Some quick thoughts on Windows 8 tablet

I had the opportunity to play around with Windows 8 tablet and had some initial observations in how I think Microsoft still fails to make it a viable iPad competitor. But first off, this is not a review and as such, these flaws can be fixed in future revisions. It is also not a Metro focused overview since there are not that many Metro apps available. One would hope that the full Office assortment becomes Metro at some point whereby some of these shortcomings could be better addressed.

The stylus

I’m a big believer in the stylus (unlike Mr. Jobs) for various reasons that I have outlined here - however, Windows 8’s use of it is not very well defined. The focus has clearly been on touch and the interactions as such. Case in point, I tried to use Excel with a stylus and it was a nightmare. What I really would have liked to do, is to use the stylus in the way that Apple’s Newton worked – select a cell and write directly into the cell – in stead I’m being presented with an area that is in the lower third of the display where all the writing is done specifically for the stylus and touch. In other words, it takes the stylus away from where I had clicked and forces me to move to another area on the screen for input.

The other problem is that the parsing of stylus input is not real-time. When I write in the designated area, it takes a good half-second for the tablet to recognize what I’ve written. That is too slow for serious work in Excel (or any other app for that matter). If the input recognition is still such a challenge, then smart agents should help this along. For example, it should be possible to pop-up the formula selection if the user writes ‘=’. But because the current version(s) of Excel are unaware of touch or styli input, this would be hard to do – and here is where Microsoft has gone wrong: it still let’s the OS dictate the how and when someone can input something with a stylus and instead of giving that control to the applications.

OneNote is probably somewhat of an exception here – but even there, it allowed me to ‘draw’ right into the content area but that was it – it was just me drawing vectors and sadly OneNote didn’t make an effort to recognize text because it treated it as diagrams.

It is clear that Microsoft has focused more on the Metro aspect of the operating system and left the original stylus API’s in Windows 8 the way they were conceived a decade ago before the iPad saw the light of the day. It is then no surprise the current usage model of the stylus in Windows 8 seems antiquated and should be addressed asap.