I switched from the iPad to my Windows 8 tablet about 3 weeks ago. In that short amount of time Windows 8 has gone from novelty to indispensable. I love Apple, and iOS, but after using Windows 8 day-in and day-out for the better part of a month I couldn’t possibly go back to using an iPad.
Here are 5 features of Windows 8 that iOS doesn’t have, and that I couldn’t possibly give up:
1. Multitasking and Snap
Sometimes you just want to watch a video and write a blog post at the same time. I’m doing that right now. Real multitasking is useful and fun. Using a single app full-screen is immersive, and sometimes it is right, but other times you need to see a couple of things at the same time. Windows 8 lets you do that, iOS doesn’t. I couldn’t give it up now that I’m used to it.
2. Filesystem access
Apps are so much easier to use, and getting things done is so much simpler, when sharing data is as basic as saving and opening files. A lot of iOS apps have to do some strange and creative things to get around the lack of filesystem access. Text editors need to have Dropbox support, other apps need to be hooked up to iTunes so files can be copied into the App’s silo. It gets real complicated. In Windows 8 things are as simple as saving and opening files on the filesystem.
It is weird to get excited about Internet Explorer, but things change I guess. IE10 is much more powerful than mobile Safari. IE10 can render web apps that mobile Safari just can’t cope with: Squarespace, Google+, Facebook, WordPress. Everything just works in IE10 no matter how complex. On iOS you need apps to make up for the browser.
IE10 doesn’t just perform better than mobile Safari, it works better. Thumbnails are much better than tabs. Full screen is the best way to browse on a tablet. And pinning favorites is way better than scrolling through a text list of bookmarks. Mobile Safari just tries to look like a desktop app. IE10 was obviously designed from the ground-up for tablets.
4. Full keyboard and mouse support
The iPad has Bluetooth keyboard support, but it is very limited. Windows 8 has full keyboard shortcuts, multi tasking keys, and all the comforts of a laptop. And being able to use a trackpad or mouse when using desktop websites or apps is really cool. Windows 8 + a Bluetooth keyboard feels just as productive as using a laptop. On the iPad a Bluetooth keyboard makes typing a bit easier, but it doesn’t work great.
5. Modern UI
This can be broken down in two parts: how Windows 8 works, and how it looks.
After a few weeks of using Windows 8, iOS apps look kind of cheesy. They seem overly textured and tacky. Remember how web sites used to look in the 90s? Background images, and tons of bitmapped graphics all over the place. That’s how iOS looks after using Windows 8 for a while. Windows 8 apps just feel more honest and focused. The content is front and center, not tacky UI design.
The other thing I love is how Windows 8 works. It’s exceptionally consistent. Search and sharing is always in the charms bar. Any functionality that isn’t on screen is always in the app menu. Once you know how one Windows app works you know how they all work. In iOS every app is an island, and they are all designed differently.
Bonus: Microsoft Account and SkyDrive
These two features work together to be what iCloud should have been. You can access your files from anywhere. You can even use web app versions of office for accessing your files from other computers. And your data is synched between devices. It is a much better experience than iCloud.
I don’t hate iOS or anything. It’s a great mobile OS with great apps. But Apple would have to make some significant changes before I could come back. Now, that could happen. I switched from iOS to Android a long time ago for multitasking and notifications, and then I switched back when iOS got those features. But in this case a lot of the things that makes Windows 8 great are things that Apple is opposed to for philosophical reasons, things like filesystems and on-screen multitasking.