Windows 8 tablets: Vindication for the 'tablets do real work' crowd

Windows 8 tablets: Vindication for the 'tablets do real work' crowd

Summary: I've been using tablets to do real work for a long time and have written regularly about that experience. The response to those articles has been that tablets are not good for doing real work. Windows 8 tablets are causing that reaction to change.

TOPICS: Tablets, Windows
iPad with keyboard folio

Last year I began doing the unthinkable, using either an iPad or an Android tablet with an external keyboard to do real work. The sharing of that positive experience generated an outpouring of negative responses about the practice. The overwhelming reaction to the thought of using a tablet for real work was that it was a foolish thing to do.


Even though Windows 8 won't be out until next month, as early looks are given of tablets running the new OS the thoughts of many are turning to using them for serious tasks. Those of us already using tablets for serious work are seeing public opinion begin to change about the practice.

Very few topics I have written about have generated such negative reactions as the subject of using a tablet instead of a laptop. A popular criticism was that using an external keyboard with a tablet was cheating. Another regularly heard reaction was that using such hardware was too big a compromise to be practical. 

"If you need to add an external keyboard for the dumb thing...then why not just buy a laptop/netbook/ultrabook, and be done with it."

"Sounds like you simply built yourself an ultra thin laptop with a touch screen display. So why are you so excited?? An ultra thin laptop would give you more power and options."

The typical comments to the left overlook the advantages I gain by using a tablet/keyboard combination and the fact that I already owned a tablet for other uses. The primary advantages in no particular order:

Battery life: 10 - 12 hour minimum means never worrying about finding a power outlet, unlike laptops.

Portability: I can carry the tablet/keyboard around in a simple folio case. There is nothing comparable with a laptop for similar cost.

It's still a tablet: Laptops are restricted in how they can be used, but I can use my tablet by itself when I want. That makes it more versatile depending on my needs at any given time.

Since Microsoft unveiled the Surface tablets due to hit later this year, the thoughts of many have been directed to the prospect of using them for serious work. There are no doubt many who require Windows to get their job done, and now they will have a highly portable option to do so.

The realization that tablets with keyboards can be used for productive purposes, specifically for heavy content creation, is vindication for those of us who have been doing so for quite a while.

Microsoft has stoked the imagination of users with Windows 8 and the Surface tablets, and that is wonderful. I can't wait to get my hands on a Surface RT tablet with the keyboard cover to give it a try. I am a tablet kind of guy, after all.


Topics: Tablets, Windows

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  • As long as you are getting your job done

    You don't need to apologize to anybody about the equipment you use to get it done.
    Michael Kelly
    • Except to his boss

      who wonder's why the quality and pace of his work is now in decline.

      Just because you paint a fence with a maple leaf doesn't mean you should...
      • Depends on the work

        Plus the more mobile the device (light weight, slim, long battery life) the more places I am able to work.
    • What kind of "real work" again?

      Kind of depends on the job you're doing, right? Can you use a tablet w/keyboard for banging out ZDNet articles? I should hope so.

    • Surface Pro w/128 gb - still pick the iPad

      I have a surface pro, 128 GB model, complete with keyboard. It weighs as much as my laptop, generates a lot of heat, and doesn't have that great of a battery life. It is a powerful machine, no doubt. Windows 8 looks sexy on it and works really well. I find, I use my laptop for "real work" and my iPad Mini for tablet work. The surface doesn't get much use, for the reasons mentioned above.

      I'm not an "Apple fan boi", I like using windows. I just find the surface pro doesn't work for me as much as I'd like it to.
  • Been Doing "real" work on an iPad for a while too

    I actually find the lack of distraction from multiple windows to be helpful while writing. There are many apps that have been developed to even limit the focus of what is displayed to just a few lines before what is being written. I have never got this whole, "not for real work" argument about Tablets. They are the go anywhere, use anywhere solution for writers (with or without an external keyboard.)
    • The true limitation...

      There are quite a few things which I prefer doing on my iPad3 vs my desktop. The limitation has never been the device. The limitation is in the user's lack of imagination and flexibility to adapt to something new. The most vehement naysayers are usually the most rigid thinkers. If everyone was like them, we'd all still be riding horses and writing by candlelight.
  • I say screw physical keyboards...

    Get a virtual laser keyboard projector. They cost less than a high-end keyboard anyways.

    The technology has gotten a lot better in the past two years imo. Maybe that could be in your next article.
  • Good to know your use case is the only one that matters

    Yes, Windows 8 will be a complete vindication of the fact that no one on earth could comprehend your amazingly intricate yet terribly common use case of needing to be able to type in one screen on a tablet. Or maybe it's possible that either you didn't understand or you chose to ignore the valid criticisms of your claims, because it made you feel better to believe that any disagreement was just others not understanding you.

