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Will Windows 8 be the Right Tool for all Jobs?

Word is spreading that Microsoft is likely to be passing out Samsung tablets running a pre-release version of Windows 8 to all BUILD conference attendees next week. (Let me note that as a journalist covering the event, I will -- yet again -- be ineligible for any of the booty. No, I'm not bitter. Why do you ask?)

The tablets, again according to rumor, will be powered by a quad-core ARM processor. Even with this lower-power chip, Windows 8 is supposed to be fully backwards-compatible with Windows 7, as Microsoft has repeatedly stated.

I'm not sure I want it to be, though. I'm not sure it's the best direction for Windows 8 and Microsoft. Why? Because of how I use my iPad 2. I've had it for months now, and have a pretty good idea of its uses -- and limitations. It's a great for:

  • Web surfing
  • Social media
  • Games
  • Email

It also has uses for other areas of my life: for example, it has some nice filmmaking apps, note-taking capabilities and the like. In short, it's an awesome device for what it does.

But although I'll be taking it to BUILD, I'll also be bringing my Dell Studio XPS laptop (maybe it's a good thing after all that I don't get a tablet -- don't think I could fit another computer in my bag.) I'm lugging the Dell along because I also need to get real work done. I need to write a cover story. I also need to edit stories and PDFs. Some of the programs I'll be using include:

  • Word (the full-featured version)
  • Excel (ditto as above)
  • Dreamweaver
  • Photoshop
  • Acrobat Pro

Those programs aren't available on my iPad. They wouldn't work well on the iPad even if they were, given its relatively wimpy processor. I have no interest in using the iPad for those duties; the laptop is my device of choice.

And that's OK with Apple. It knows the iPad isn't all things to all people, and doesn't try to be anything else (of course, Apple's happy to sell you a MacBook Air for the heavier lifting). The right tool for the right job, as a carpenter might say.

It appears, from what I've been hearing and seeing, that Microsoft prefers a one-size-fits-all approach to Windows 8. A single tool for all the jobs. So rather than building an OS for everyone, they may instead be building an OS for no one.

Why not, for example, make Windows 8 (renamed, to distinguish it as a mobile platform) an OS built for mobile devices like phones and tablets, and leave Windows 7 and its successors for the laptop/desktop world? Yes, this is Apple thinking. But it's also good thinking. A mobile OS doesn't need to do the same things a desktop/laptop OS does.

Can Microsoft pull off the hybrid gambit? Perhaps. But it already has a great desktop OS in Windows 7, and a great mobile OS in Windows Phone 7. Why not continue to build on the strengths of each, instead of combining them in a goulash that may weaken both?

Posted by Keith Ward on 09/09/2011 at 1:15 PM

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