The Windows 8 team at Microsoft must be the busiest team in tech, with so much to do to get the OS out the door and on the slate. The company is counting on the "new" genre of tablets running Windows 8, on both Intel and ARM hardware, to bring Windows into the mobile age. While early peeks of the Metro interface with Windows 8 look promising, the devil is in the execution. I strongly urge the folks at Redmond to remember the big advantage over the competition in the tablet space, and work the pen and OneNote into the forefront of Windows 8 tablet design.
This insight came to me out of the blue when I recently received a phone call asking for my help. A former client of mine needed information about a project I handled for his company years ago, and while he figured I had no memory of the work after all this time he had to ask. Fortunately for him Microsoft and OneNote came to the rescue.
To set the stage, before changing careers to cover mobile tech full-time I was a consulting geophysicist. I managed complex 3D imaging projects for oil companies to produce accurate pictures of the earth's subsurface. These projects would often last for months, and I usually had as many as ten of them going on concurrently.
My average day in the consulting life saw me flitting from meeting to meeting, as many as four or five a day. I used a Tablet PC extensively, taking ink notes with the pen at each meeting to help me stay on top of each project. I used OneNote for this note-taking, as all of my digital ink was searchable as soon as I wrote it down. This search capability is extremely powerful, and came into play during this client request years after the fact.
After the call from my former client I pulled out my Tablet PC that hasn't been used much lately, and fired up OneNote. I have probably 50,000+ pages of handwritten notes taken over the years, chronicling every project I worked for clients. I did a search in OneNote for the project codename, and in just a few minutes had a hit that took me to the note with the exact answer to my client's question.
My client was stunned that I had this information, and that I could lay my hands on it even though it was written during a meeting almost five years ago. The note page detailed the date and location of the meeting, proving the accuracy of the information.
While this is a unique situation that doesn't happen very often, it drove home to me what Microsoft needs to do with Windows 8 on tablets. OneNote and digital ink handling are a tremendous advantage that Microsoft has over the competition, and it would be a shame to fail to capitalize on it. It may not be required by every future Windows 8 customer, but to the enterprise this could be huge.
I hope that Microsoft doesn't forsake its legacy of the Tablet PC and includes pen/ink handling in the core of Windows 8. I hear from readers regularly wanting a good method of taking ink notes on iOS and Android tablets, and nothing comes close to the existing technology in Windows. Ink needs to be front and center in the Windows 8 tablet products.