The ThinkPad Windows 8 Tablet: A Benchmark Is Born

Rob Enderle

One of the things that has really troubled me about Windows 8 is the lack of a benchmark hardware product. Windows 8, unlike any other version of Windows since the very first version, is dramatically changing the user interface and is attempting to move the desktop from the mouse as a primary interface to touch. You may still use a mouse from time to time, but Windows 8 anticipates a time when you either won’t use it at all or won’t use it as much.

This puts entire classes of products at risk. Laptops with TrackPoint or those that lack large, flush multi-touch touchpads need not apply. Most desktop systems will need a great multi-touch touchpad or new touch monitor (and multi-screen becomes problematic for both); all-in-ones get more attractive but even the existing touch all-in-ones are using technology that isn’t good enough, and if you have a Media Center PC, you may be truly screwed.

Windows tablets, which should be the easiest to upgrade, have historically been expensive, heavy and not particularly attractive. That is why the announcement of the ThinkPad Tablet 2 for Windows 8 has me excited, because it showcases what appears to be the ideal Windows 8 configuration.

iPad Match

The iPad is a netbook with benefits. The only reason folks got excited about it is that they saw it as something new and different and not for the very limited product it was. Basically, it is an iPod Touch with a bigger screen; it isn’t a MacBook tablet. Now for consumers this is fine, but that creates problems for businesses that have to run security software, manage devices and run real productivity applications like Office and Photoshop. They also needed stylus support because they were best at forms and were often deployed to replace paper with a more secure and more connected alternative.

However, the typical Windows tablet weighs in at over twice the iPad’s weight, has about a third of the battery life and costs about 3 times as much. The cost of the old Windows tablets in money, portability and capability was just too high and folks really didn’t want to use them.

So what was needed was something that could do what a laptop could do and match the iPad.

ThinkPad Tablet 2

I thought this was impossible but Lenovo stepped up. With the possible exception of price (which isn’t disclosed yet), the ThinkPad Tablet 2 is a full-featured Windows tablet in that it runs the x86 version of Windows 8 and all of the traditional productivity applications. It will take a stylus (an extra cost option), allowing it to handle forms and replace paper, and it will run a full suite of security and management software. It will even support multiple displays so this could replace your laptop. I have little doubt that Lenovo will also match a wireless ThinkPad keyboard to this at some point because the firm is known for its best-in-class keyboards.

At 1.3 pounds it actually weighs less than the iPad (1.44 lbs); at 9.8 mm it is almost as thin as the iPad (9.4mm likely the cost of the digitized screen); at 10 hours of battery life it appears to match the iPad; and while I doubt it will match the resolution of the iPad’s Retina Display (another cost of the digitizer), Lenovo typically does a better job of screen coatings, so I’ll bet it works better outside or in bright light.

It hasn't announced price yet and, typically, a product as full featured as this one would cost between 50 percent and 100 percent more than a more limited product like the iPad, but I know Intel has been working really hard to reduce this substantially this round, so fingers crossed.

Wrapping Up: The Windows 8 Gold Standard Emerges

So pricing aside, the ThinkPad Tablet 2 for Windows 8 has emerged as the gold standard for Windows 8 tablets and Windows 8 is designed primarily as a tablet operating system. We are still waiting for the ideal Windows 8 laptop, all-in-one and desktop configuration to emerge and there may never be an ideal non-all-in-one desktop.

It is kind of interesting that I think the best hardware configuration for Windows 8 laptops in the market is currently the MacBook Pro and that we have yet to see an ideal Windows RT tablet showcased. But the season is still young and this is just the start of the Windows 8 rollout. I expect we’ll have some major surprises, hopefully mostly good ones, before the launch and year are over. If this were the Olympics, Lenovo gets a gold medal first for its ThinkPad Tablet 2.

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