The more I use handheld devices, the more convinced I become that the best user experience comes from operating systems designed from the ground up for a mobile, touchscreen user experience. Windows running on a tablet might make sense for business users needing to replicate the desktop user experience, but trying to shoehorn a desktop OS like Windows into a consumer touchscreen device doesn't work. I just don't think consumers will tolerate it. And why should they when Apple and Android devices have come so far?
Acer's recent tablet launch was a real eye-opener, with Windows 7 tablets and Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" tablets sitting side-by-side. Despite Windows 7's supposedly touch-friendly features, Acer's new Windows 7 tablets were clunky, cumbersome and expensive compared to their Android counterparts. Right now I'm reviewing the sleek new Acer Iconia Tab A500 running Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" and I'm going to write it up on the blog next week. Spending time with the A500 running Honeycomb I feel it's safe to say that, after a slow start, Android tablets have come of age - making Windows tablets look worse than ever.
Back in the old days, handset makers such as HTC made the best lipstick for the pig that was Windows Mobile - designing a skin that evolved to become Sense UI running on Android and WinMo 6.5 phones. Efforts to do the same for Windows 7 on a tablet aren't having much success, judging by Asher Moses' review of the Leader Slate 12 Windows 7 tablet. He found that you can't judge a handheld device by the spec sheet alone, it's the user experience that counts (a point that the iPhone and iPad have been making painfully clear for years).
The Leader Slate 12 relies on lipstick in the form of the ExoPC UI tablet skin for Windows, which failed to impress Asher. Other efforts I've seen to improve the Windows tablet experience, such as on Acer's new Windows 7 tablets, also fail to impress. You constantly feel that you're fighting with Windows rather than it working for you - it actually reminds me of using XP on the desktop and then switching to Leopard.
When Apple's iOS4 and Google's Android Honeycomb are providing such slick devices at reasonable prices and with impressive app support, why would you want to pay a premium for a Windows device that's a pain to use? It's not that I'm pro-Apple or anti-Microsoft, it's just that I'm pro-usability. I'd really like to see Windows Phone 7 running on a tablet, I think it would provide a much smoother user experience than desktop Windows given a sloppy mobile makeover. Until then, I can't see Windows making much headway in the consumer tablet space. Life's too short to tolerate desktop Windows on a tablet.
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