Friday, April 30, 2010

Windows 7 v the iPad

No, I didn’t buy an iPad, but I have to say on a trip to the Apple Store this week (for an iPod issue), I played with one for about 20 minutes and I came to this conclusion.

It. Is. Cool.

It’s not semi-cool. Or neat. It is very, very cool. I had seen one in Best Buy a week or so ago, but didn’t have time to play with it. However I did spend some time reading about it and then comparing it to my Windows 7 tablet.

I have one of the Acer 11” laptops that Microsoft gave out at the PDC with a touch screen, the Win 7 touch pack, and Office 2010 Beta. I’ve used it for 3-4 months, and I like it. It was a little slow, but I added an SSD, and that helped speed it up pretty well.

However compared to the iPad, in some ways, it’s miles behind. Here’s a short review of some of my thoughts.


I read on LCD screens a lot. My iPhone is (almost) my exclusive reading device, and in the last 2 years I’ve gone through about 100 books on it. It has a great form factor for me, I can use it at night, even in indirect sunlight, and it’s always with me. So I compared it to the other devices.

Win 7 – I used the tablet to read in bed a little and it worked well, but it was too heavy. Even resting on my chest, it was uncomfortable after about 15 minutes. The navigation of flipping pages and moving around was crude compared to the Apple interfaces, and even compared to the Google Android interface. Some of that might be hardware, but hey, it’s the same generation. Arguably this is newer than my iTouch, but works worse.

iPad – I sat in the store and tried to read for about 10 minutes. I like the display, and the animations of turning pages is cool, though a waste of CPU power. I’d prefer that power running Twitter or something in the background. However this wasn’t great either. Despite the lighter weight, I couldn’t grip the iPad well. It’s too heavy to hold for long in one hand, and it felt like it might fall out of my hand. In bed it would probably work better, but not sure it’s better than my iPhone.


I tried to do a few things on the devices, open web pages, type emails, view pictures, etc. My thoughts.

Win 7 – Fails miserably. Trying to navigate with my fingers, which is relatively fast in terms of ergonomics, didn’t work well. The familiar gestures of moving things, sliding them, getting focus into a text box, all felt crude, slow, and half-assed on Win 7.

The absolutely most annoying thing is that it switches from landscape to portrait too fast. And not only does it switch, it pops up a dialog that says “some applications might not work in portrait mode”


That is, oh-so-annoying. And until you close the dialog, it won’t switch resolutions. How many times I’ve been tilting it back and forth wondering when it would switch, only to finally notice the dialog in the taskbar.

This is a dumb implementation and I haven’t found a way to turn it off. Worse, when I’ve slightly tilted the tablet while reading, it switches. And then switches back.

And even worse (yes there’s an even worse), there are times that the device doesn’t register the rotation correctly. I can’t click on things, or the click seems to be a half inch or so off.

Steve, maybe it’s your device.

Maybe so, but this is the device Microsoft handed out at the PDC last year to show off Win 7 and the tablet technology. I think that Microsoft needs to go to One Infinite Loop, wave around a checkbook and get a few UI developers to come work for them.


This touch implementation sucks, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to open the keyboard, use the keypad, and reorient myself to working with a sideways display to get the properties for the display and manually set it back to landscape.

iPad – It was cool and quick, and doing things like checking a few emails or looking at web pages were much better than the iPhone. Getting a few, limited things, done was where this thing shined.

Virtual Keyboard

I first used a virtual keyboard on Android, and despite having a physical keyboard on the phone, I found myself using the virtual one more and more. My experiences here.

Win 7 – One word sums this up nicely: sucky.  It’s slow to react, it’s the wrong size, it’s not easily placed where you can two-thumb it, and it just doesn’t work. Using the stylus is the best method I’d found and that’s S-L-O-W in a way that makes it worth finding a place to set the device down and open the screen, wait for it to sync over and type on the real keyboard. It’s a shitty experience (apologies, but no other word conveys it as well).

iPad – It’s a big iPhone keyboard. It’s in a slightly weird size, and for serious typing, like blogging, I’d want a real keyboard, but I could two thumb it and type almost as fast as the iPhone. Watching the Apple Store people I think I could be at pertty good speed in a few days.


The iPad is cool, but limited. The Win7 tablet lets me do most things, but I avoid going tablet because it really, really annoys me. I was hoping to use this thing as a tablet often, take advantage of the form factor to read, browse the web, etc., but for the most part, it sucks.

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