October 25, 2013
We all know by now that the advantage a Windows tablet gives is access to desktop copies of Outlook, Word, Excel, and so on. But what does that really mean and how practical is using such software on an iPad-sized tablet? Why not just get a laptop for that work, and then carry an iPad or Android (both with more apps available) as your tablet?
The Main Advantage
Here’s the primary advantage of an iPad-sized Windows tablet (vs. an iPad or Android tablet). A small Windows tablet gives you what I call “short-burst real-work” capability. For example, I am going out to lunch and I grab my Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2 (an iPad-sized Windows tablet) to read some articles and scan some e-mail while eating. This is low priority work (and I am in a nice restaurant), so there is no way I would haul in my larger laptop (or hybrid)—I just want to glance at a few things using the apps on the tablet, holding it in one had as I eat. Note that for that sort of usage, an iPad, Android, or Win-tablet would all work.
While in the restaurant, a colleague calls who is urgently asking me to make a small but important change to a proposal, one that is due NOW, or we’ll miss an opportunity. The proposal is in Word, and uses some features of Word only present on the full desktop version. With an iPad or Android, I’d be out of luck. But with a Windows tablet, I can switch to desktop mode, launch a full copy of Word, and make those edits easily, right in the restaurant; I could then send it back off, and continue with my meal. And that’s why, even though I also have an iPad, I reach for my Windows tablet when I run out the door for short trips.
Tablets Are Slower For Much Real Work
Now, anyone will tell you that using desktop applications on a small Win-tablet is a bit clumsy. The controls can be hard to hit with your fingers—you’ll miss often—and the on-screen keyboard is slower compared to a laptop. Let’s say I am on average 35% slower than on a full-sized laptop or desktop computer when doing such tasks. But it’s usable for light work. Heck, in the example above I just saved a business deal! And even if it weren’t an emergency, I am much more likely to bring that 1.3 pound tablet with me to places I will not carry a laptop or larger hybrid. Yes, while on such a tablet I am mostly using apps, ones that could also be found on an iPad or Android. But because on short-notice I sometimes think of things I can only do on a full Windows computer, I am grateful to have that Windows capability at-hand.
Laptops Better for Extended Work
In contrast, if I were leaving for a full day of writing somewhere, I’d bring my laptop—the laptop is much easier to do extended typing on, and that 35% advantage adds up significantly over a day of work. But the short trips or the quick tasks that take just a few minutes—ones that still require a full version of Windows—those point out the Windows tablet advantage. In a pinch you can jump in and do a short burst of real work. And to me, that makes the lack of some apps (compared to iPad or Android) well worthwhile. Heck, if I need to use a specific app that’s missing from the Windows tablet, I can always jump on my iPhone and use it there—and I do that often.
By the way, this last point is an example of how, in these days of cross-platform data tools like Dropbox, SkyDrive, and cloud access to e-mail, Kindle files, tasks, calendars, contacts, and so on, there is usually no need to have all your devices be in the same OS platform. In fact, there are advantages to having such a mix. I currently use a Windows tablet, an iPhone smartphone, and occasionally a Kindle (Android) device (for text-to-speech listening of books). I use a Windows desktop PC, Windows laptop, and occasionally use a Mac. They all share the same data sources in the cloud.
The Windows Tablet Fills a Niche
So, even though my Windows tablet is missing a number of key apps (iTunes for example, lots more), it’s still the tablet I grab when I run out the door. Its short-burst real-work capability makes it the one tablet to have at hand. It fills an important niche that has been absent in the tablet world until now.