There’s a big clash happening this year. When Windows 8 meets the iPad. Android Tablets, Playbooks all the Windows 7 tablets and stuff are irrelevant for now, the iPad is still the only tablet I can recommend. I’ve used many of the Android tablets and I have to say, they are not great. I’m not sure whether I can attribute their sluggish performance to the operating system or the hardware; at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter – bottom line is that right now they are garbage. I won’t even go into the Windows 7 tablets. Windows 7 wasn’t built for tablets. Nuff said. The Playbook just doesn’t offer enough for anyone to take it seriously. It’s dead in the water.

You’ll notice that I said Windows 8 meets iPad and not iOS. The iPad is very popular, so popular in fact, that in the tablet realm, it stands on its own. Unless the next iteration of the iPad (iPad 3 I suppose) ins’t “revolutionary”,  ultimately Windows 8 will win.

Windows 8 strengths

Power

Windows 8 is a desktop operating system whereas iOS is a mobile operating system. I’ve been using Windows 8 Beta since it was released a few months back and it is awesome. Although it is not clear how much of the desktop elements will remain on the tablet version of the OS, it looks very promising. With support for full desktop applications such as Office and Visual Studio, iOS can not compete when it comes to software.

Metro UI

The Metro UI on Windows Phone is one of the most attractive user interfaces anywhere. The Windows team has managed to expand on that great UI without compromise in Windows 8. The ‘live tiles’ are the next generation icons. The principle is quite simple – animated tiles of various sizes displaying some information about the application, that are locked into a vertically-sliding grid. They eliminate problems of organising icons, knowing something about the apps and esthetics all in one blow. Gone are the days of the static icons that we’ve had since the beginning of personal computers!

Familiarity

It’s Windows. That may be a turn-off for some, but people use Windows more than any other operating system. Windows 7 became the most widely used operating system around August 2011 after beating…you guessed it…Windows XP. The same can’t be said about Mac OS 10.7 Lion which is yet to beat its previous iteration 10.6 Snow Leopard.

What the iPad needs

More power

Yes, it’s not about the features, but the iPad 3 needs to up the ante. When I say power I’m not just talking about the processing capability, I’m also talking about the interface. The iPad is not great for input for several reasons – but that can change. Siri for the iPad seems to be an inevitable addition coming to the iPad. That would offer a unique competitive advantage because even though Siri isn’t perfect, it’s very good and it has so much potential.

Steve Jobs said something like “if it has a stylus, it sucks”. He has been wrong before and I beg to differ with him on this one. Humans have been writing stuff with instruments for 5000 years now! Fingers lack the precision and intuitiveness of a pen. We use several fingers to carefully coordinate the motion of a pen and we learn to do this from as early as we can grip stuff and continue to perfect the craft till we die. A stylus implemented the right way is mightier that the finger for input any day.

The processor, ram, graphics chip etc. are not very important though. At the end of the day, it’s important that whatever they implement works well. It doesn’t matter if they decide to use the same processor with the same 512 MB RAM or a quad core processor with 1 GB of RAM – as long as the thing works well. My first generation iPad is still alive and kicking but it crashes like crazy. It crashes more often than it doesn’t. Whether I’m using the native browser, playing a game or running some app…crash. I don’t know about the iPad 2 but I’m guessing it is not immune to crashes either. I would have thought a new OS like iOS would be the first crash-less OS. There’s some research on the subject using Formal Verification and Models of Computation but I guess we’re not quite there yet.

Final words

There is going to be a shake up in not only the tablet space, but in the whole computer industry this year. Windows 8 will arrive in all it’s glory on multitudes of new tablets from all the major manufacturers. The iPad 3 will also arrive, probably with the highest resolution tablet screen for a while, together with an A6 processor and a new version of iOS – iOS 6 – later in the year. Android is not resting on its laurels either. More tablets will come out to demonstrate the full power of Ice Cream Sandwich. It will be interesting to see if the same thing that has happened in the mobile phone space will happen again in the tablet space, that is, Android will take the lead in market share, the iPad will drop just below it and Windows just won’t take off. This is a whole different type of ball game though and I don’t see that happening.

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