Windows 8 Brings More Mobility, but Should You Wait?

Updated on 05 July 2011 by

Win8-3I, like many others, believe that Windows 8 will re-enable the pocket productivity market and lift us out of this strange consumer-focused mobile mess we’re in at the moment and get us back to a place where we have ultra mobile PC choices for our mobile, flexible working practices and scenarios. Marketing, social networking, price wars and tablet fever are getting in the way of what many people want – productivity in the pocket.

I love Android and IOS of course but I’m not letting that change my opinion that there is a requirement for a full desktop capability in a handheld form factor. The market is indeed fairly small but it’s in many different niches and sectors. [Raise your hands in the comments if you’re one of those ‘niche’ users.] Android and IOS have done a lot for mobility, sharing and mobile media and have quickened the pace of mobile processor developments so much that we’ll all benefit in the end but when you look at the software, the pace of development of productivity software is just embarrassing. On the whole, It’s a sector that focuses on quick-hit, fast turnaround, short-lifecycle software and it’s vastly different to the full-fat, long lifecycle, productive and flexible software you get on the desktop. Two years after this consumer mobile market started taking off there still isn’t a way to buy an off-the-shelf DVB-T module, extend the screen or even log in with multiple user IDs. There are literally hundreds of features that are missing and each one of them is a potential roadblock for the advanced mobile user.

That’s why Windows 8 is an exciting operating system to look forward to. It will retain probably all of the flexibility of Windows 7 but will introduce important features from the world of consumer mobile devices. Always-on, improved sensor support, touch user interface, quick-hit apps and sharing along with support for ARM-based platforms and new X86 platforms that remove some of the old legacy PC features and introduce new boot and power management subsystems. Between now and, lets say, mid 2012, I doubt we’ll see any of the existing mobile operating systems advance so far that they challenge Windows and none of the new operating systems have much of a chance either. Buying an ultra-mobile PC has never been so hard but 12-24 months is a long time to wait for Windows 8. If you’ve got a requirement, you need a device and it’s as simple as that.

Your first strategy would be to sit tight and do nothing.  That assumes you don’t have a new requirement or your current device(s) can be stretched out until then. If you have a new requirement though, be it speed or scenario, and you don’t have a device you can cover it with you could believe the rumors that Windows 8 will arrive early or you could do one of the following things:

1 – Go netbook

It’s a low-cost solution but requires a table or a lap. That’s not quite ultra mobile computing is it! Having said that, if you want to save money until Windows 8 comes along, searching for a surface or using your lap might not be too much of a problem to put up with. My advise would be to look at some of the Atom N550 or N570-based devices with a focus on Samsung who still seem to lead with better build quality and more efficient electronic engineering and screens than others. The NF310 continues to get good reports. Asus are also worth considering and the Eee PC 1015 with N570, 2GB RAM and Windows 7 Home Premium is a real bargain at under 400 Euro in my opinion. There’s even the updated T101MT with N570 and 2GB, Windows Home Premium and capacitive touchscreen at around 500 Euro in Europe. Drop a fast SSD into that and it should make quite a nice Windows convertible.

2 – Buy a Menlow UMPC

Given the age of Menlow and the lack of choices around it’s not something I would recommend to everyone but if the pocket is the destination and Windows is the requirement, what option do you have than to buy a Viliv N5 or a UMID Mbook SE? Both companies appear to have disappeared from the radar though so be very aware that major failures may not be fixable.

3 – Wait for an Oaktrail UMPC

ECS and Viliv have both talked about building a 7 inch Oaktrail-based Windows tablet but unless a major customer or market is found, neither of those solutions are going to hit the market. By all means, wait and see but I personally think it could be a very long wait.

4 – Buy an Oaktrail-based tablet

Early review of Oaktrail-based devices aren’t singing the praises about performance and with the CPU inside being basically the same as before, it’s no surprise. The RAM will need to be 2GB, the SSD will need to be fast, Aero will need to be turned off and I dare say there’s some GPU driver improvements to be made but despite the claims of speed issues, you’ll still be able to render full flash and javascript-enabled web pages with 100% accuracy and faster than any ARM-based tablet out there. Battery life reports are showing marked improvements too so if running a PC in a 5W power envelope is your aim, take a close look at Oaktrail. The Samsung PC7 (TX100, Gloria) slider is one to watch out for and although my recent queries to Samsung don’t return any new information, they certainly don’t indicate that the project has been scrapped. I’ll keep you updated on that one.

