Wednesday, 16 of April of 2014

Windows Tablet PCs – What are they talking about ?

Today all the buzz online is that no one wants a Windows tablet PC anymore (ie. http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hardware/im-not-surprised-that-consumer-interest-in-windows-tablets-has-plummeted/16658   ) . The idea is that Windows 7 has failed on tablets because it is not touch oriented and Windows 8 is too far away. Now I don’t know how things will work out in the long run, since no one can foretell the future and who knows how markets will be a year from now. But this much I can say …

Were do they come up with the idea that Windows 7 is not touch oriented ?

Sure everyone is waiting for Windows 8, but what about the tablets running Windows 7 now ?

The problem is not with the operating system. The problem is with the applications for the operating system. You see Apples IPad operating system was built for touch and a small form factor so developers from day one created touch ready applications for it. Android became popular because of phones and it too used touch early on and developers wrote apps specific to that.

Windows is different. Windows has a long history on desktop (and laptop) PCs. Laptops uses touch pads (not the same as touch screens) and desktops use the mouse and all the software developed was for this form factor. The move from desktop to tablet is a challenge no doubt and Microsoft has a lot of work to do, but the real problem right now is not Windows, but developers who need to start developing applications specific to tablets and touch. You have to think differently when you design applications for touch. Windows developers are not there yet (they should be though).

Is Windows 7 really touch friendly ? Absolutely (anyone who says otherwise does not know what they are talking about). True it doesn’t have the cute Metro menu system yet and some of the nice features of Windows 8 , but Windows 7 does though support the key ingredient for touch. I am an experienced Windows API programmer and I am currently experimenting with touch. Touch is great when used properly. Windows 7 supports not only the mouse, but also two important window messages, WM_TOUCH and WM_GESTURE. This is how an application communicates with the touch system in Windows. Windows has long supported touch based pens (ie. for CAD), but is also supports hand gestures. It is the developer who has to start writing software specific to touch. It is there already.

I purchased a really nice 22 inch touch monitor for my wifes desktop computer. She is just tickled with it. I download the touch pak addon software from Microsofts web site which has some touch ready applications. They are really nice. I did notice one problem and that the software was a little sluggish (slow response) but I attribute that not to Windows but to the applications themselves. If you read my blog you know what I think about software bloat (ie. dot.net) and the likely reason for some poor responsiveness of Windows applications with touch is they are bloated (big and slow) and they just can’t keep up. If software was written like us PowerBasic programmers do it, it would be fast, small (use little disk space or memory) and be very responsive with touch.

Now I do have to do some more testing to see what works well with touch and what does not (ie. WM_TOUCH messages appear faster and more responsive than WM_GESTURE messages) but I do think Windows 7 (and 8) has great potential with tablet PC’s.

Now maybe part of the problem with interest in Windows tablet PC’s is that everyone seems to revel in Android tablets. When was the last time you saw a Windows tablet in the top 10 lists of many magazines ? They exist, but nobody seems to pay them any attention. I walked into an office (and computer) supply store (a national chain store) and asked if they had any Windows tablets. The guy said he didn’t even know they existed. So how is a person to get excited about a Windows tablet if computer stores don’t even sell them ? Staples doesn’t carry them. Other major chains don’t carry them. Ok, I know Windows tablets are a little pricing right now, but the Acer and Archos Windows tablets are the price of an IPad.

My question is … why wait until Windows 8 ?

Windows 7 tablets have real potential even right now. True we need a little more touch oriented software, but it will come in time. Developers need to start working on it now, rather than wait for Windows 8.

Windows has an amazingly long history behind it and it has great potential for tablet PCs.