OK, I admit it – I am frustrated by what seems to me to be the utter failure of a straightforward piece of design and marketing. What is it with the hardware manufacturers at the moment?
I’m in the market to acquire a tablet PC. Note, I said a tablet PC, not an iPad or an Android tablet, both of which, given my starting point in the Windows world, I consider to be pointless pieces of frippery.
I want something that recognises my handwriting, and that doesn’t get confused when I rest my palm on its screen as I write, as I do. Something that I can install and run some of my more idiosyncratic Windows applications without bleating that it does not compute. And although ultimately I might want something that can act as either a tablet or a full-blown desktop PC (what I term Origami computing), at this stage, I would be comfortable with something that acts simply as a tablet – something that I can relax on the sofa with, and dash out the odd blog post or email, but yet can rise to the occasion of dealing with my handwriting or to do something more than simply ponce about. It doesn’t have to have enormous reserves of computing power, just something that runs a good slew of my current applications without too much fuss.
And, since I’m firmly in the Windows world, that rules out all of the Apple, Android, and Linux ecosystems.
And in the Windows world, I am currently disappointed by the choices on offer. It may well simply be down to a timing issue – the hardware (Intel) and software (Microsoft) just not coming together at the right time.
In an ideal world, at the launch of Microsoft’s Windows 8, there would have been a plethora of Windows 8 tablets to choose from. Instead, we’ve essentially had just two: Microsoft’s Surface RT and Samsung’s ATIV Smart PC.
The problem with the Surface RT, for me, is threefold:
- it’s incapable of running traditional Windows applications,
- it’s not available in most countries – in particular, not here in the Netherlands, and
- it’s not capable of decent handwriting recognition – it uses a capacitive pen, not an active digitiser, so I can’t rest my palm on the writing surface when I write, as I have done for the last 55 years.
So, the Surface RT is out of the running.
Enter Intel’s latest generation of the Atom chip – the Z2760. This actually has a lot going for it. It’s apparently a better performer than the older Atom processors, with less thirst for electrical power. It will also run traditional Windows applications.
The trouble is that it’s in short supply at the moment. Samsung seems to have been first in line, delivering the Samsung ATIV Smart PC. I was very tempted, by this hardware, but the first wave of supplies seem to have been snapped up, and, more worryingly, reports are emerging of a hardware problem of the tablet not making a good connection with the keyboard dock.
Both models have much to commend them, but currently I’m more inclined to the Lenovo, simply because I can purchase it as a pure tablet, and it reportedly comes with GPS capability, which neither the Samsung, HP nor the Microsoft Surface tablets possess.
Yesterday, Microsoft announced the pricing of the second model in their Surface range, the Surface Pro. I must confess that I really don’t understand what Microsoft are playing at here. It’s based on the Intel Core i5 processor. Yes, it’s a more powerful processor than the Intel Atom Z2760, but it’s also more power-hungry, and it requires a fan to keep it cool. Battery life with the Surface Pro is likely to be half that of the Surface RT and equivalent Atom Z2760 devices, and I really want a tablet that is a sealed unit, not a hand-warmer. It does come with an active digitiser and pen (
probably Microsoft’s own, rather than the Samsung’s S-Pen, a Wacom design, or the HP’s Atmel pen Latest buzz is that it is using Wacom technology, which is good).
Still, at this stage, I’m not ready to switch over to Origami computing, and commit to one device that can act as a tablet and a full desktop PC. I’m also not convinced that this first generation Surface Pro is the device to do that with. I think that I should wait a year or two for the Intel Haswell or Broadwell processors to become available. That is the time when I think Origami Computing comes of age.