What should I buy for a new laptop or tablet this fall?

With new Windows 8 touch aware hardware coming in October, the quick answer is nothing until after October 26

Samsung ATIV Windows 8 tablet (photo credit ZDNET)

I want to get a new computer, maybe a laptop this fall to watch movies, do Facebook and read my email. What should I get?” asked a friend on Facebook.

My reply was to wait until the game-changing Windows 8 ships on October 26, 2012. If you want touch computing, everything for sale today will be instantly out-of-date.

If you don’t want touch, the computers available now will be selling at a deep discount as most consumers migrate to more powerful and fun Windows 8 platform.  The popularity of touch computing is unmistakable. Apple sold 54 million touch iPads in the last year. Sales of touch smart phones like the Samsung Galaxy and iPhone are the hot ticket. Samsung Galaxy phones outsell Apple iPhone 2 to 1 around the world.

Microsoft tablet prototype 2000 (photo credit PC World)

It’s a frenzy of new product announcements from hardware manufacturers who are creating new form factors and re-jigging old computer models to offer touch screens and touch pads that will make Windows 8 zip and zing for consumers.

Announcements of cool new  Windows 8 smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers are being made daily by Dell, HP, Samsung, Acer, Lenovo, Asus, Nokia, and Sony. If I missed someone, wait a few days and they will be showing their new Windows 8 products.

Almost every computer we own will need an upgrade of at least a touch screen and touch pad to work efficiently with Windows 8. None of the current smartphones or tablets will run Windows 8.

Tablets are fun but not useful at work

Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates showed the first tablet prototype in 2000 but no one really cared back then. It took Steve Jobs at Apple to popularize tablets with the first iPad 10 years later in 2010.  Most people won’t argue that an iPad is fun to own and play with. But you can’t do much work with the iPad.

My wife likes ours and she uses it everyday to check Facebook, view pictures and surf the web. When she wants to message and email, she picks up her Blackberry. I check the weather on the iPad and that’s about the extent if it.

Windows 8 at work

Microsoft will change the game with tablets by introducing an operating system that can work. Windows 8 RT tablets come with Office 2013 built-in.  You will be able to create the same Word and Excel documents on a tablet that are used at work. You can’t do that on an iPad.

Samsung Series 8 Slate running Windows 8 with magnetically attached keyboard (photo credit CNET)

You can plug a USB drive into a Windows 8 tablet and share data.

Windows 8 tablets connect to networks and share files of Microsoft SkyDrive.

You can’t do any of those things on an iPad, which is essentially a media browser.

A Windows 8 tablet can also do the fun things like browse pictures, listen to music, watch videos and check Facebook. It is touch sensitive and operates more or less the same as an iPad.

The iPad has more apps but that will change as more people get Windows 8. The iPad works in both landscape and portrait (page mode). Windows 8 tablets work the same but are better in landscape. Personally, I can’t remember ever wanting to use my iPad in portrait mode but some people do like it that way.

You can use the onscreen keyboard on a Windows 8 tablet but long writing sessions get a little tiresome. Many of the Windows 8 tablets come with attached keyboards in the cover (Microsoft Surface) or with attachable keyboards. Which one’s consumers will like the most is the big question for manufacturers.

Windows 8 onscreen keyboard with Word 2013

Same look and feel at play and work

The same operating system for the Windows 8 iPad equivalent will work on your laptop and desktop. I think having the same interface will appeal to people. It means less to learn and remember as we change from phone to tablet to desktop or laptop. Easier and simpler is always better.

I’ve been using Windows 8 since February on one computer and Windows 7 on two others. I prefer to use Windows 8 even though this computer is older and slower.

There’s nothing like touch. I intend to upgrade as soon as I can. My wife, on the other hand, is taking a wait-and-see attitude on upgrading. She is a network and database administrator and comes from Missouri, the Show-Me-State.

Which ever way you decide, the release of new hardware and Windows 8 will make a big difference.

By Stephen Pate, NJN Network

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