Microsoft Windows 8 Tablets: iTunes, skinnable Metro, virtualization, Kinect, and other Questions
Having followed the numerous articles regarding the Microsoft Surface Tablet, I could certainly see the potential for the admittedly sexy device. Almost immediately, a few thoughts popped into my head about possible uses for the Windows 8 tablet.
Windows 8 and iTunes on a Tablet
If the Windows 8 tablet is a fully-featured operating system, this means that users can install Apple iTunes.
Now, we all know Apps from the Apple iStore are only compatible with iOS but what I'm talking about are the free podcasts, the MP3s, and the videos. If you have an iPod Touch then you would have access to all these and more (and even if you didn't, you can still access the content on iTunes anyway). The Windows 8 Surface will have a USB port according to the specifications on the Microsoft Surface site, which would mean connecting a Touch wouldn't be out of the question. Although there are many users out there who abhor iTunes, there is little doubt that the idea of a Windows 8 tablet playing iTunes content is a pretty strong argument - a Windows device with Apple multimedia.
Microsoft's own online store may not profit from this but I'm sure Microsoft wouldn't completely say "no" against consumers buying a Windows 8 tablet but getting their content elsewhere. The question in the end is, will Apple prevent Windows 8 tablets from running iTunes? Considering that Apple Macbooks advertise support for Windows Operating Systems, I think there's no reason the Surface Tablet should advertise iTunes support as well.
Ever since Windows 2000, there have been plenty of developers who have worked on skinning the default Windows desktop. Windows 7, with its slick interface, didn't receive as much attention, but considering the divided opinion towards Windows Metro, developers will have a field day releasing various utilities to modify the colourful UI that has alienated so many users. Considering that there are a ton of users out there who are experts at fiddling around with the Windows registry, I wouldn't be surprised if Windows 8 tablets will be hacked as much as Kinect. I've had an iPod Touch for less than a year and I change my wallpaper every day just to keep myself from getting annoyed with how it looks.
Although many sources are against the idea of Microsoft providing a full-OS to a tablet (an argument I myself wonder about), a high-end tablet with plenty of RAM and an Ivy Bridge processor can possibly run virtual machines. The brilliant folks over at VirtualBox and VMWare probably have a solution to this already. I certainly wouldn't mind switching back and forth between Fedora and Windows 8 while toting a tablet.
Microsoft Kinect and Xbox 360 Interoperability
Contrary to popular belief, Microsoft does create pretty good hardware. Zune HD was an exceptional device and no one can disagree that Xbox 360 has a market out there, with some players proudly declaring it's superior to the Sony PS3. With the right technology and software in place, the Microsoft Surface tablets can be a great accessory for the Xbox 360 and Kinect. The possibilities for applying a touchscreen device in conjunction with a well-designed XBOX 360 game are endless.
Barnes & Noble Nook and Surface
Personally, I was disappointed Microsoft didn't go for a more low-end device that focused on Microsoft's relationship with Barnes & Noble. Still, I would understand why Microsoft hit high rather than low. Although I'm partial to Android tablets, I hope Microsoft has an ace up its sleeve and pull out a device that upgrades the Nook's user experience while providing Windows 8's functionality. Nook/Surface Tablet for $175.00 sounds good to me.
One of the more compelling reasons why a Windows 8 tablet might actually sell is because of the potential for modifications and "hacks". Unlike Mac OSX, Windows has historically been a target for homemade hacks and customizations. It's too tempting not to especially since Windows 8 probably didn't stray very far from Windows 7. Microsoft Kinect's underground success as a flexible piece of hardware that goes beyond its original design is proof of this. The Microsoft Kin was poorly conceived but the Surface tablet seems like a well-thought out product that could fit in both the Xbox 360 ecosystem and the huge Windows user base out there. It's up to Microsoft to follow through and implement their technology well to avoid another failed hardware product.