Dec 16 2012

Tablet vs. Notebook: Windows 8's Dual Interfaces Mean Users Can Have It All

Why choose when you can have the best of both worlds?

One question has been hotly debated since Windows 8 made its debut: Will users find the dual desktop and touch interfaces confusing?

It can be confusing, but such duality is something users seek, whether they know it or not.

There is a lot of give and take in technology, and capabilities are often sacrificed in the name of simplicity. I meet a lot of people who tell me they just need a device to check their e-mail and browse the web. Then, they buy an iPad and wonder why it won't run Adobe Flash, Quicken or Microsoft Office.

Some users want a solid keyboard with their touch-screen devices. Actually, judging by the robust accessory market for tablet keyboards, a lot of users would like a keyboard to go with their tablets.

They could have bought a notebook instead, but they'd be trading off the friendly touch screen and all that great battery life - oh, right, the tablet doesn't run Flash or Quicken or Office. But aren't there modified apps for that?

Does this sound confusing to anyone else?

Here's the secret about tablets: Once you provide that simplicity to the end user, their desire to do more with the device gets stronger.

Wouldn't it be nice to have the simplicity of the iPad with all the functionality of a computer? Apple CEO Tim Cook doesn't think so, describing the tablet/notebook hybrid as akin to a car that both flies and floats.

Microsoft, on the other hand, thinks there are plenty of users who wouldn't mind taking that flying, floating car for a spin, and so has bet big on the tablet user's need for this two-for-one solution.

There's Room to Grow with Windows 8

Impressively, the new Windows 8 manages to break new ground while keeping things the same.

For desktop users, there is the familiar Windows desktop environment that does everything previous versions of Windows could do, with the exception of a few nuances (the most famous of which is the missing start button).

For tablet users, there is the brand-new interface that begs to be touched.

It will take time to adjust to the new touch screen and a few other changes in how Windows 8 works, but once users get past the learning curve, most of them will find it easy to check their e-mail and browse the web. The rest of us, meanwhile, can create PowerPoint presentations, work with spreadsheets and edit Word documents using the familiar OS.

New functionality often brings a bit of confusion. (After all, who among us didn't spend hours mastering the home row typing method on the QWERTY keyboard?) But Windows 8's dual interface ensures that the user won't ever be hampered by the limitations of touch or non-touch computing as productivity ramps up.