5 – Go IOS or Android, adapt your requirements and track the developments

You may want to plug in your DSLR and run the remote capture software but there are alternatives. In this case, check out the Eye-Fi card. For those wanting full Microsoft Office support, look at the Asus Transformer and think about a remote desktop solution. For full-internet-experience browsing, look at whether IOS or Honeycomb will satisfy your needs. On smaller Android tablets, the Dolphin HD and Opera Mobile browsers are coming along nicely. Firefox is progressing too.  Think about a Dell Streak (only 299 Euros here in Germany right now) or a Galaxy Tab (350 Euros) along with a low-cost netbook. Look at PC keyboard sharing solutions for Android. Think about the Google suite too. Android also offers a lot that you can’t get in a PC yet. Location, Sharing, always-on and a large amount of fun!

If you’ve read this far, you’re into ultra mobile computing which is a good thing. It’s fun, flexible and productive but you will also have very individual requirements. The private pilot. The dentist. The courtroom assistant. The musician. The world-tourer. Take a close look at your requirements and see what would want and compare it with what you, realistically, will need. If possible, take a risk or two and ignore that extreme scenario that you’ve got on your list. One thing I would advise all of you to do though is to check out the Samsung Galaxy Tab. I’m not joking when I say it changed my mobile computing world. I no longer have a netbook. I no longer have a high-end smartphone and there are very few scenarios that I can’t cover with it now. I’ve heard people say the same about the Dell Streak (5 inch) too. If you really can’t swallow that, the iPhone 4 has to be high on the list, the netbooks I mentioned above and even some older devices like the Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium.

Oh, and don’t forget to look at the Toshiba Libretto W100/W105!

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23 Comments For This Post

  1. borax99 (Alain C.) says:

    Viliv hasn’t gone anywhere, and the N5 is readily available. I use their S5 among others, and have experienced no issues. Fantastic gear, zero complaints !

  2. locke67 says:

    Too bad Viliv hasn’t made any indication of upgrading their 5 inch screen line of devices. I have the N5 and it has been great but there’s always room for improvement.

  3. tony says:

    Ya, I was hoping for an N5 refresh (Oak Trail, USB 3.0, 802.11n, SDXC and video out). I just want 1 device to carry around. The whole get an Android/iOS tablet and netbook combo kind of throws mobility out the window. By mobility, I don’t mean only using your device at offices, hotels, home, etc. Those are pretty much non-mobile situations.

  4. kent says:

    I’ll be waiting for Windows 8 and hope Microsoft can pull it off by having an SDK that makes it easy for devs to code for both architectures. Most software I use are using the.NET Framework so it should be easily ported.

    However, the main reason I’m waiting is that all companies are putting out devices I don’t want right now (mobile OS based devices, touch only tablets and too big). So I’m really waiting because there’s nothing to buy. Too bad Windows 8 may not change companies’ minds and we’ll just see Windows 8 tablets that I don’t want to buy either. I wonder what the sales figures (and return rates) are for all these tablets.

  5. salhi says:

    @kent
    I’m in the same boat. I’m only waiting because there’s nothing to buy. I’m currently using an N5 but would like an updated version. That Ocosmos slider had potential if they replaced one of the joysticks with a mouse. Too bad it was axed.

    I’m hoping Windows 8 and ARM would succeed but I’m not hoping much. At least when it first comes out when there’s going to be compatibility issues and probably lots of bugs.

  6. tesse says:

    I was hoping for a new clamshell or preferably a slider (if it could get good battery life in that form factor). I have 3 devices:
    Smartphone: for simple tasks
    UMPC: for more complex tasks a mobile OS and touchscreens can’t do or not well
    Non-ULV Notebook: for CPU intensive tasks.

    Depending on where I’m going and what I’ll be doing, I always carry the smartphone + UMPC or smartphone + notebook. For me anything between the UMPC and notebook are no buys. Any sort of tablet are no buys too.

  7. timon says:

    Android tablet will be located in the lowest bottom of tablet market, even that Android is likely to disappear on future tablet market, this is not in a cellphone market.

    Android tablet is merely a bad toy = MP3/MP4 + Internet nothing more, and is not a tablet PC.

