Windows 8 and the Desktop
The more I learn about Windows 8 the more I think its a really compelling tablet OS and I’m excited to try it out on hardware that’s optimized for it. I’m not nearly as confident as some pundits who firmly believe that Windows 8 on ARM tablets is Google’s tablet Armageddon (how many people do you know using a Windows Phone right now?), but I think it has a fighting chance to do well.
It’s the ides of running this OS on the desktop though that really has me thinking. People can tout Mac sales growth numbers all they want but the true reality is most people are (still) using a Windows PC at their desk (read: “work”), and that’s where the numbers game is won or lost.
Most people at home don’t have a desktop or laptop with a touch screen, and very few do at the office either. Think Vista and Windows 7 adoption rates in the corporate environment were slow? No one’s planning on buying new touch monitors for an OS upgrade.
I’ve read a lot where Microsoft has said (and attempted to show) that Windows 8 works just as well with a mouse and keyboard as it does with a touch screen. That may be, I haven’t had a chance to try it, but my first thought when I saw Windows 8 demoed on a tablet was, “I’m gonna need a cool trackpad for my desk to use this at work.”
If Microsoft (or someone) made a big, beautiful trackpad for the PC like Apple’s Magic Trackpad, think how easy it would be to move from your Windows 8 tablet to your desktop machine (or if you’re tablet became your “docked” computer at your desktop, with an external or secondary monitor and keyboard). The trackpad becomes your “virtual” touchscreen - it would be second nature to use those edge commands you learned on the tablet to summon the “charms” or menus. You could execute the top-down gestures with a flick of your finger vs. “driving” the mouse.
This was probably Apple’s idea behind the Magic Trackpad in the first place, so they could drive iPad users and the gestures they’ve learned to the Mac. But Windows 8 isn’t two different operating systems like Mac OS and iOS are - its a single thing (granted with a two different ways to interact with it, but both of those ways are available on whatever hardware platform it’s running on). If Windows 8 tablets take off, having the ability to use the interface in nearly the same way on the desktop would be a huge advantage for Microsoft.
I actually want to use such a trackpad now with my Windows 7 desktop but I want it to be like Apple’s, not the sad one Logitech has been trying to sell (while its design is uninspired I’m not sure if the lackluster performance of the Logitech Wireless Touchpad is with the hardware or it’s support within Windows itself). Most people have gotten used to trackpads on their laptops and lots of us already use “gestures” for things like scrolling windows, quick functions like “browser back”, etc. Using a trackpad at my desktop makes a lot more sense to me than imagining reaching forward to poke at my monitor (and how would you do pinch-to-zoom on a 20” monitor?)
I think Microsoft should consider making a great trackpad for desktops and bundle it with Windows 8 (at least in one SKU). Just as Apple is trying to push users to the Mac by leveraging features of its mobile OS, Microsoft needs to leverage its dominant numbers on the desktop and give those users a new computing experience that they’ll also want on their mobile devices.