So Asus just announced their new tablet based on Windows 7, and already the backlash against it has begun. But while it’s true that the Windows desktop experience is less than ideal for a touch-centric device, the naysayers who claim Windows 7 is the wrong choice completely are missing the point. Some point to Apple, and how they were much smarter and created iOS to run on iPod/iPhone/iPad and left OS X for the desktop hardware. Which would be true, if that’s what they actually did. Anyone who has written an iPhone app knows that iOS is actually just a stripped down version of OS X with a more touch- and form-factor-friendly user interface slapped on top. Which brings me to my point: the operating system isn’t the issue, it’s how you interact with it.
The Windows operating system has been running on mobile devices much longer than iOS: the PocketPC (running Windows CE) I bought 10+ years ago had a 320×200 LCD display, 24-bit colour, and allowed interaction by touch or stylus. There is also Windows POS, Microsoft Sync, Microsoft Surface, and of course PocketPC’s most recent successor: Windows Phone 7. The primary difference in all these variants is not the underlying operating system code, it’s how the user interacts with it.
The same is true for a Windows-based tablet. What’s missing isn’t a rewrite of the Windows operating system, it’s a touch-friendly interface. The Windows 7 operating system already supports multi-touch. In fact it did so in Vista, which was the foundation for the Microsoft Surface platform. The issue is that the current Windows shell, much like its Mac OS X competitor, is geared towards mouse-based interaction. The underlying OS is just fine and is already slated to run on the mobile-friendly ARM processor.
What we need to see, much like the Xbox has done with Kinect, is a new interface that is optimized for how the user is interacting with the device. Microsoft has already proven that they are well aware of this with the new Windows Phone 7 interface, which is a far cry from the Windows Mobile interface it replaced. I would have to agree that it was late to the party, but I can’t argue with the end result.
I know there’s a lot of people that love to hate Windows, but in this case I have to say your criticisms are misplaced. Operating systems are too complicated to re-write from the ground up for each and every device. It’s the reason Mac OS X is now built on Linux, as is Android. Similarly, any device that comes out of Redmond will be based on Windows in some form or another. Speculating about anything else is a waste of time, so let’s wait and see what kind of slick (or not so slick) UI they slap on top…