Still a Two-PC World

November 11, 2012

One thing is becoming clear to me as I use the Windows 8 tablet part of the day: I am going to be living in a two device world for a while—I’ll be using both a “full sized” Windows machine, and a small Windows 8 tablet. No matter what tablet brand or model I buy, I think that using two devices is inevitable for some time to come.

Hybrids Are Too Heavy

I know a lot of us hoped that with Windows 8 we’d merge a tablet and PC into one hybrid device. And while that is happening to some extent, for me it is clear I’ll still need two machines. Why?

Well, I feel a tablet should be something you can easily hold in one hand, read a book on it, scan the web while holding it standing up, etc. The iPad sizing set the standards for that, many Android tablets followed sized the same, and the new Surface RT meets that size need as well.

But a PC that allows me to do all my real work in all my applications needs more. It needs to have a screen 12 inches minimum (hopefully larger), and at least 256 gig of storage space. The trouble is, today, even the best laptops or hybrid tablets that meet those specs (e.g. those based on the Win 7 or 8 Ultrabook specs, with ample solid state storage), are going to weigh at or over 3 pounds—they are just too heavy for one-handed tablet use.

10-inch Tablets—Not For All Work

Now, I may be a bit unusual in that I consistently use heavy-duty Adobe software like Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and even InDesign—so I need size. Some of you may be fine full time on a 10 inch screen. But not me, and I think a lot of you are in the same boat.

One solution might be to just plug a large external monitor into a 10 inch tablet when you need to do my real work. Maybe, but are we all going to pack a monitor when we travel ? Many of us do real work on the road too. Well if that’s the solution, then you might as well bring a laptop instead. And no iPad-sized tablets yet have over 128 gig of disk space.

No, I need a full-sized laptop and a separate small tablet—and no machine is going to meet both sets of needs fully, even though some new devices claim to, as we’ll see next.

New Devices Don’t Do Both

For example, take the Lenovo Yoga just released. It is being praised as a device having uncompromised laptop power, with the ability to take a Widows 8 tablet format. But read the reviews and it sounds like it actually meets neither. Here’s what you hear: while light for a laptop (3.4 pounds), it’s still way too heavy to hold in one hand while reading. As to power, the processor and screen is good, but the 128 gig of solid state hard drive space (max available) is reportedly sucked up almost entirely by the needs of Windows and Office and other installed apps, leaving only about 50 gigs for everything else you want to add. It’s not a true tablet and not a workhorse laptop. Sure, we could wait for a similar machine with more storage, but it still won’t be a tablet.

Surface Pro Not Beefy Enough

What about Microsoft’s Surface Pro (due out Q1 2013) or Lenovo’s Thinkpad 2 (due out Nov 16). Those are very light weight, (about 1.5 pounds to 2 pounds) and since they are Windows Pro machines they’ll potentially run everything, so is this the solution?

Well, I think these are getting closer; I suspect their weight will support the tablet feel, and for some people, the other specs may be all they need. But you’ll still have a very small screen and storage will max out at 128 gig (64 gig for the Thinkpad 2). So they won’t be the holy grail of a combined power laptop and tablet. I’ll still need to keep my beefy laptop.

I Still Want a Windows 8 Pro Tablet

But an iPad-sized Windows 8 Pro tablet will still be hugely important to me and others—I am definitely going to get one. Why? Because they’ll extend the time I do not need to switch off the tablet and move back to my full-power laptop. Two main reasons for that: Desktop Outlook will run on them, and IE will accept plugins on them (most IE plugins are not allowed in the Surface RT, and many of us need plugins for our work).

So the solution? I think most of us still need two machines. A three to four pound 13 inch Ultrabook (Windows 8, or Windows 7 with ample RAM and storage), and then a very lightweight 10-inch Windows 8 tablet like the Surface RT by Microsoft. (Yes, an iPad could be an option here, but I like the Surface RT better). [Sept 2013 update: I now think a Bay Trail Atom-based Windows Pro tablet would be a better choice than the Surface RT]

These two devices—an Ultrabook and an iPad sized tablet—will both easily fit in your briefcase with a total weight and thickness less than last year’s single laptop.

Having two such devices really is the way to get the best of both worlds—please don’t try to do it all with one hybrid device.


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8 Responses to Still a Two-PC World

  1. Rich Rubin says:

    Just contemplating this topic today. I am a devoted Mac addict, but for either platform I think there are really 3 required devices. I consider the iPad unsuitable for reading for any length of time. It is great for browsing, games, etc. noting that my reading has decreased, I am charging the Kindle as we speak. Yeah, I could get a Kindle Fire HD, but I’d feel like a traitor. The iPad mini does not fill the bill as the display is embarrassing.

  2. RMG says:

    Thank you for your in depth articles and books. I use your system and use Outlook (not exchange) on a Dell laptop Windows 7 in conjunction w/ an iphone for work and everything else. Am about to make a tablet purchase.

    I also love Notebook and use it for almost everything else for work and personally.

    As I am so heavily into Outlook/Notebook, I was wondering if would be possible that you could suggest methods to get tasks connected to these 2 to the iphone and ipad/tablets using your system, w/out major go arounds and tinkering?

    Thank you again for your excellent work.

    • Jim says:

      +1 on outlook tasks and mac. I have outlook at the office but the tasks are blocked from remote access with no plans to open it up.

  3. Ed says:

    Can you explain how you keep data synced between the two devices? For example, I am interested in using the tablet to take notes in OneNote,, but how would I sync the notebook on the tablet with one on my laptop? My Corp IT Dept blocks use of cloud services like Dropbox and Skydrive, so that’s not an option.

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      Well, we’ve been using Skydrive. Too bad your IT dept has prevented that. I suppose a large capacity USB thumb drive would work.

  4. Dayat says:

    I feel a tablet should be something you can easily hold in one hand, read a book on it, scan the web while holding it standing up, etc. The iPad sizing set the standards for that, many Android tablets followed sized the same, and the new Surface RT meets that size need as well.

    agree with that…..

  5. Deryck says:

    have you any tips for home tasks as well as work tasks – do you recommend they all go into the MYN to-do list? The problem is home tasks represent something you cannot do now, because you are at work. So they take up space on the list as an item that cannot be immediately done, which goes against your main principle that a task should be a bite size action that can be done now! I would be grateful of your comments.

  6. Michael Linenberger says:

    Deryck, if you check your business email and tasks at home then we recommend putting them in the same list. The word “Now” really means “today”. But if it is distracting you, feel free to create a separate system for home tasks. Michael

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