    Also, Google is merely to want more search share, it is not a software corporation. Some Google PC program files bring bad experience, like Google Picasa, Google document online, etc…

    I prefer to use OpenOffice instead of Google document online. I use the ExifPro image viewer instead of Google Picasa. Even many of freeware image viewer are better software than Google Picasa, and that are No adware, No spyware.

    MS is worse in Bing search, Google is worse in PC program and OS.

  8. timon says:

    If you have noticed Umpcportal Forum that the amount of Topics and Posts, you will find some interesting things, the Q1u has the largest number of Topics and Posts, as yet there is still more of active Topics. Followed the Fujitsu UMPC, but Topics are already not so active. The Viliv x70 can be seen as the thirdly amount in Topics and Posts. (did not include EKing WiBrain, it actually has long since disappeared.)

    For amount of the Topics and Posts, that Android tablets are still far behind the NetBooks.

    Also, the 7-inch screen seems more popular, in Umpcportal Forum showing.

    If did not any keys and mouse button, probably a 8.9-inch (16:10) screen will also be popular, but the Windows OS needs physical pointer rod and buttons, so here an 8.9-inch screen is too large.

  9. levine says:

    If you are having so much trouble with the GDocs online mate, you should go for the office suite at Dataviz.com and as far as Android tablets are concerned, make no mistake, Motorola Xoom has the real lead with its 10 hr battery above everybody else in the Android tablet market and the only one that can really compete with Ipad2. The real contender will be if Windows comes up with a tablet that light or having a tablet able to run Windows mobile 7

  10. Phil says:

    I’m one of the ones that just can’t wait, and despite all the moaning and groaning I don’t think things are really sooo very bad at the moment. I like the Tosh Lib W100 a lot, and after years of slightly frustrating experimental portable computing I’m so happy with it that I couldn’t resist buying a second unit, just in case something happened to the first one! OK, the 3 hour [or less] battery life spoils the package for some, but I have 3 extended batteries, and I’m more often than not using the device in a hotel room. Yes, it was expensive, but it does a great job and I can run ALL my Windows software on it. It gets a bit hot, and there’s aome fan noise, but nothing really to complain about, given the performance and the two screens. Of course it runs Windows 7, which so many love to hate as a finger-unfriendly UI … but stick with it for more than and hour or two and tweak a bit and it all becomes remarkably quick, responsive and easy. I use a [very portable] Microsoft Arc Touch mouse or a Kensington trackball/mouse when necessary. The virtual keyboards are better than anything I’ve ever tried, including the iPad. It’s not perfect and it’s not for everyone, but it’s the best and most productive truly portable package I’ve ever owned [including TabletKiosk, UMID, VILIV, OQO, HTC Advantage, Toshiba netbook, Dell Latitude XT2 and DELL Streak!].

    I also have the HP Slate 500 and the new Fujitsu Stylistic Q550. The HP Slate impressed me straight away. Different to the Tosh, but very iseful in different circumstances. I was disappointed with the performance of the Q550 at first – in comparison with theSlate 500, which flies, it seemed sluggish and unresponsive. But I spent a couple of days playing around… recalibrated touch/pen, re-installed some of the utilities, disabled Aero, tweaked the buttons and scrollbars for touch, increased the text size, disabled Indexing, installed MS Security Essentials and disabled file monitering – just the most obvious things. Got rid of a few pointless programmes and installed the ones I really need [Office, Outlook and Evernote] plus a few things I like to have … and the experience improved dramatically. I got a Vikuiti screen protector and for some reason the touch response improved as well! The Q550 is now on a performance par with the Slate 500, and I have to say that I’m more than happy with both. Of course neither are as fast as my desktop. Who cartes? They’re mobile devices! And after the tweaks [even when set on high performance with radios on] they give me 4 hrs plus [Slate] and 6 hours plus [Q550]. The inking is great on both, and the combination of touch and pen makes the UI so easy. Oh, I forgot – the new Opera mobile browser works great too. I sometimes wonder about all the criticism these Windows devices receive … if I wanted to watch hi-def videos all day I’d get a different device!

  11. morganj says:

    I totaly agree with your comments regarding the Galaxy Tab. I dumped my netbook and UMPC’s after getting the Tab, like you I replaced my netbook with a higher power ultra portable, in my case a Lenovo Think Pad 11″ with Core i3 and 8Gb RAM. The Tab is my primary computing device and if I don’t have my Lenovo with me when I need to do some more heavy lifting I just RDP into my desktop at home or work. Windows 8 will need to offer a great mobile experience on top of the full computing experience if it is to stand any chance of dragging me away from my new preffered way of working. Its something to keep an eye on. And of course this was read and commented with the Galaxy Tab.

