Does Windows 8 Pro Belong on a Phone?
“Man, I would love to have the full capability of my desktop/laptop in my phone!”
We’ve all thought it at one time or another. And lucky for us, the two most prominent mobile platform creators, Apple and Google, are bringing their desktop and mobile operating systems closer with each iterative update. Chrome for Android is just the beginning of integration between Android and Chrome OS. Some have predicted the two will eventually be coupled into one, that Android will eventually envelop the full power of the Chrome browser. And Apple is continually bringing more mobile-like features to the OS X.
At some point, most of us snap out of dreamland, wipe the crusted drool trail from our chin and wake up in the real world where a full desktop OS would likely offer a sub-par experience on a pocket-sized device. There are constraints created by size, form factor and a technology gap that keep this concept from truly taking off.
At least that’s what we thought.
Last year, Canonical announced Ubuntu for Android, a unique fusion of Ubuntu and Android that allowed the two different operating systems to run simultaneously. In normal use, the device runs Android, plug the proper peripherals into the device (a monitor, keyboard and mouse) and the operating system switches to the desktop version of Ubuntu. The two platforms share the same kernel, which allows them to run side by side, share the same file system and even run Android apps on Ubuntu when docked.
Technically, this would be the raw power of a desktop OS in your pocket.
On the other hand, it doesn’t quite deliver on the entire dream. While this option would be much more portable than your run-of-the-mill desktop, it’s not that much more portable. It still requires a keyboard, mouse and monitor, which means you would have to carry those things with you to be able to access said power.
But earlier this week, a weather cell phone manufacturer, i-mate, seemingly rose from the dead to announce its latest development. The Redmond, California-based company unveiled a Windows 8 phone. Not a Windows Phone 8 phone … a Windows 8 phone, a phone that runs Windows 8 Pro called Intelegent.
Alleged specifications include a 4.7-inch WXGA (1,280 by 768 pixels) display, 2GB RAM, an Atom processor, 64GB of storage and HSPA+/LTE connectivity. It will retail for a competitive $750, and will come as a package deal with a “hardware suite” for $1,600, says The Seattle Times. This suite will include a 23-inch touchscreen monitor, desk telephone dock (called “hub”), keyboard, mouse and auxiliary 10.1-inch 1080p tablet.
Still a bit of a mystery, the Intelegent is said to run not Windows Phone 8 or Windows RT, but Windows 8 Pro. That’s right, the exact same software you would find on a brand new PC. One interesting bit The Seattle Times’ Brier Dudley wrote:
“The company isn’t setting out to topple the iPhone or Android models that dominate the smartphone business. Instead it’s positioning itself as a challenger to the BlackBerry, which is also re-emerging with new models aimed largely at business users.”
On paper, the i-mate Intelegent sounds like a dream come true – if Windows is your thing, that is. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Windows 8. I moved to Linux and OS X five years ago and never looked back. I gave Windows 8 a whirl and quickly backtracked. But if i-mate were to hit another grand slam, it may be enough to bring me back into the Microsoft ecosystem, and it could foretell an unfortunate fate for the future of Windows Phone.
However, I’m not holding my breath that the Intelegent will strike anyone as awe-inspiring.
The concept is phenomenal. A truly mobile device that harnesses the power of a full-fledged desktop? This is practically the exact concept I explained on the Pocketnow Live Hangout yesterday evening, one I’ve been talking about for about four years. It would open up the world of legacy PC applications, Office, PC games and more to a device that fits in your pocket. When you get to the office or home, throw the phone in the hub and you have a full PC. It’s incredible, novel even … in theory.
But using a full OS on a 11-inch device is difficult enough. Cut that down to less than half the diagonal size and I can only picture myself throwing the Intelegent at a wall in frustration. This demonstration of Ubuntu on an Android phone should suffice as an example of how poorly a desktop interface works on a mobile device.
It means literally every application that is designed for a full PC – for displays between 10-inches and 30-inch monitors – would have to be updated with a phone-based interface, else the interface elements would be microscopic and impossible to accurately hit without a stylus.
For example, try imagining using CS7 on you pocket-sized phone. Without phone-optimized apps, it wouldn’t be any more bearable at 5.5-inches. It might be barely useable at 7-inches, but still not enough to convince me full Windows 8 Pro on a phone would be worth using.
If its true usefulness stems from the hub and monitor, what’s the point to begin with? Windows 8 Pro was not designed to be a phone; therefore, beyond the Start screen, the interface will be cumbersome to use. The entire purpose of having the capability on a phone is defeated.
I’m still leaning towards Canonical’s adaptation – Ubuntu for Phones, Ubuntu for Tablets or Ubuntu for Android. You get a mobile experience – Ubuntu Touch or Android – when mobile, and a full desktop experience when docked. With the Intelegent, you would get Windows 8 Pro the entire time you use the device, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. I can’t help but imagine a phone thats terribly over-encumbered.
Again, another theory that sounds awesome but might not translate so well in practice. I reserve my final opinion until I get the device in my own hands, of course. But my initial reaction is to keep Windows Phone around for devices smaller than 7-inches.
What say you? Does Windows 8 Pro belong on a 4.7-inch device?