Windows 8: Where's our hardware reimagined?

I want to see, touch or buy a Windows tablet that will get me excited about Windows 8. Six months or so from launch, there's still nothing filling that gap.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Along with "fast and fluid," one of the most (over) used catch phrases about Windows 8 is "Windows reimagined." I'd assume we also are going to see some "reimagined" PCs, too, that will make using the touch-centric Windows 8 less painful and more compelling.


/i/story/60/23/012340/samsung7win8.pngThe problem is without these next-gen PCs and tablets, it's hard for me -- and I'd think others, too -- to really grok how Windows 8 is going to work from running it on PCs and tablets that were designed for a non-touch-centric operating system like Windows 7. We need some PC and tablet makers to get these new devices out there now (with a free Windows 8 upgrade coupon).

Yes, I know you can run Windows 8 on a number of existing Windows 7 touch-enabled PCs and tablets. You also can run it on the Samsung tablet Microsoft delivered at Build in September and/or on the roughly comparable Samsung Series 7 tablet. Samsung just this week delivered drivers and guidance to make it easier for those with the Series 7 tablet to load the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on there. We've all seen demos of the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, which transitions between a PC and a tablet, which Lenovo touted as a Windows 8 device. And Intel's talking up all the supposedly great clam-shell touch ultrabooks that are in the pipeline.

Especially in the tablet space, the hardware matters as much if not more than the software. I've seen no Windows touch tablets or PCs that have made me excited about Windows 8. I was really hoping the rumor from a while back that Microsoft might allow at least one hardware partner to make the Windows 8 beta/Consumer Preview available preloaded on a new tablet was true. Sadly, it never came to pass.

Think about it. What kind of device are you supposed to load Windows 8 test builds on if you really want to kick the tires and give it a fair evaluation? CNet has a list of a few tablets on which they've test driven the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. The conclusion? None of them are all that great a platform for showcasing the coming release of Windows.

With previous versions of Windows, Microsoft's PC partners felt like it was necessary for them to hold their system cards close to the vest. Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP -- the Windows user experiences were understood and predictable. Users familiar with Windows could envision how each new Windows release would look and feel on new PCs as they debuted in the months following each new Windows release.

With Windows 8, it's a different ballgame. No one -- other than folks under strict NDAs (and possibly not even them, at this point in the game) -- have a real sense of how Windows 8 will look and work on their x86/x64 tablets and PCs or on their Windows 8 on ARM (WOA) tablets. You really need a form factor with solid touch support to fully appreciate Windows 8. Just sticking it on an existing laptop that you have to reach across a desk and touch doesn't offer a compelling or interesting user experience.

I think it's time for PC makers to try something different. Instead of waiting until after Windows 8 launches this fall, why not start delivering some tablets and PCs that run Windows 7 but are optimized for Windows 8 to whet users' appetites for this operating system?

Yes, PC vendors would incur risks by showing their hands to their Windows and non-Windows-based competitors. But perhaps it's time for new tactics and more drastic measures, especially on the iPad-compete front. And maybe showing some prototypes might lead folks who've already been wowed by the new iPad to at least flit with the idea of holding off on a new tablet or PC purchase until Windows 8 debuts.

What do you think? Crazy? Improbable? Outlandish? Or would seeing something that looked like at least a halfway compelling new Windows 8 form factor end up working in OEMs' and Microsoft's -- not to mention customers' and partners' -- favor?

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