Recently, Microsoft brought out their "beta" version of Windows 8 for all to see. You can download a test copy if you want to play around with it. I didn't link that purposely here because I know I would and someone would be thinking they're getting a free upgrade - you aren't, they're timed to die shortly after the next version of Windows comes out and you'd just blame me. Unless you have a spare computer around you may want to hold off.
Microsoft also showed off their "Alpha" hardware that will run it. You see we're in for a choice now. That always makes things interesting. I'd give you a direct Microsoft link but they're changing things around for their next big thing. You can see pictures of the hardware here at this blog posting on Tech Crunch.
What's happening is that the move into the "Post PC Era" is fully underway. There will always be people who demand the fastest hardware and the shiniest boxes. Most of the people who I speak with don't need that. In fact, I'm writing this on my go-to PC which is a 2 year old laptop that was lovingly upgraded with as much memory as it will take when it was on sale. When asked "Bill, what kind of PC do I need", most folks would do very well with an iPad or just a refresh on their older machines.
But boy do those new machines look great.
You see we're all being trained to want a tablet machine to play with, a home computer to sit in the corner, and far too many people are walking into street light poles while they're texting on their iPhones and looking for current conditions. We're always on and always looking for things on our teeny little phone screens.
Not necessarily a bad thing, but if someone pulls out a phone while they're talking to me, I'll find a reason to end the conversation.
On the other hand, the way we use our smartphones are finally influencing the way we're using our home computer. We are beginning to ask the question "Why can't I do that on Windows". After all, Microsoft still owns the desktop despite that we can have an Android Tablet, iPhone running iOS, and a Windows machine as our "daily driver".
Microsoft will be answering that, and the hardware is interesting that they're using to do so. Basically it's the same hardware as an Android Tablet under the hood but it comes with a really slick keyboard that is detachable. They realized that there's a very strong market for covers and detachable keyboards for the iPad, so if you can't beat them, join them. It looks just like I would expect it to for something that is supposed to get you to the next step past the iPad.
That keyboard will talk to the new Surface tablet using Bluetooth and can be left behind if you want to hunt and peck on the tablet's glass screen. I've never quite gotten used to that, it always feels numb to this touch typist so that candy colored keyboard will be welcome.
The things you create on your tablet will be able to be used on your other computers since it will come equipped with an SD chip - think teeny little postage stamp sized memory stick. So why lug a big heavy laptop or tether to a desktop machine?
Power mostly. The Surface Tablets will be running low power ARM chips, just like an iPad or Android tablet. Those chips will let you work almost all day on a charge, but they are a little short winded when it comes to the kind of things that Windows does well like running many programs at once. Most folks won't mind of course, power users will.
On the other hand, all your familiar desktop/laptop programs will make it there since you'll be running "Real Windows" on a tablet. Microsoft Office, standard browsers, and all the games we've come used to will run on that 10 inch screen on a light computer that can go anywhere.
It's all about rightsizing your computing needs. After all, how many homes really NEED that $2000 beast of a Desktop computer when all you're doing is surfing. I can do that quite well on a 10 year old laptop running an old copy of Windows XP or Linux. If you really do need all that horsepower, it's gotten pretty cheap in comparison to those old beasty Desktops that I built over the years when I thought nothing of spending $1000 to get a machine that would cost twice that "back in the day".
There are two things I don't care for in the whole Tablet marketing.
1) You're locked in. You can't upgrade. You may be limited to the current operating system you buy it with. You may not be able to use it once the parent company decides they aren't supporting it any longer.
2) They're designed to be disposable. That is why you get Apple Care on your iPad. Hello Mr Genius, it doesn't hold a charge, fix it. Or something similar. The latest Mac Books are glued together and that means that the parts are not recyclable nor reparable. It's a trend that will continue because it means that you're locked into their production cycle.
I expect that those two things will never change since they're in the "vendor's" best interests to keep things the way they are. After all, if it is a problem, I can spend the same money that I would on an iPad and get one very powerful laptop.
You're making a choice between portability and power and for once you actually do have that choice.