BitDepth#854 - October 02

First impressions on using Windows 8 on a tablet.
Windows 8 on Slate
The Samsung Series 7 faces its first test as a tablet based word processing device.
Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

It's been clear since the first time I tried working with Windows 8 that this was going to be a bold hybrid product, one that's either gryphon, the mighty creature of legend that successfully and dangerously merged eagle and lion, or it's going to be one of Microsoft's intermittent dodos, a quirky genetic mix that turns out to be fatally unsuited to market conditions.

The Redmond company has now put a challenge before me, a Samsung Slate 7 tablet PC that's loaded with a near golden master version of Windows 8.
Can I make sense of this device and the operating system it runs for potential users before the software launches in late October?

I'm going to tackle this on three fronts, first a look at the hardware, then a look at the software put to use on a tablet form factor and finally a concluding piece based on actively using the device to, among other things, write and prepare art for this column and the two that follow using just a tablet PC for the whole workflow.
My preference for the Macintosh platform for most of my work won’t surprise regular readers of this column.

Less well-known is my quite comfortable use of a Samsung 7-inch tablet for the last two years and a recent switch that experience prompted, moving from an ageing iPhone to the Samsung SIII.
I've got a lot of admiration for Samsung's enthusiastic engagement of the mobility space and it's willingness to field a blizzard of technological permutations on phones and tablets to discover what intrigues the market.

The Note smartphone pushed aggressively at the previously impermeable boundary between smartphone and tablet and Amazon's Kindle Fire took not a few cues from the half-size form factor of the Samsung tablet I've been using for the last couple of years.
That prior experience didn’t prepare me for working with this much larger tablet PC, which feels more like a Microsoft solution than the Android based Samsung design I’m used to.

The Series 7 Slate a big device, with a widescreen format running to 11.4 inches on the diagonal that welcomes the possibility of an inflight movie. Held upright as a tablet though, it's seems a bit too tall. It's also heavier than you might expect a device meant to be held for long periods of time to be.
Tax the processors and the fans will kick in, wafting warm air through vents that run along the top edge. If you're holding it vertically, you'll almost certainly be startled by the sudden rush of heat in the palm of your hand.

The device was presented in what I'd have to describe as PC mode. Placed in its accessory dock, which holds the screen upright like a monitor and paired with a Bluetooth keyboard, it looked like a particularly neat and sleek desktop system.
Seeing the tablet rigged like that I immediately thought of those twist and turn tablet/laptop devices that enjoyed brief popularity with the super-techy set around the turn of the century. The public wasn't interested and I'm willing to bet that today's tablet PCs will be used without such attachments more often than not.

So does this device succeed as tablet hardware that just happens to be running Windows 8? There's a smaller version of this device that uses an Atom processor and fits into a much sleeker dock with keyboard and touch pad that gives it a netbook’s form factor.
If I'd had a choice between testing the Atom version and this one, this is the one I'd choose.

A tablet replacement for my workflow needs horsepower, display space and real multitasking. The Series 7 device is fast, runs software smoothly and only falls down on waking from sleep mode, where it's fast for computer, but achingly slow for a tablet.

Nothing's going to slim this beast down and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Pairing this hardware with even a small keyboard puts it squarely in laptop territory and that's not what I think people are likely to go for in a Windows 8 tablet PC.

They are going to be interested in a tablet that can fully replace a traditional computer. I know that's the particular breed of gryphon I've been looking for. Have I found it?

Everything you might ever want to know about the launch of Windows 8 is linked here…
BitDepth#859, Expect Turbulence
Business Guardian report on the Latin American Launch of Windows 8
BitDepth#858, Microsoft: All In

Working with Windows 8 on a tablet device...
BitDepth#857, Is it the tablet PC's time?
BitDepth#856, Software for the Modern UI
BitDepth#855, Tailoring a Tablet-ready Windows
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