Windows 8 and Surface: An Opinion on the Future of Personal Computers
Windows 8 is a huge deal. You don’t need me to tell you that. It represents one of the largest UI shifts in Windows history, but perhaps more importantly, it is a shift in the entire paradigm of the personal computer.
Then and Now: Can Windows 8 be the new Windows 95?
First, let’s explore some history. The year 1984 ushered us into the age of the GUI. The year 1995 made the GUI and personal computer mainstream.
Now, let’s skip a few years. The year 2007 showed us that touch is a viable replacement for prior interface methods. Will the year 2012 make it mainstream for personal computers?
Of course as readers of the Verge, you know that 1984 was the introduction of the Macintosh, 1995 introduced Windows 95, 2007 had the iPhone (the iPad came in 2010), and 2012 has Windows 8. Undoubtedly, the landscape and circumstances of 1984 and 1995 do not match 2007 and 2012.
Call it "clunky", but the Desktop on Windows 8 is a killer feature. I’m sure many readers will wonder what I mean, but think about it this way: Windows 8 is pushing portable, touch enabled devices while allowing legacy application support. With Windows 8, you can buy a tablet that can fill the role of an iOS/Android tablet and a Windows laptop for the price of the laptop. Your applications and data are on one device, no syncing required.
The PDA, music player, and phone converged into one device – the modern smartphone; could the laptop and tablet converge into one device finally with Windows 8?
Microsoft Surface: A Usage Case
The Microsoft Surface comes in two varieties: the RT and the Pro. The RT is expected to either undercut or achieve price parity with the iPad, and on the flip side, the Pro is expected to achieve price parity with the recent crop of Ultrabook laptops. The Pro model particularly interests me.
Next year, I will become a college student, and as a result, I will need to purchase a new college computer. I need portability and battery life, but more importantly, I need compatibility with the important pieces of software for my major. The Surface Pro delivers on at least two of those three – battery life judgments may be made later. The Surface Pro, presumably for the price of a midrange ultrabook, offers the compute power and legacy compatibility of x86 in a tablet form factor. It has a digitizer for pen input and a keyboard accessory which makes it a killer system for a college student.
Herein lies the power of Windows 8. I can purchase a single device that serves both my need for a note taking and document processing machine and my need for a machine that can run Adobe CS, CAD, and older games (think 2006 and earlier). My applications and data will accompany everywhere without consulting the almighty "cloud", and I will save money over buying a laptop and tablet. Granted, the iPad is lighter weight, and a ThinkPad would tear through Adobe much more easily. However, didn’t the iPod hold thousands of songs more than the iPhone, and isn’t the original Moto RAZR smaller than a Galaxy S 3? An Ivy Bridge ULV processor is already much more powerful than my 4+ year old AMD machine, and I have to ask myself how much more do I really need.
I’d love to hear counterarguments in the comments as my opinion just that... my opinion. Personally, I know that Surface and Windows 8 offer a lot for me, but I also know that many disagree with that for good reason. I currently own a Toshiba laptop and an iPad, and I would love to consolidate those devices into a Surface or Surface-like device. Don’t get me wrong – the iPad is excellent, but with Windows 8, one device can be everything the iPad is and so much more.