October 25, 2012
This Friday, October 26 (tomorrow), Microsoft releases Windows 8. It’s a major new release with a lot of good new capability. By the way, the full version of Windows 8 is now called Windows 8 Pro, which you’ll see below is an important point.
But more exciting to me is that this Friday Microsoft also releases the much anticipated Microsoft Surface RT tablet—a tablet that runs the new Windows 8 RT operating system. RT is a simplified, tablet-only version of Windows 8. There’s been a long wait for an iPad competitor from Microsoft, and Surface RT is it.
And even more exciting to me is that Friday is also the release date for a number Windows 8 Pro tablets. These are tablets that run the full Windows 8 just as if it were a regular laptop but on an iPad like device. The new Lenovo ThinkPad 2 is an example.
Many other manufacturers are also releasing varieties of these starting Friday and beyond. All of this represents a major productivity tool evolution for knowledge workers—you come out ahead because you can have PC power on an iPad-like tablet.
If you are considering getting one of these new tablets, the point of this article is to discuss specifically what they mean for MYN/1MTD users—can you use them successfully with MYN/1MTD?
The short answer is this:
- Windows 8 RT tablets will have limited use with MYN/1MTD;
- Windows 8 Pro tablets will have full use with MYN/1MTD.
To dig into that answer takes some discussion; let’s start with Windows 8 RT, as there are some issues there.
What is Windows 8 RT? What is Surface RT?
Windows 8 RT is a reduced-feature version of Windows 8 Pro. Why reduce the features? So that RT will run on lower-power, simpler, lower-cost tablets like the new Microsoft Surface RT—Microsoft’s first new tablet. These are tablets that compete with the power-level, the simplicity, and especially the price-point of Apple’s iPad. Like the iPad, they are mainly mobile media devices; but they also have lots of productivity tool capabilities as well.
Many other vendors are also releasing RT devices in the coming weeks—Microsoft’s Surface RT is not your only hardware choice for RT—but Surface RT is the hardware that is getting all the attention right now since Microsoft is building it (it’s the first time Microsoft has manufactured their own computer, and that’s a big deal).
Later (Q1 2013) Microsoft will follow with the Microsoft Surface Pro. That’s another Microsoft-built tablet, but one that runs the full version of Window 8 (the Pro version), and it is also a nearly iPad-sized device. Even better, some non-Microsoft Windows 8 Pro tablets are coming out now, well ahead of Microsoft—so you don’t have to wait.
Windows 8 RT Is Not your Best Choice for MYN/1MTD Users
[Update Oct 17, 2013: Outlook was added to Windows RT, so the most of the paragraphs below are no longer true]
So as I said, Windows 8 RT is a reduced-feature version of the full Windows 8 Pro. And unfortunately for MYN and 1MTD users, that reduced functionality cuts out most MYN/1MTD uses. Why ? Because RT does not include or support the desktop version of Outlook and desktop-Outlook is key for most MYN/1MTD users. Now, not all MYN/1MTD uses are eliminated on RT because Toodledo should work on RT tablets (more below). But to enable a desktop version of Outlook you’ll need to get a Windows 8 Pro tablet. More on on what does work below, but first, let me lament a bit more about the omission of Outlook from Windows 8 RT. No Outlook on Windows 8 RT The main problem for MYN/1MTD users, and office workers in general, is that Windows 8 RT cannot run a full desktop copy of Outlook, and Microsoft has not (to my knowledge) announced future support of Outlook on RT. I think that’s too bad because if RT did support the desktop Outlook, RT could have been a low-end, light-weight laptop replacement for some office workers (in the same way the iPad is for some workers); so that opportunity is lost for the moment. Windows 8 RT does come with a very simple Mail app, but I suspect many workers will not like it since it is missing many features that we take for granted in business e-mail. And you’ll need to give some thought on how you sync it with your existing mail servers. And most important for current Outlook MYN/1MTD users, RT has no native Exchange Tasks support. I think that’s a shame too. It means that for current Exchange Outlook MYN/1MTD users, the Windows 8 RT tablet cannot yet be your tablet productivity tool. Of course, any device with a browser can get access to Exchange-based Outlook mail and tasks using Outlook Web App/Access (OWA), and of course RT has a browser. But as I’ve mentioned for some time, OWA cannot be configured for MYN/1MTD tasks, and so it is not our solution—you need the full desktop version of Outlook. And anyway, being web-based, OWA does not work for tasks while you are offline (there’s no cellular broadband on the Surface RT, so you will likely be offline a lot). For a discussion of the various e-mail options Microsoft has, and their relation to MYN/1MTD, see this link. My take? Unless RT Mail improves or is replaced by Outlook, and unless a third party comes up with an RT tasks app (I am hoping the makers of TaskTask will do that), I am not yet recommending RT tablets to Outlook MYN/1MTD users as their mobile productivity tool. All this is not a complete surprise because RT was never supposed to be a full business tool; that’s what the Windows 8 Pro tablets are all about. But I had hopes for a low cost MYN/1MTD capable tablet, and RT is not it.
