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Two worlds collide with release of Windows 8

As Americans’ lives become more hectic and complicated, technology is expected to keep pace. Keeping this notion in mind, Microsoft recently launched Windows 8, a system that seeks to bring a personalized format to the traditional PC. One of the major changes heralded in this launch was the improvement of its tablet system, which includes a touch screen and a convertible body. Other upgrades feature a sleeker user interface and user-friendly applications.

According to the Microsoft News Center, CEO Steve Ballmer stated, “We have reimagined Windows and the result is a stunning lineup of new PCs. Windows 8 brings together the best of the PC and the tablet. It works perfect [sic] for work and play, and it is alive with your world.”

Although these updates seem innovative, Microsoft has been working on this technology for years. At my all-girls Catholic high school in Nebraska, sophomores through seniors were required to own or rent a laptop. Each year, the technology department strongly recommended a model to be purchased through the school, and my year had an HP tablet laptop model circa 2008. These computers were some of the earliest models for tablet systems, and although they didn’t have a touch screen, one could write with a stylus after swiveling the screen onto the keyboard.

After the initial shock of the innovative technology, the problems of the system quickly became apparent. Even for the most careful users, the flimsy hinge connecting the screen and the keyboard easily broke when converting to tablet mode. The laptop had difficulty changing screen orientations when converted to the tablet or upright position. The stylus could be fickle, and OneNote, the program that held handwritten notes and allowed stylus activity, was not very compatible with Microsoft Word and other essential software. Needless to say, my high school graduation gift was a MacBook Pro.

Several years later, Microsoft has corrected these glitches and abandoned the stylus for touch-controlled technology. Now, the laptop screen can completely separate from the keyboard, allowing a distinct boundary between those who prefer tablets and those who prefer traditional laptops. The best of both worlds is available to the pickiest of laptop users.

The tablet form for portable computers is not only creative, but also practical; it has a user-friendly and accessible interface in a form that is perfect for on-the-go businesspeople or students. If one is just using a laptop to read and complete some light writing, then the tablet form is definitely a convenient option.

However, this is not to say that traditional laptops, or even home computers, are obsolete. Extensive writing, photo editing and other daily computer activities are often incompatible, or impossible, with a tablet form. When using a tablet, one is at the mercy of a website’s ability to function smoothly on a touch screen, or one needs to find the appropriate app. Many popular websites and software programs are offering app versions, but using them requires a loss of flexibility.

Traditional laptop computers are far from becoming obsolete. Tablets and laptops offer different possibilities for a wider consumer range. In today’s economy, the American people are selective about what they are buying, and they want the most personalized product for the best price. One can only imagine how technology will transform in the next five years.

Caroline Bressman ’15 is from Omaha, Neb. She majors in English.

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