One the the farewell presents from Microsoft (actually something I won in a company promotion) was a Samsung Series 7 slate running Windows 8. It’s a very nice slate PC with touch capability and a stylus. Windows 8 is of course largely designed for such a thing. What it doesn’t have is a hardware keyboard which is what kept me from using it full-time before yesterday. But yesterday I was spending the day at a conference and my wife was taking the laptop I’d been using so this was a good day to try things out.
My prior experience with tablets was an early model tablet running Windows Tablet edition way back before iPads or even iPhones were invented. I’m not a pen person and that version of windows was not really optimized for pen use beyond handwriting recognition. Pens (and fingers) make poor mice and early tablet editions of windows used pens/styluses basically as mice. So since that tablet was a “convertible” with a full keyboard I used it pretty much the same as a regular laptop. The Series 7 doesn’t have a hardware keyboard or touch pad but the user interface is far different today from back in the day. That was a plus.
During the day I mostly used the slate for Twitter and web browsing. On the web I used Facebook and email as well as visiting various web pages. I confess that I spend most of the time in old-school desktop mode rather than the new Metro mode. The Twitter app I got from the Windows store doesn’t support all the features that TweetDeck does so I used TweetDeck. I used both IE and Chrome. I used Chrome because sometimes it is nice to have two sets of cookies.
Both web browsers operate fine with touch control. TweetDeck could be better. I have fat fingers and some of the sliders are hard to use with them. The stylus helps me out in those cases. It’s probably less of an issue for thinner fingers but having a real touch optimized app would be better still.
Typing took me a while. At first I was using hunt and peck which was frustrating as I am normally a pretty fair typist with a real keyboard. As the day went on I tried using the software keyboard like a “real” keyboard. That got easier as the day goes on and another day or so and I think I could get pretty good at it. I think I’d still prefer a real keyboard but I’m more impressed with the software keyboard after using it for a while.
All in all things worked very well. I’m hoping for a better Twitter app sometime though. Windows 8 apps are showing up in ever increasing numbers so I am optimistic about that. The long battery life and the light weight of the slate make it great for a day away from the office though. With a keyboard (I have a soft one that rolls up) for trips I can see this being a great travelling system. A Surface Pro with the cool cover keyboard might be even better though. The one thing keeping a regular Surface from being better (running Windows RT) is that I want to run Visual Studio, Windows Live Writer and a few other old school applications on my system. Software development is probably better with a conventional keyboard anyway.
I don’t have a copy of Office on my Series 7 which I miss. But at least I can still use the Office Web Apps with my Skydrive for a lot of stuff so that is not a show stopper.
Conclusion: A Windows 8 slates is a very reasonable system for use away from the office or home. It will be even better with a few more “native” apps.