How I Solved My Windows Tablet Question

Lockheed IT pro Doug Lampe explains why an unusual tablet has all but replaced his traditional laptop in the office -- and why Microsoft's Surface team should pay attention.
IW: What modifications have you made to make Windows 7 a good fit for touch and stylus on a tablet?

Lampe: The on-screen keyboard/handwriting input window is really the only significant thing that jumps out. Even that goes away when docked. Windows 7 works surprisingly well with touch. The stylus gives you a mouse pointer when close to the screen and has a button for right-click. Most apps will scroll when dragged and pinch to zoom, and you can swipe to go forward and back in browser history. None of these things are really modifications since they are supported in Windows 7, but the drivers all work seamlessly with the Samsung hardware.

IW: You mentioned that Microsoft's Surface design team might learn a few things by following you around with your Windows 7 device. What would you specifically change about the Surface Pro or RT?

Lampe: For me, it really boils down to docking. The dock for the Samsung is awesome. You just drop it in when you get to your desk and pick it up when you are done. No buttons to push, no cables to deal with. Also, the dock has a very small footprint on my desk -- much smaller than the Surface with the keyboard still attached. Of course, I could remove the keyboard but that is another step to add to my docking-undocking process and then what do I do with the keyboard when I'm at my desk? Don't get me wrong, I understand Microsoft was going after the consumer market and potential app revenue stream with the Surface, but the Pro clearly has the potential to be a desktop replacement since it will run native Windows apps.

It seems like the other hardware vendors like Samsung have looked at the enterprise market and built hardware to meet [its] needs. Microsoft made something that in my mind would be a secondary device in my facility if we are able to even get it in the door. Running Outlook/Office and internal company software and being inside the firewall on a company are minimum requirements for me, and that means Windows 7. I can't count the times I've answered a question in a meeting that would normally have to wait. Also, I have on many occasions been in impromptu meetings and pulled up a PowerPoint pitch from SharePoint or my hard drive and handed the tablet to someone or just put it on the table so we could both go through it. None of that needs Windows 8. IW: Is Windows 8 in your plans?

Lampe: We are still getting the last XP machines off of the floor. Getting a new OS on the floor is a long and complicated process for us. That isn't really my area of expertise because I focus more on our applications, but in that role I coordinate testing and am on the early adopter list. I haven't heard a thing about Windows 8. In my mind, that means at least a year before any Windows 8 hardware starts hitting our end users and that means no Surface Pro unless we can put a Windows 7 image on it.

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