What Windows 8 can do that Mac and iOS cannot

Regardless of your feelings about Mac versus Windows, Windows 8 offers one major thing that Apple does not: the opportunity to blend tablet and laptop in one device.

This week at TechEd I spent a lot of time around Windows 8, and came to a realization about the Metro versus traditional UI debate. Regardless of your feelings about Mac versus Windows, Windows 8 offers one major thing that Apple does not: the opportunity to blend tablet and laptop in one device. There are a million ways to compare Mac and Windows, but fortunately for our sanity, I’m only going to talk about this one.

In the TechEd Windows keynote, Microsoft emphasized the message that manufacturers will be offering a huge array of form factors, ranging from traditional desktops and laptops (both with and without touch) to all sorts of different types of tablets (seriously, there were about six different types of hardware in the keynote). Leaving out Windows RT for this discussion, all of these form factors run the same version of Windows 8, which means that both the Metro UI and desktop UI will be available, no matter the hardware.

When it comes to Apple, the World Wide Developer Conference was this week, and it came and went with no touch-enabled MacBook. While Mac OS X and iOS are gradually growing more alike, the bottom line is that tablets and laptops and desktops remain completely separate.

So who will be attracted to these combination tablet/laptop devices? Or to phrase the question differently, should Apple be worried?

For people that want tablets, there will be a lot of different options, and they’ll even be able to access the desktop interface when needed. If the Android tablet versus iPad struggle has taught us anything however, it’s that the iPad will be pretty hard to unseat from its top position.

The desktop Windows 8 versus Mac OS X issue won't be changed much, either. Sure, the Metro-style Start menu will cause some grumbling, but users will be able to spend most of their time in the traditional UI if they want to. When it comes to traditional laptops and desktops, Windows 8 will have a small effect here, too.

Where will Windows 8 have its biggest impact? It will be in the spectrum in between pure laptop/desktop and pure tablet. Think of all the people using external keyboards with their iPads, users that spend most of their time on a tablet but aren’t quite willing or ready to give up a desktop entirely, or even people that bought Windows tablets 5 or 10 years ago. All of these people could have their needs met by Windows 8 with its dual user interfaces—something that never really existed before.

The only option for combining iOS and desktop interfaces is through remote desktop connections, but that solution has some limitations: no offline access, there needs to be a desktop running somewhere, there are desktop licensing issues, hardware choices are limited, and the fact that they’re separate, non-integrated machines (you would have to use a cloud service to move data from the remote desktop to the local tablet).

At the end of the day, platform preference is a very personal thing. We all have our favorite parts and pet peeves about any OS. Despite those considerations, if you want a device that’s both tablet and laptop, you have to get that from Microsoft, not Apple.


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How history repeats itself.  We've already done the laptop/tablet all-in-one before...years and years ago www.pcworld.com/.../microsofts_history_with_the_tablet_pc.html.  You might argue that the interface for the tablet was Windows and not a touch optimized interface in the same way Windows 8 is...but what about form factor? I'm not sure that anything larger than my iPad is what I want in a tablet.

We've seen plenty of smaller tablets on the market but oddly I don't see bigger and bigger screen tablets coming to market. In the same way I don't want a 8" screen on my laptop, that's not useful either.

In the end..its doesn't matter, until we get one in our hands and start using it we won't know if we love it or hate it, I'm buying one either way, I'll give it a month and then decide.


I thought this article was just going to say "Print things"


Or, you could say that if you wanted to a device that is neither tablet nor desktop, you'll have to get that from Microsoft, not Apple. I'm sure a Mack truck could be blended with a Prius - but I don't think the result would be that great.

I know why there is the desire for this sort of device. The ability to seemlessly move between both worlds is a real desire for users. The problem is the technical reality of that, and from what I've seen so far I don't think Microsoft has bridged that technical gap with Windows 8. The combination of the technical limitations of building truly powerful handheld mobile devices (power vs. battery life, size, etc.) and the inefficiency and bloat of pretty much all desktop operation systems (Mac or Windows) make it an unachievable goal at the present. One day I believe it will happen, just not right now.


Ah Tony, that post made me chuckle :-)


Watch from about minute 3 until about min 6. Nuff said



Two issues I have with metro.

1 the shock factor flipping between the home screen and desktop will put off users. Visual effects such as that has been proven to be jarring.  

2 I am not outfitting all my servers with touch screens. Say what you want using metronome with a mouse is NOT the same as using a touchscreen.


I think the big success of the iPad shows that consumers don't necessarily want a tablet and laptop combined in one device.  Sure there are keyboard accessories for the iPad, but the iPad became a success without these.  I don't see a decent form factor for a Windows tablet/laptop combo coming, with the exception of something like the Lenovo U1, I believe it was (could be wrong on the name), where you could take the display from the laptop assembly and it would function as a tablet.


It doesn't matter that Windows 8 can do something that iOS and Mac cannot if nobody wants it to do that thing.

I thought we were at the point where we realized there's no magic pill device that will solve all our computing and communications needs. Phones, tablets and PCs/Macs are all good for certain tasks in certain places, and they all suck for other tasks in other places. That's still going to be the case for these Windows 8 devices.

As John Dvorak noted in his Windows 8 review (link below), "There is an old-fashioned desktop you can visit, but whenever the OS gets the chance, it throws you back onto the Metro interface." So I'm not sure I agree with your statement that "users will be able to spend most of their time in the traditional UI if they want to."

People who want the true desktop experience will still use PCs and Macs. And if they need it in a pinch on a tablet, they'll stick with the iPad, because at least iOS offers one consistent interface.



Or just get MokaFive and call it a day.  Desktop, laptop, tablet, Online, Offline, Done...




"It doesn't matter that Windows 8 can do something that iOS and Mac cannot if nobody wants it to do that thing."



The first thing I did when I bought an iPad, was get a case with a builtin keyboard. It's gathering dust now as it was impractical as a case, and I never used the keyboard because the tablet is for using in situations where a keyboard is relatively impractical.

In my case, this idea extends to the dual purpose device. I have specific requirements of the tablet. such as reclining in a chair watching YouTube or catching up with the days news in bed. For doing the heavy lifting, such as sequencing, or writing docs, there's the laptop. Yes, I could have a device that combines these functions, but there would need to be tradeoffs which wouldn't suit me, such as screen size, weight, battery life etc.

As with the case and the keyboard, the requirements are separate, so it's okay that the devices are also separate. Having said that, as a gadget freak, I'm still interested to see the devices that may come out of all of this. :)