Hacking Bangkok Blog

Tech and Living in Thailand's City of Angels

The Hacking Bangkok blog covers I.T. and technology in general, and my experiences working and living in the Kingdom of Thailand. Bangkok has a very long Thai name, which starts with Krung thep - City of Angels.
Bangkok sunset from my bedroom balcony

Friday, December 16, 2011

Some Rambling about Windows 8 and the Developer Preview Tablet

I just wanted to show something interesting that I found in the Windows 8 Developer Preview.  I bought one of the prototype tablets (on eBay) that Microsoft gave away at the //build/ conference in September.  The main reason for getting one of the //build/ versions vs. just buying the Samsung Series 7 Slate (S7S), which is pretty much identical hardware, but sold with Windows 7 on it, is that the developer preview tablets came with WiFi + 3G + GPS integrated (in the form of an Option GTM671W card, which reports itself as a GMT661W), while the S7S comes with an Intel Centrino wireless card that is only WiFi + Bluetooth.  Even then, I would have just bought the GTM671W module and replaced the Intel one as some other people did, but you then lose the Bluetooth, and I haven't seen anyone post details of where and how to hook up a Bluetooth module to the S7S.  Whew!

So anyway, the tablet is obviously an early, limited edition production run, but the hardware seems very well done anyway - it's ridiculously thin and light for a machine packing a Core i5, and a 1366x768 display. It also has a mini-HDMI port which works with the mini-HDMI to HDMI cable that came with my Motorola Atrix, which I think would be great for doing presentations - although the tablet supports WiDi (WiFi Direct), for connecting to compatible wireless displays/projectors that way.

But anyway - today I actually put it in the dock, hooked up the dock to my 22" monitor and set the desktop to "extend" (and plugged my big Microsoft ergonomic keyboard into the extra USB port in the dock, and a trackball into the USB on the tablet itself).  The dock has a full-sized HDMI port - for anyone else planning to use this combo, just note that seating the tablet in the dock disables the mini-HDMI port on the tablet.  When in the dock, the full-sized HDMI port on the dock is active.  So anyway.  I noticed an extra little icon on my taskbar (see below, I added the red arrow in the Paint utility program, since I haven't installed much else on this thing yet).
 If you click it, it moves the "metro" style screen to that display. So for example, I had the metro start-screen on my 22" monitor, so the "Move start screen here" icon appeared on the tablet screen. This is a pretty cool feature.  The metro start screen adjusts to show more rows of tiles on the bigger screen, which is nice (and expected).

Anyway - while the desktop mode isn't incredibly useful on the tablet itself when you're carrying it around (unless you have a stylus, and even then, if you try to type anything, the on-screen keyboard takes up half the screen).  But the metro interface is really slick for touch (tablets), I can see this potentially being huge, especially once Microsoft gets the OS onto nice ARM tablets (like that Asus Transformer Prime convertible tablet).  This Samsung hardware is amazing, don't get me wrong, but the fact that it has a fan (however quiet it may be), and gets about 4.5 - 5.0 hours of use, means it's still more of keyboard-less laptop with tablet mode than what people expect from tablets (8+ hours of use, and a sealed, fanless, silent body).  Maybe with the new Ivy Bridge CPUs coming out in a couple of months, Sammy can update the S7S for Windows 8 (whenever it reaches RTM) and squeeze an extra hour or two out of it. For me personally, an ARM version isn't useful, since it won't run Visual Studio, SQL Server, Expression Blend, or any of the other tools I use, but for a lot of people, a Windows on ARM (aka WOA) tablet with a "metro" style Office suite, including an Outlook equivalent, MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, would be pretty compelling.  We'll see in another six months or so (or eight months I guess).


Caitlin said...

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