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.
Good post, Michael, thank you.
what does your “hardware artillery” look like nowadays (which laptop/desktop/tablet/smartphones)?
Mario: my artillery is all mostly ready for a refresh. Smartphone: iPhone 5. Tablet: Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2. Laptop: Asus Zenbook Prime. Desktop: Asus all-in-one touchscreen PC. The tablet and laptop I am ready to upgrade, waiting for an appropriate Bay Trail and Haswell device respectively (not out yet). Michael
Thanks, Michael. You may want to take a peek at Sony’s VAIO Pro 13″ laptop, Haswell i7, 4-8GB RAM, 128-512GB superfast SSDs, touch screen, full Windows, gorgeous display. Pricey, yes, but just over 2 lbs (carbon fibre)… I’ve been a fan of this line of VAIOs since their X-series from about 4 years ago, when they had a Windows 7 version in a 1.5lbs (though underpowered). It is usually outside of what I should pay, but, whaddaheck, a man deserves the best tools :^)
Thanks Mario. Yes, I had a Sony Z-series Win 7 laptop for a few years, very light and fast. Expensive and it died on me right after the extended warranty expired. Been watching the newer Pro 13 too. Lately I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a very light 15″ Win 8 laptop like the (older) 3.5 lb Samsung Series 9 – 15 inch (waiting for them to update it to Haswell). The idea is that I use my 10-inch Win tablet for quick work, and I cutover to my larger laptop when doing a half or full day of work on the road. If it’s only 3.5 lbs, why not carry the 15 inch screen (with its larger keyboard), and make work life easier? Still toying with that idea, may try it out once they upgrade the processor (or something similar comes out from someone else). Michael
Michael- I really enjoy your newsletters and realise it is now time to upgrade my edition of your book as well as my hardware! I have been using Apple technology the past couple of years in my business and I am really looking forward to getting back into Outlook and Windows generally. I will keep posted on what decision you make for your hardware.
Another interesting article!
Have you tried using SkyDrive or similar in anger?
I have a work laptop, home laptop and Thinkpad Tablet 2. My wife has similar (although she went for the Surface Pro 2 and is in the process trying to ditch her home laptop in favour of the Surface).
We both use SkyDrive and OneNote. We can start notes on anywhere (laptop, tablet or android phone). We also have notebooks we share, like the grocery shopping list and holiday ideas/planning.
My work and home laptops are Windows 7, but I’ve loaded the SkyDrive desktop app on to them. (Luckily my company is fairly relaxed in these matters). I have a folder on my Desktops that I can drop files in to. This folder is synced to SkyDrive, and the data ends up on the tablet and the other laptop. I mostly use this for transferring documents and spreadsheets to the tablet prior meetings. I just drop them and walk out the office, leaving my bulky old laptop on my desk.
It has greatly improved my productivity, and I no longer have to worry about messing around with thumb-drives or keeping track of which is the latest version of my file and which device it is on.
Best regards, Rob.
PS – apologies – I know you have used the cloud in anger – I was particularly interested in OneNote.
Rob, yes, I use SkyDrive all the time with OneNote. Everything stays synced up across 3 machines. Best, Michael
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