    Windows 8 tablets do not do much more to allow for second and/or significantly larger monitors, which many people need to do their work (to be clear, "writing horrible click-bait articles" does not count as "work" for much of the rest of humanity). Windows 8 tablets also provide an advantage over iPads - business and processor-intensive software can be run on them. So the objects that do not solve the problems people brought up in your first tablet article and provide solutions your iPad does not in no way "vindicate" any of the drivel you have written.
    • take a day off

      put your feet up. it'll do you good.
    • You must have meant to say iPads do not do much more Etc

      Surface RT tablets have mini-HDMI out Surface pro has display port, so no problems with a second monitor I would think,
    • Why be a rude puppy?

      J_Flow, can you say the exact same thing in kind words? There would be many benefits. Such human skills might help further your career (not to mention your interpersonal relationships).
    • There is a difference between replacing a desktop and using a tablet.

      Nobody thinks tablets are a desktop replacement. But they are fantastic at doing a lot of things you once did on a desktop. One thing that makes them more useful than a desktop is, you can get work done while standing in a long line at the bank or waiting outside a conference room. Another thing is they weigh next to nothing and don't require you to carry a power brick around. It's trivial to carry one with you. They actually last through an entire 10 hour day of work. I always chuckle at the suits sitting on the floor next to an outlet in airports charging their laptop so they can work for a couple hours on the plane. I used to be one of them.

      If you sit at a desk all day, then yes, a desktop is much better for doing work. Even I would never give up my desktop, and I use my tablet much of the time. There are some things I do which require my three big monitors and high end processor. The rest of the time, I'd rather be mobile and my tablet is far more mobile than my laptops or netbook, which are all gathering dust on top of a cabinet.

      "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."
      - Albert Einstein
      • tablets / laptop and full size pc

        It will be more convenient for any punk to steal it , try to run with a full size pc ......
        as far as kocating them it is very easy to defeat , unless they encrypted and apple product are near impossible to do it's goimg to be fun for it security in large corporation .....
    • Somebody Sure Took a Bitter Pill Today

      J_How - are you a reformed Apple fanboy now spewing venom from the other side of the plate? Get a grip man. James is writing about HIS experience - he's not trying to convert you (back?) to the Apple side. In fact, his iPad/Logitech Ultrathin keyboard combination is about the slickest, lightest combo out there. For me, iOS lacks too much to be a daily driver (no Office, no file system, too many workarounds to connect to network shares, etc.), but that is no reason to poison pen your responses. Get a grip man.
    • Not How, J.

      drivel?.....harsh man.
  • Still doing real work on my Win7 Slate

    Albeit battery life is not all day and it can bog down with multiple programs running in a real multi-tasking environment, but I find my Win7 tablet (HP Slate 500) to be all that I need for "real work" and, at 1.5 pounds, it's light enough for extended couch surfing. When I want a keyboard, I use a USB Lenovo keyboard that's about the same size as the Slate (and has a track stick that is great). Combined they are still smaller and lighter than the smallest and lightest of the ultrabooks.
  • Win tablets do real work and so much better with Win 8

    This comes down to what we call real work,
    For me it’s being able to use my ASUS EP121 tablet on the plant floor, when I got it was a little rough around the edges in windows 7 enterprise, but once I dual booted to try each version of windows 8 up to the RTM release it got better, now that it runs windows 8 enterprise full time, its bloody sweet.
    Just a few notes, they are always more. It’s all in the facts below,

    1) Auto sync of notes in one note, so anything I scribble or type is saved automatically,
    2) Fill in an excel sheet with cycle times etc, on the fly.
    3) Make a small PLC or PAC change
    4) Check a vision system and make adjustments.
    5) Update an Auto Cad drawing,
    6) Weighs less then laptop.
    7) Easy to hold in one hand.
    8) Not always looking for place to sit it down to work on it.
    9) Not needing it, but if I like a keyboard via Bluetooth or USB works even a mouse.
    10) Real software not little apps.
    11) Not needing thrid party software to run built for windows software.

    I love my tablet, and sorry but in the real world of manufacturing, production etc, toys that do not run business class software are just toys. No matter what the little apps do, they are yet to reach the point of being useful beyond the internet and email when you step out on a plant floor.
    • Wow! Another real user!

      I didn't think anyone used a computer like I do. With the exception of using one note, I have had to do all of these things as well. Think brick laptop, W2000, when I started using it for these functions. There was a time, not too long ago, when machine control cabinets had to be designed with an outlet and oftentimes a pull-down shelf to set the computer on. Still do the same stuff with an ultrabook, which isn't too bad. My next purchase may be a tablet. Taking a good look at the surface when it comes out. In the meantime... still having a ball. (Let's not tell anyone how fun this kind of work is, lest the word get out and everyone else wants to do it.)
      spooky tooth
  • IF you mean iPad

    Can I ask you a question? Can you upload anything with your iPad, such as pictures through web interface to ZDnet?

    Because iPad and iPhone (eg. all iOS products) has been forbidden to send files over "web browsers" (and any web browser) by simple HTML or HTML5 uploads...

    If you mean Android tablets, yeah, probably does better on "work" area...