  12. Mauve Dan says:

    Hand is raised, alright. I was incredibly psyched for the OCS1 prototype. It was everything one could ask for in terms of productivity, provided the keyboard felt good to use. Pocket-sized, hand-held powerhouse fitted with Windows 7 and a keyboard as well as lots of fully customizable buttons on both sides.

    Then they gutted it, removed the keyboard in favor those those tablet-licking “consumers”. Do Koreans hate money so much they would pass up the opportunity of an untapped market while they already had a working prototype?

    Perhaps we’ll see a Windows 8 device like it, but I don’t believe anyone will even get close to what the OCS1 concept had to offer, for all those major companies (and minor ones) are too enthralled with touch screen gimmicks.

  13. Mike says:

    I agree that the original OCS1 was perfect for me – it met each and every usability scenario that I experience (both at home and at work). It really is a shame that they gutted the device.

  14. rosen says:

    The main downside to the OSC1 was the mouse control. It had joysticks but that doesn’t make for a good mouse (trackpoints are different though). Plus it wasn’t clear that the joysticks can be used as a mouse. Ya, there’s software out there but all the ones I’ve seen are years old and may not work. I need a physical keyboard and mouse where the mouse is the more important of the two.

  15. webber says:

    I’m hoping for an OQO clone with updated specs.

  16. ssagg says:

    Me too
    I’ll keep my still ussable 02 untill it happens or a W8 device makes me change my mind

  17. makl34 says:

    I agree, touch only interface is just a gimmick. It’s more of a workaround on smartphones that don’t have space for buttons or a supplement to physical controls on larger devices. Ideally, for me, I want both. Touch control for simple tasks like GPS navigation, browsing simple websites, watching videos and ebook reading. A keyboard and mouse for more complex websites, word processing, remote desktop and the rest of the stuff where touch is just not practical no matter how good the UI is.

  18. Rimbie says:

    what makes anyone think Windows 8-ARM is going too take off, why will developers code for it when it’s years behind Android & iOS?

    this growing segment of people who think that just because Windows is taking the topdown approach to mobile means that all their legacy software is somehow going to magically be compatible with thin, light, always-on, tablet computing, clearly have no idea how computing works.

    the reason MS is being so incredibly vague about their future plans is because they dont want to drop the compatibility bombshell too far in advance, just the fact they aren’t being clear should tell everyone thats not a good sign.

  19. tumble says:

    Well, I’m just being optimistic. I know software written for Microsoft’s .NET Framework should require minimal if any changes to work. Of course, Microsoft needs to implement the framework on their ARM version of Windows 8.

    Back to being optimistic. Since all the Android/iOS devices I’ve used were big disappoints for anything beyond basic tasks, I’m hoping for some company to continue making Windows UMPCs. Windows 8 for ARM could help. Even lower power and faster Atom CPUs would help too. I’m just hoping more software and/or hardware comes out to make UMPCs easier to manufacture and use. Right now, Android and iOS are way too far behind in functionality to compete with Windows.

  20. webber says:

    I have to agree with iOS being behind Windows 7 when it comes to functionality. I got the iPad 1 and if you want to do anything beyond screwing around and playing games, it falls flat on its face. Since it’s too big to be portable anyway, it now serves as my time killer when I’m at home while I take my N5 when I go out or do anything beyond watching Netflix or checking email.

  21. Jodi says:

    It is pretty obvious that there has not yet appeared on the scene the GREAT (really of course I mean “small”) SOLUTION.

    Everyone is making do with what is available, hardware wise.
    That said, the hardware is making reasonable progress.

    In fact of greater immediate concern to me is where is the reasonable data plan that isn’t piggy backed onto the old cellular phone services.

    I don’t want to fall into a cell phone company’s “one size fits all” solution for it’s bottom line.

    And with the hardware solutions evolving, and if the data plans get realistic, then we may be able to concentrate on the important software solutions that we need to make umpc a viable reality for the fans of this segment and begin to expand it into the more general user’s world.

  22. animatio says:

    sorry to say this, but i do not catch your last argument at all. the software is already there, btw for years now. what exactly are you missing?

  23. Leiy says:

    I’m still wating Windows 8 + 22nm Intel atom device in my pocket.

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