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While my laptop is (still) an object dedicated to my working activities, during the last couple of years my tablets lived what we could call a “double life”. I have a child of about four years and, although I always prefer take him for a walk in the park or play with him with more “classic” toys, games on a tablet are a great help when I need a few minutes of peace and quiet. The very wide range of educational games available also mitigates my guilt: the time spent with the aforementioned games is not totally useless for my child. On the other hand, the multimedia capabilities and the flexibility of this kind of device granted to it a space in my spare time too, with needs completely different from those of my son. This daily change of use for the same apparatus brought me to make some reflections on the current tablet market and related operating systems. And I had also to revisit some “paradigms” that I gave as given a few years ago. Let’s start profiling my expectations in the two different scenarios.
Father Mode <ON>: my Child is the King
Manage a child with a tablet stresses some aspects of the operating system that are less noticeable when the user is an adult. In my case, what I want is:
- a wide range of educational games (if they are free, better)
- an operating system that is as difficult as possible to compromise
- capability to quickly isolate the device from the Internet and from external devices
- apps (games) easy to install and uninstall leaving few or no footprint on the device
Father Mode <OFF>: I am the King (With the Permission of my Wife)
Some activities (work on documents and texts, access to certain types of information) are limited to the world of laptop / desktop. A possible exception would be a Surface Pro tablet but, borrowing the definition of a friend of mine, it is like “a laptop with an interesting form factor”. It is a device I would not give to my son, like a laptop. So what I expect from my slice of tablet time ?
- easy access to e-mail and social networks
- high quality multimedia capabilities, both for online files and for local contents
- e-books reading
- a few apps related to everyday life like password management, calendar and so on
We Are All One Big Family
Surely the lists drawn up a few lines ago are very personal. Nevertheless I am sure that in all houses the scenario is the same, perhaps with multiple devices at the disposal of the members of the family. First thoughts that comes to me is that a paradigm that was true until a few years ago, now has absolutely changed. Windows is no longer the most user friendly operating system, at least in the world of tablets. Windows 8 in a “full” version has certainly a level of complexity that we have not in the two main competitors (Android and IOS). While there is a large number of “standard” programs available, the Marketplace that should give apps optimized for a tablet experience continues to be, in my opinion, an Achilles’ heel, with a limited choice and the best software almost always requiring a fee.
Windows RT: a Missed Chance
The latest news regarding the other Microsoft operating system dedicated to tablets, RT, say that it could be facing a short life expectancy. Although the fragmentation in many operating systems (including various versions of Windows Phone) has certainly not helped in establishing Microsoft in this field, RT could have been a viable alternative to the competition. It is more “closed” but also more “robust” and that is what I need, especially when I am in “father mode”. In my opinion, to kill this version of Windows is a big missed chance. I also have to say that these sudden turns and abrupt changes of mind regarding the operating systems, with scenarios changed in a few years (or months) will not help to motivate programmers to grow the supply of apps, making the problems related to the Marketplace I have already mentioned most serious. What has been said also eliminates another old paradigm: the fragmentation of versions is no longer exclusive to Linux.
And Then There Were Two
The two remaining systems (IOS and Android) are both able to cover all the needs I have. Although they are distinct from issues relating to costs or to choices based on personal tastes, they are definitely suitable to do what is required for a device (the tablet) which is now part of the everyday life of many families. One thing that impressed me very much, is that often we see that the app “version” of some software that is more performing of the PC version (not to mention the many apps that simply do not exist outside the two operating systems just mentioned). In my list of paradigms waned, even this one has its own weight. Or I am the only one to remember that the richness and choice of programs is one of the success drivers of an operating systems?
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