The Splashtop Win8 Metro Testbed is a two-part application: there is an iPad app and an agent application (Splashtop Streamer) that installs on the Windows 8 PC. It allows tablet features to be used on non-tablet systems like a PC. The idea is to be able to test Metro apps from a touch-capable device (in this case, the iPad), and so it is particularly helpful to developers.
When I tested this, I used a netbook running the CTP of Windows 8. This computer has no tablet features. Installing the streamer application on it and connecting to it from the iPad application provided tablet functionality using the touch capabilities of the iPad. I could also see the actions happen on the netbook console. The technology is pretty cool.
Microsoft has made some interesting decisions with Windows 8, from the disappearance of the Start menu to the emergence of Metro applications, and not the least of those decisions has been to support multiple platforms, from the standard PC and laptop all the way down to slate devices and phones. While the complete particulars of how this will come to pass are not yet finalized and could change drastically between today and the RTM of the product, the fact that Windows, as I know it on my desktop could behave the same way on a tablet or phone is pretty amazing.
What does that mean exactly?
Using Windows on a tablet, the user would need to be able to use functions that feel normal for a tablet, like swiping and pinching to zoom. These features are not PC-native (in most cases) — the mouse and keyboard handle interactions. In Windows 8, because it is multiplatform, the features exist in the software even if they aren't exposed to the user. For example, if I am using Microsoft Word on a tablet PC, the Inking tools are available because it understands that the tablet architecture is present, but on my desktop, the Inking tools do not show up.
Why would I use this?
For those working on Metro style apps, testing needs to be done to ensure a good experience across all the platforms that Win 8 might run on, many of which have touch capabilities. With the cost of a Windows 8-ready tablet or slate being out of my budget at the moment, I could use the Splashtop app to get used to the new swipe features on Windows 8, the Charms menu, and the lack of a Start button.
Using Splashtop, I was able to get into the touchy new Windows 8 features with ease and hardly put the iPad down all day.
How to get started
You will first install the Splashtop Streamer on the machine where you have Windows 8 running. The download is free and about 15MB in size so it goes fairly fast. Once that's installed you will go through the initial setup and configure your passcode for the system. This code is how the client and tablet will identify each other so make sure you remember what you enter.
From there you will need to get the Win8 Metro Testbed app from the App Store." The app costs $24.99, which isn't cheap, but turning any Windows 8 machine into a fully functional tablet is worth the price, especially if you need it for testing purposes. Once the app is loaded, if the agent is running, you should be able to select the Win8 system, enter the same passcode for the app, and begin working right away.
On open, there is a Tooltip screen that can be displayed to show the basics of interaction. This screen is shown below.
Swiping from the right edge of the tablet screen, produces the Charms menu and swiping from the left, switches app windows. You can also attach group similar apps, as well as use the gestures to move apps and snap them into place, just like on an iPad or iPhone.
Using the system from a tablet
The tablet features are very prevalent in windows 8 CTP and will likely not be going away soon. This gives developers and testers an inexpensive way to use hardware and devices they already own to prepare for a very different upcoming technology.
The fact that the Splashtop apps bring full on tablet functionality to a non-tablet environment has huge potential for developers and admins alike.
Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.