Still, Good Uses for Surface RT
All that said, RT still has a lot to offer. First of course is it may end up being a pretty good media tablet, just like the original intended use of the iPad. And many business applications come with it (see below) and many more may migrate to it later, just as they have for the iPad. But that begs the question, why not just get an iPad?
Second, for MYN/1MTD tasks, if you are a Toodledo MYN/1MTD user, you are “OK” using the RT. Toodledo is web-based and RT has good browser support, so you should be able to work your MYN/1MTD tasks just fine while online. However I only say “OK” because you’ll still have the offline issue if you are not near Wi-Fi (one solution is to carry a MiFi or cellphone hotspot with you so you have Wi-Fi everywhere you go). But again, you can do that on an iPad, and it does have cellular data; so again, why not just get an iPad?
The main reason to consider the RT (against an iPad) is that the Surface RT will come with a full copy of Office Home & Student 2013 RT Preview, which means it comes with essentially full copies of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. There are some limits to using those on RT, but not major ones, and since they are based on the new 2013 versions, they are optimized for tablet use. This immediately takes the potential business uses of the Surface RT beyond the iPad, whose Office imitators never reached the levels I wanted. And so to me this is partial realization of my hope for the Windows 8 RT tablets—to get access to most of the full client-based Microsoft Office productivity suite on a device about the same size and cost as an iPad.
Now, if RT only had the client copy of Outlook too, then we’d be all set. Which brings me to what I think is the current real Windows 8 tablet solution—next. (See our Mobile Software page for solutions on other platforms like the iPad).
The Real Solution: Get a Full Windows 8 Pro Tablet
Starting Friday and in the weeks ahead, a number of vendors are releasing their Windows 8 Pro tablets, and for Outlook MYN/1MTD users, this is your real tablet solution—primarily because you can run a full desktop copy of Outlook on these.
I’ve been waiting for this capability a long time and it’s finally here. Although in a way it’s a shame since just to get access to Outlook you’ll be paying quite a bit more for these (they will cost between $300 and $500 more if you get one with a keyboard). But if you can afford that difference, there are few downsides to this solution. And of course, you are adding a lot more than just Outlook—this is a “full” Windows 8 computer, as I discuss next.
Windows 8 Pro Tablets are Full Windows Computers
There is a lot more to the full Windows 8 Pro tablets (compared to RT) than just adding Outlook; and there had better be to justify the $300+ premium. The main advantage is that since they are full Windows computers, they will run “all” existing Windows software. You see, one limitation of RT is that RT only runs apps specifically written for its Metro style interface; it does not run standard Windows software (just like Mac software does not run on the iPad). Last I heard, the RT count on Windows Store is about 4000 apps and a lot of core titles are missing. So if you are missing key apps, or if you need more power, the Windows 8 Pro tablets will be your best bet.
And in case you are wondering, the new Windows Pro tablets are not the heavy, slow-boot time, short-battery-life Windows tablets of yesteryear. These new ones have iPad-like battery life, speed, and weight, with Windows processor performance. They will be the first truly practical tablets for running nearly all your standard Windows software.
Now, granted, compared to some computers, Windows 8 Pro tablets are not powerhouses. Storage space is usually 64 GB or less, and don’t expect screaming clock speeds. So plan to do your high-end graphic work on a different computer. But for everyday chores, the reports are very good.
And many have a fully digitized pen interface for true high-resolution note taking and sketching—one that works great with many standard Windows applications including OneNote. (A good pen interface is a feature I have loved since the original Tablet PC came out, back in 2004; but I dropped those older tablets due to high weight and poor performance).
In comparison, the RT tablets offer slower CPUs with less storage, less RAM, and fewer interface ports than the full Windows 8 Pro tablets. So think carefully about which solution you need. For a full list of hardware specification differences (using Surface as an example), see this link.
As soon as we have fully tested these, we’ll write up our experiences with Windows 8 RT and Pro.
So in summary, for MYN/1MTD, if you are using ToodleDo, an RT tablet could work for you. But if you are currently using the Outlook versions of MYN/1MTD,
you’ll need to spring for the full Windows Pro tablets. Models of each will be on sale starting Friday.
And beyond MYN/1MTD, I am excited about these new Windows tablets since in general they will be more workplace productivity-oriented than the iPad. You see, a lot of companies are trying to force-fit the iPad into their business environment. Analysts have long said the iPad is mainly for content consumption and not designed for the many business uses they are being shoehorned into. In contrast, the new Windows tablets, particularly the Pro tablet, will have access to standard workplace applications that are typically used for content creation, and so they represent a coming evolution of the tablet space for the workplace.