Next week could be a big one for Microsoft, as it's rumored to show off Windows 8 tablet software for the first time. Sources tell Bloomberg that a prototype Windows tablet will be demonstrated on hardware powered by Nvidia's Tegra processor, but the most important elements, for now, will be software and user interface. Here's what I'd like to see if Microsoft does reveal its tablet strategy at the All Things Digital D9 conference next week:
The big, touchable squares that are a hallmark of Windows Phone 7 are rumored to play a role in Windows 8's tablet interface, which is great news if true. They're the most distinctive part of Microsoft's mobile operating system, and they go beyond the functionality of simple apps. For instance, Windows Phone's "Mango" update will let users jump to specific functions within an app. This is already possible with some app shortcuts in Windows 7, so I wouldn't be surprised to see similar abilities built into Windows 8 tablet tiles.
If Microsoft shows a desktop version of Office running on a tablet, it'll be a pretty disappointing demo. I want to see apps that are optimized for the touch screen, while sharing data with their desktop counterparts. For that matter, I'd like to see how Microsoft will handle the divide between tablet and desktop apps in Windows 8. If you buy one app version, will you automatically have access to the other?
Rumors have hinted at a big role for online application and data syncing in Windows 8. My hope is that it's an integral part of how apps function on Windows 8 tablets. Imagine, for instance, having all your documents on the tablet automatically backed up online, so you can access them from any other Windows device without a manual transfer, whether it's a tablet or not.
Multiple Screen Sizes (or support thereof)
Right now, 10-inch tablets are all the rage, but 7-inch tablets have their own advantages -- they're easier to hold and type on, for example, and they're great for gaming. I hope Microsoft is planning to accommodate lots of screen sizes out of the gate, even if the company doesn't show multiple pieces of hardware next week.