Windows 8 optimize

Windows 8: One device to rule them all?

Patrick Gray discusses Microsoft's patent for a dockable tablet. Do you think this will be the one device to rule them all for enterprise tablet users?

Last week, I wrote about how the schizophrenic nature of Windows 8 might just be its biggest asset. In essence, Windows 8 attempts to preserve the traditional desktop experience, while simultaneously introducing the touch-centric Metric experience. Done well, Windows 8 will provide tablet and desktop capabilities from one OS, maintaining the same set of user data and applications with some limitations attached (particularly around the new ARM processor version of Windows 8).

With an OS that can pull off this split-personality maneuver, one can't help but consider the possibility of hardware built with the same objective. A recent Microsoft patent makes it apparent that Microsoft is also considering this new paradigm and doing research in this area. The patent is for what amounts to a "dockable" tablet.

Conceptually, this is nothing new, but Microsoft appears to be taking the concept a bit further. Rather than the dock merely providing a keyboard, additional drives, or similar, Microsoft's patent envisions a dock that provides increased processing power, memory, or other low-level hardware. While this is clearly early stage research, the end concept is compelling: one device to rule them all.

Docking station 2.0

Most corporate citizens are familiar with the trusty old docking station. Put your laptop in the dock, and you have a larger monitor, keyboard, mouse, and speakers, all with your familiar applications and data. Where this paradigm breaks down is in the tablet space.

Need something smaller than your laptop, but want to retain the same data? You're out of luck. Microsoft's concept could extend the traditional dock hardware, combined with its split-personality OS, to a multi-role computing device. Want to read some e-books on the plane? Your Windows 8 device could act like an iPad or Android tablet with the finger-friendly Metro interface. Need to write a long email or report? Slide your tablet into what amounts to an ASUS Transformer on steroids. Drop the tablet into an enhanced dock in your office, and your processing power and RAM become suited for anything from encoding video to playing 3D games.

While this presents a compelling model for future computing, there are clouds on Microsoft's horizon, mainly in the guise of cloud computing. One of the best features of a single, multi-role device is the fact that you can access consistent data across different computing platforms. Data are already moving to the cloud, and concepts like virtualized desktops may disconnect applications from the hardware on which they run as well, further commoditizing hardware and allowing you to access any connected device -- ranging from tablets to televisions -- and access the same data and similar application functionality.

The other major wrinkle is that the concept of "one device to rule them all" requires everything from new hardware standards to a successful launch of Windows 8 and widespread corporate adoption. Quite a few things must go right, and there are myriad opportunities for things to go wrong.

Pundits have been predicting the death of Windows and the mouse and keyboard-centric computing experience it brought to the masses, but it hasn't come to pass. What's interesting and exciting for enterprise tablet users is that Microsoft still seems to have a bit of fire in its belly in the innovation space. While its patent may suffer the fate of most patents and end up on the shelf, enterprise tablet users are in for an exciting ride.

About

Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company, and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology, as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. Patrick has...

6 comments
AudeKhatru
AudeKhatru

What I want is a tablet that docks next to a larger monitor, so that I can use both at once and access the same data as I do when mobile. But, I want even more. I want my phone and my tablet and my desktop to all sync wirelessly. Maybe a spot on the deskdock, or maybe just bluetooth, but I place my phone next to the tablet or the desktop, and the tablet sees all the data on the phone. I think we are still a couple of years from tablet processors that will do everything we need, everyday, but when I see Win8 Intel tablets on the horizon, then I wonder if it cannot be done, right now. If they can work out the way for the OS to handle two separate processors when docked and a single processor when undocked, then they have it. Now, if only the battery life is long enough...or... Tablet with ARM, deskdock swaps to an Intel processor, with mouse and keyboard. Maybe also a mobile keyboard/dock when you are away from the office. I can't wait.

pjmckay
pjmckay

Given two main problems in me using a tablet in the office... a) Apple have no mouse support on my iPad and clearly no desire to listen to user requests. Indeed I got anothe deleted message from the Apple forum yesterdaay for mentioning it was added easily to a jailbroken device so can't be that hard to do properly, legally. Not a problem for 100% fanbois but a BIG problem as middleware to enterprise using VDI etc. b) I also have an Asus transformer which does have the mouse/keyboard support BUT is let down by F5 differences between IOS and Android. Nearly there but so far away. On the other hand... A Win8 tablet that does what WE want, when WE want. It can't possibly fail. Price isn't a problem and clearly can't be raised at this stage BUT with users paying ??630 for a 64Gb iPad and ??450 for other top Androids, plus monthly fees we're clearly well out of the range of cheap laptops. Folk will pay for functionality..... this is proven and a dead argument. We will pay for devices that offer VALUE over and above price.

Randy Hagan
Randy Hagan

Other than the fact that none of this hardware or software or OS exists yet, it certainly could be. This is the way I function with laptops now. Either dedicated docks or ad-hoc bundled wire connections to my Dell and Mac laptops, respectively. I can use them with a conventional keyboard, a two-button mouse and larger LCD monitor, as well as external hard drives, NAS and wired Ethernet connections -- or any of the other peripherals I use for daily business. I only open my laptops and use their screens and keyboards when I'm on the road. At home or at the office, they're hooked up to function like desktop stations. The apps I support are resource-heavy, so they won't be moving off my laptops for quite a while. But if I could move ancillary functions -- email, invoicing correspondence -- to my tablet, I'd put it there in a heartbeat. Right now a laptop and iPad join me on any briefcase-worthy trip, since the iPad now contains all my support documentation. But if I could turn that in for a Windows 8/Office Mobile installation in my next tablet -- no cloud, since I run on WiFi only -- with its own dock hook up to common peripherals and file interoperability, I'm there. The only thing that's holding me back, of course, is that none of this is on the market yet.

Skruis
Skruis

I'm currently using a Samsung Series 7 Slate as my dual function workhorse. It's got a corei5, 4GB of RAM, a 10point capacitive touchscreen and builtin wifi. I don't use an actual docking station at this point but I have 2 "stands" (one in the office, one that folds up and is stored in my bag), a mobile keyboard, mobile mouse, a mobile wifi ap (dlink), etc so I have one device that has replaced my laptop for the last 4 months (since the Developer Preview came out), supplements my primary PC as my "communications" device (bria, spark, lync, outlook, onenote, etc) and switches to "metro" for touch friendly consumption on the couch. All of that with 1 device. The only reason it hasn't replaced my primary PC is that my primary PC is a bit faster and can handle the latest games and it's connected to 3 24" LCD's and that's one thing that my slate can't do right now. When i dock it in my home office, I connect it to a 24" LCD via a HDMI->VGA converter but I would have a hard time having it run 3 24" LCD's off of a HDMI->VGA and 2 USB->VGA adapters...even though it does have 1 USB port but I can't imagine that that would work well enough. Windows 8 for that purpose on this type of device is a home run.

grayknight-22253692004129760887070084760051
grayknight-22253692004129760887070084760051

I have docking stations at work and home, along with a travel one. I also bought a bluetooth keyboard and mouse so I don't use up the USB port(s) (there is one port on the docking station). The docking station has a full size HDMI that I have connected to one of my monitors of my home desktop system. I have it setup to dual boot Windows 7 and 8, as the Windows 7 comes with several Samsung software programs that make it easy to connect to my Samsung network printer and Samsung smart tv. I hadn't really planned on buying so many Samsung products, but they have worked out great.