Of Windows And Tablets

Even before Windows 7 was released to retail, the tech industry already had its first taste of Windows 8. Rumors about cloud computing and improved performance were obvious and expected, but more recent reports of exciting features like a new interface shed a much different light on it.

Microsoft has been understandably quiet about Windows 8 after the wild success of 7. There have been a few leaks every couple weeks, but we still don’t have anything solid. Before Windows 8 Italia’s report on the OS’ new “Wind” interface, I thought this was mostly just Microsoft milking Windows 7 for all it was worth. However, these new rumors got me thinking; maybe it’s not that Microsoft is hiding behind 7, but rather because Windows 8 will be such a major release that they don’t even have a specific feature set locked down yet.

The New York Times reported this week that Steve Ballmer may be demoing a tablet running Windows 8 at CES. While they may not show many of the features of the operating system during the presentation, it’s a position that Apple has quite clearly forced them into after their demonstration of OSX 10.7 in October.

Microsoft has also acknowledged their intent to introduce Windows-based tablets after the huge success of the iPad, but many tech analysts have knocked 7′s lack of a real touch interface. Even though the company purports that it has been optimized for touch, it’s very clear that Windows is still a very mouse-oriented OS. Companies like ExoPC have tried to make 7 better suited for tablets with new software layers powered by the latest hardware.

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Unfortunately, that hardware is the problem with many Windows tablets on the market right now. Unlike the iPad, most (if not all) 7-based tablets shown thus far have had thick(er), plastic bodies and unacceptable battery life. Even though the power is there, the tablet doesn’t perform as well as the iPad simply because Windows wasn’t designed for tablets-nor is it a valid solution to tablets’ rising popularity.

The new rumors about a wildly different interface on Windows 8 are tantalizing; a 3D interface that adapts to you, rather than you adapting to it. However, Microsoft still may be missing the mark. Windows 8 Italia also reports that the interface will only be available to 64-bit installations and only on systems with 170MB or more video memory. These specifications aren’t tablet specs, they’re desktop specs.

Now, there’s no reason to assume that Microsoft won’t introduce another interface designed for tablets, but there’s also no evidence to say they will. They desperately need to get back into the PC game, whether that be with traditional form factors or with tablets. At this point, though, every indication points to tablets, not desktops or laptops, as the future of computing in the consumer space.