Fooling around with a Windows 8 Slate

Here is the slate on my desk, with docking station, Bluetooth keyboard, my old HP printer, and the answers to my students’ case this week.

Hi, there was some kind of administrative error and my boss issued me a Windows 8 RT Slate. I got the thing last week. Look out iPad.

First of all, here’s where I come from. I have been using a Windows Tablet PC for 7 years. I also have an iPad and recently got an iPod Touch.
Make whatever little jokes you want about it, I think that the Windows Tablet PC is the most underrated gadget since the Betamax. Sure, the swivel screen is strange, and the stylus is not as “cool” as a real touch screen. However, the Tablet PC had all the tools of a Windows PC, ability to use a stylus, and handwriting recognition. Its problems were (1) its size/weight and (2) its Windows reliability/speed. I’m a longtime fan of the Tablet PC, and I think a lot of people who didn’t try one never knew what they were missing.

That said, I now write this on my Samsung Slate running Windows 8 RT.

Overall, I like this thing. Like the Tablet PC, it has all the bells and whistles of Windows, plus handwriting recognition. In theory, it can do anything. The whole thing is a little bigger than an iPad – not too bulky to carry around.

The Slate is fast. It starts up in about 15 seconds.

The Slate is powerful. It runs Microsoft Office.

I plugged in my HP printer, waiting for the driver to load. No messages. I downloaded drivers from HP – they wouldn’t install because they don’t support Windows 8. Good ol’ Microsoft… Then I looked on my list of printers and – GET THIS – my HP was already there. And it works! True plug and play! Windows 8 just installs the printer, without giving you messages, things to look up, download, and anxiety while it says “setting up printer.”

The “metro” interface is a lot prettier than the old Windows Desktop, even though I think now they call it a “start screen” and not “metro.” However, I’m not sure what to do with all these tiles, or why some are bigger than others. It seems downright confusing to flip back and forth between a start screen (new Windows) and a desktop (old Windows). Furthermore, some of the apps that open from the metro/start screen are difficult to use. For example, I can see my email, but I can’t figure out how to move it between folders. The iPad’s interface seems more intuitive.

More problems: The on-screen keyboard seems to pop up when you don’t want it, but you can’t seem to find it when you need it. Sometimes, the on-screen keyboard blocks whatever you’re trying to type, so you can see the keyboard, but now what you’re typing. On my iPad I always took for granted that the keyboard would be there when I needed it, and only when I needed it. Who knew?

Assuming that Microsoft can work out the wrinkles, the Windows Slate 8 will be a very neat and powerful machine to carry around. Steve Ballmer wasn’t kidding: Microsoft is back. The Slate will have vastly stronger utility than an iPad, what with its ability to run Office, and much more powerful handwriting recognition.


About Mark P. Holtzman

Chair of Accounting Department at Seton Hall University. PhD from The University of Texas at Austin. Worked at Deloitte's New York Office. BSBA from Hofstra University.


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