Keep Taking the Tablets

I was quite proud of the fact that I've finally managed to expunge all vestiges of Windows XP from my network, and my client machines are now running only Vista and Windows 7. So I suppose it's time to think about the next upgrade - Windows 8. But how will I get on with it when my computing requirements are so narrowly focused and task specific? Will it do for me what Windows 7 already does so well?

I was prompted to go down this thought path by a couple of recent events. Firstly, whilst on a shared desktop conference call with a colleague who's already upgraded to the preview version, we both experienced the "where's the menus" conundrum when trying to figure out how change the way a schematic was displayed. It was shown full screen, and only after a frenetic session of scrolling from the edges, tapping, pointing, and swearing did we figure it out. I only hope that there's still room in my head for a new interface paradigm.

And then a friend emailed me to ask when "the Windows Tablet" would be available to buy. I explained that he'd be able to buy a tablet computer from several manufacturers with Windows 8 installed later this year, but he can't wait that long so he asked me about buying an iPad instead. I know a few people who have iPads, and I usually ask them what they do with them. Typically the answer is "browse the web, Facebook, Twitter, and email".

So I asked my friend (who is just starting out as an author) what he wanted to do with a tablet computer and he mentioned things like using Microsoft Word and Visio, Adobe Illustrator, Excel, and several other office and design-oriented applications. I don't know about you, but none of these are things I'd like to try and use with an on-screen keyboard and by poking at a tablet with my big stubby (and usually grimy) fingers. I already have to try and do this with my phone; and I imagine that attempting to highlight some text in the middle of a paragraph, or draw one-pixel wide borders around a schematic, is not going to be easy with my 150 pixel fingers.

But I can use a mouse and keyboard with Windows 8 on my work machine, and maybe even change the default menu screen so that something useful replaces the tiles for all those social networks and life-sharing apps I never use. And maybe one day I'll get round to replacing the two big monitors on my main workstation with touch-screen ones so I can leave greasy fingerprints all over them much more easily.

Of course, this would expose me to the inherent risk of digital (as in finger, not binary) injury. No doubt you heard the story about the fellow who was explaining to his doctor how every part of his body was painful. "When I prod my cheek it hurts, when I poke my leg it hurts, and when I press against my chest it hurts" he explained. After a thorough examination the doctor was able to confirm that he wasn't suffering from some all-encompassing illness by explaining that he just had a broken finger...

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