life, though it was clearly sized and shaped right.

      Now the Air and the iPad have displaced the ThinkPad, not because they are more powerful, but because they are thinner, lighter and in the case of the MacBook Air, they finally run long enough on their batteries. This year the 11" Air is finally becoming a common sight, as until Haswell its battery life lagged significantly behind the 13" model's.

      The secret is the very thin and light profile and the wedge profile that allow a MacBook Air (or copycat ultrabook) to slide easily into the thnnest of briefcases without bothering with a separate laptop case. The iPad is even better at this, but many of us lawyers actually do write in the courtroom.

      I personally use my iPad mini in criminal court where checking my calendar and looking up quick facts like sentencing guidelines often needs to be done very quickly, while standing. The iPad does this extremely quickly, and while I'm sure an Android tablet would as well I prefer the simplicity and stability of Apple's "Walled Garden" approach. My iPad Mini is not something I want to customize and tweak, rather it is a tool for giving me access to my networked calendar, a few frequently needed documents, email and text messaging, as quickly as possible.

      For trial I use an 11" MacBook Air, latest model. WIth wifi on, bluetooth off and the screen at half brightness I can go through a full day at trial, and still have about 40~50% battery left. No, I'm not using it 9 hours straight, but easily am using it 4 or 5 hours.

      Windows, RT or otherwise, offers me nothing that I don't already have, and adds complexity to do it. No thanks.
      • Just ignore him

        This forum is filled with Apple haters, just ignore them. If you read his comment he was basically saying Apple products is just for people who want to feel special. He totally ignored the fact that the iPad is actually useful for retrieving and reading documents, ease of use, and giving a long battery life. But then again, Apple haters have few facts to stand on, so they just use emotion.
  • Your first mistake was assuming that all documents

    are Word documents. The reality is, most are PDF documents. And the iPad does PDF very, very well.
    • Well, I guess that's something,

      but then every system does PDF's. Big deal.
      • It is a big deal when your major selling point is "Look we do Office

        and they don't."
  • The fact that the Surface's ONLY selling point is that

    it can run the full MS Office already makes it a niche product. Running the full office on a 10 inch screen using touch is an exercise in frustration, and anyone with half a brain know it. So Microsoft fails on two points: 1) assuming it's a die for feature, and, 2) assuming that it's even remotely usable on a touch device for the type of heavy lifting they push in mistake number 1.
    • That's not the only thing

      The Surface is a niche product because it's basically a laptop. Regardless of whether you have RT or Pro, it's basically designed to be used in landscape mode with a keyboard. The iPad really works like a tablet. Neither Surface Pro or RT work like tablets. You ever seen someone with Surface RT using it in portrait mode? If so, they aren't happy campers, because the apps aren't optimized for use in portrait mode.
  • The vast majority of attorneys almost never go to court.

    "Trial lawyers" who spend a good portion of their time in court are actually a small minority--maybe 10% at most.

    Regarding "dead battery on a laptop", if they expect to be there for a long time they're an idiot for not bring a spare. And why wouldn't they just plug in someplace? If they're actually in trial there would be power strips near the counsel tables.

    You also ignore the fact that MANY lawyers and paralegals use WordPerfect and those of us who do "won't touch Word with a ten-foot pole". When WP was owned by WordPerfect Corporation it was especially cooperative with the legal profession. Many features were added that are particularly useful for lawyers. Corel has kept those features. Also, Word is mouse-intensive and keeps changing document formats and interfaces, all of which are huge pains for people who "don't need to keep relearning something that works just for the sake of change".

    Also, if a lawyer is going to use a technology we tend to be early adopters. When you're billing hundreds of dollars per hour (most of which goes to paying staff salaries, rent and utilities, legal databases, etc., not in the lawyer's pocket), you don't want to have to spend 10-30 hours porting everything to a new machine with different programs, etc. ESPECIALLY one that does not have wide acceptance and might not even be around 2 years from now!
  • One Point You are Missing

    Aside from the point that the documents mostly consumed in court are likely pdf's as opposed to word documents, there is another issue.

    Lawyers wear Rolex's, drive Mercedes', wear expensive suits and carry fine briefcases. In short they use premium/luxury products.

    iPad and iOS are considered premium products (right or wrong). Surface and Windows are considered Yugos.
  • Windows 8.1, Bay Trail, and Metro Office should be tipping point

    With the introduction of Windows 8.1, and Bay Trail devices, MS and its partners should be able to successfully push Windows tablets as document consumption, communication, etc. secondary devices that workers use in conjunction with their primary PCs. When the Windows store / Metro version of Office is released, MS and its partners should be able to turn up the heat and blitz businesses through ads, video demos, sample device giveaways, etc. to really drive home this point.

    P. Douglas
    P. Douglas
    • You Should Work For MSFT

      Because you think just like they do. "Push" distribution, what a great way to do business, not! Put it out there and the people will buy it. That model has never worked. If you want people to buy your product you need to give them compelling reasons to buy it.
  • I use a Windows 8 Tablet in a Courtroom

    The advantage of Windows over an iPad is apps. There are apps like Trial Director which don't run on an iPad. The corresponding apps for an iPad are less full-featured, OK for small simple cases, less so for complex ones. The problem I've had is battery life -- hoping Haswell (or maybe Bay Trail if powerful enough) is the cure.