Bumps along the road to Nirvana
As much as I like the multiple input options, the on-screen keyboard provides a hint that the OS is still a work in progress. I've had the split keyboard option disappear on several occasions, only to see it return after selecting a different keyboard or after a reboot. There are other issues, too. The Photos app didn't zoom images correctly until an update was applied a few days ago, and if the app stays in the background for too long, switching to it produces a blank screen instead of the picture that should be shown.
YouTube playback has been a little finicky in Metro, both in Internet Explorer and in the official app. The YouTube app has actually crashed on me a couple of times already, and so has the Microsoft Store. Those crashes haven't affected other applications or the OS as a whole, as far as I can tell. It's also worth pointing out that the Android tablets I have floating around the house haven't been immune to occasional app crashes of their own.
Occasionally, Windows also trips over its split personalities. On the VivoTab RT, touching an on-screen text input area brings up the software keyboard regardless of whether the convertible's keyboard dock is attached. The on-screen keyboard disappears if you start typing on the real one, but it shouldn't appear in the first place. Also, the VivoTab's vertical touchpad scrolling is inverted in desktop mode, emulating the touchscreen gesture rather than traditional touchpad behavior. And horizontal swipes don't scroll at all in Excel, which is an epic failure for spreadsheet junkies like me.
Folks who have been around the Windows scene for a while will point out that you shouldn't jump on a new version of the OS until the first service pack comes out. Windows 8 and Windows RT may need a little time to mature—and for developers to release Metro-compatible apps.
Right now, I think Windows RT is a tough sell for tablets, even convertible ones. The selection of Metro apps is limited, the included version of Office is unsuitable for serious work, and while convenient, the desktop mode serves as a reminder of all the x86 Windows apps that won't run on the OS. Windows RT straddles the line between tablets and notebooks and seems to shift its weight effortlessly between them, but it never puts more than a toe down on the notebook side. Convertibles based on the full version of Windows 8 should be more firmly rooted in the PC camp, ideally without compromising Metro's tablet appeal.
Ultimately, it will be up to device makers to capitalize on Windows 8's convertible potential. They must to create systems that switch between tablet and notebook modes as smoothly as the OS does. They may need to resort to low-power Atom CPUs to match the battery life of traditional tablets, but they also have the option of conceding run time in favor of more potent hardware. And, for better or worse, they'll have to compete with Microsoft's own vision for a Windows 8 convertible: the Surface for Win8 Pro.
Based on what we've seen thus far, Windows 8 convertibles—especially the more exotic ones—will be pricier than even premium tablets based on Android and iOS. That will be a tough pill to swallow for some, but I think I can choke it down. You see, I've been using a tablet in addition to my notebook for quite a while. There's no way a device based on Android or iOS can replace my notebook right now, but a convertible running Windows 8 could effectively replace my notebook and tablet in one fell swoop. That's why one is undoubtedly in my future. The only question that remains is how long I'll wait. Intel's upcoming Haswell processor looms large on the horizon, and it seems perfectly suited to convertible designs. We don't expect Intel's next-gen CPU to debut until around the middle of next year, though. Perhaps, by the time it arrives, the first Windows 8 service pack will be out.
63 comments — Last by Geistbar at 3:17 PM on 10/30/12
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