GCN LAB IMPRESSIONS

Tablets with PC power: The Microsoft vs. Apple debate

Tablet computers are incredibly popular, both with consumers and enterprises such as government agencies, which are interested in seeing if they can be used to make work life better.

The GCN Lab recently looked at nine different models and rated them on a variety of features, including suitability for government use. But although all the tablets seemed to perform well, or at least adequately, they weren’t really on the same level as desktop systems in terms of functionality and power.

Now, let’s tie that in with what Greg Crowe wrote about his first impressions of Windows 8 after spending some time with the beta. He said the interface looked like a Windows phone. And it does look like a phone — or, perhaps, a tablet.

That’s because Microsoft is combining its tablet OS and its desktop OS. In a recent presentation, Microsoft spokespeople said that they would like to see devices that have all the computing power of a desktop but with the functionality of a tablet.

That sounds like a good idea to me, but apparently Apple CEO Tim Cook doesn’t think so. In a quarterly earnings meeting, he said that “anything can be forced to converge, but the problem is that products are about tradeoffs, and you begin to make tradeoffs to the point where what you have left at the end of the day doesn't please anyone. You can converge a toaster and refrigerator, but those things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user."

I thought it was pretty funny when Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw tweeted a response, saying: “Must be a typo. It's not a toaster/fridge. It's a toaster/oven. Those seem pretty popular. Just saying.”

I think a tablet that’s as powerful as a desktop would be pretty neat. In fact, a few of the tablets in our roundup, such as the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 Slate PC, approached that level of functionality, especially if you could add a keyboard, creating a sort of mini-desktop right there.

I think part of Cook’s negativity may be simply trying to fill the impossibly big shoes of Steve Jobs, but his comments bring to mind another event I attended where a company was seemingly warning others to stay away from something great.

Years ago, the only real multiplayer online game was "Ultima Online," run by a company called Electronic Arts. At a press conference, the company’s representatives were asked about running an online game, and how difficult it was. Their answer was that they were spending all their money on tech support for their servers, and although "Ultima Online" was a neat property, they didn’t really make any money off of it and advised other companies not to try to follow in their footsteps.

The problem was that the numbers didn’t match that statement. At its peak, the company had more than 250,000 subscribers, each paying $15 per month. So they were making about $3.7 million per month. I’m pretty sure that covered their tech support bill. Other companies thought the same thing, and the game was eventually surpassed in popularity by others, like "Asheron’s Call," "EverQuest" and, eventually, "World of Warcraft."

Apple, with its millions of iPads sold each year, probably doesn’t want to see a serious competitor come into its space. And I can’t really blame them, but it sounds like Cook’s comments were taken just about as seriously as the representative from Electronic Arts all those years ago.

We may start seeing PC-power tablets pretty soon. We’ll be on the lookout.

Reader Comments

Fri, May 11, 2012 Col. Panek

I'll wait for a true Linux tablet.

Thu, May 10, 2012 Bob Nelson Seattle, WA

I must state that I am a huge Apple fan, own stock in the company, etc. I service and repair in both the Windows and Mac worlds. That said, I don't have an iPad or iPhone - I use Android for phone and a dual-boot Mac laptop for a portable device. My reluctance to hop on the iPad isn't a failure to understand the technology or placing, it has simply been a matter of not having the tools that I want in a pad-type device (note that I haven't picked up an Android-based pad, either). I want the ability to run/install the wide variety of tools that I have on a desktop, but would like the flexibility of a touch-screen on a portable device. When they produce a 17" tablet-convertible, I'll buy it. Until then, I'll remain status quo.

Thu, May 10, 2012 Arnie Dallas

Panasonic laptop/tablet configurations have been around for years used in sales and inventory control operations. MS/OS xx, with company proprietary software served the users very well. Rugged, specific and network convergent for training as well. So what is new here? MS /OS converges across its iwn platforms, open source, as long as MS supports it. IPads are on a different structure all together. A smaller foot print to deliver specific information over proprietary architecture. Sorry folks , to me this comparison effect is like asking your refrigerator to wash your clothes. What?

Thu, May 10, 2012

1) Microsoft has supported tablets that are hybrids of the type you described for years. They didn't sell. 2) Using both a personal computer and an iPad (a gift about which I was dubious) I can tell you that they have different purposes and uses. 3) One huge factor in valuing the iPad is battery life. 4)Those who think you can't do things like presentations, video, live markups, etc. on an iPad simply don't know the facts. You can do these things albeit w/o PowerPoint. There are alternatives to MS software for accomplish these tasks on an iPad. 5) Power-to use an old analogy I have a 4x4 pickup truck. I use it for a lot things, but rarely for commuting. I have a high mileage car for that, but the car would not last long if I tried to haul wood, housing materials, or mulch with it. Different purposes require different machines.

Thu, May 10, 2012 Smurphy Phoenix

Apple has always had a problem with the Busniess world and it's IT needs. BUT they have always been greate and understanding what artistic individuals and schools need. I remember the discsussion between Gates and Jobs where Jobs says "we have better stuff" and Gates says "you don't get it, better isn't any good if no one uses it." Apple like Sony makes great products but prices them too high, more than they cost to build. It's like they took their pricing model from Jeweler stores which have 400% markup!

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