Inking

I don’t know where to begin with this article given to us by ZDNet writer James Kendrick entitled “ThinkPad Tablet 2: Inking in Windows 8”. Armed with a Lenovo tablet PC (inspiringly named Tablet 2) and a video camera, Kendrick takes to YouTube to demonstrate the capabilities of the new tablet and, presumably, “inking”. (I have no idea what “inking” is, but surmise it’s something to do with drawing on a tablet with my fingers and a pen; à la ink on paper. I enjoy doing this already with an iPad app appropriately titled Paper.)

The article and video feel like adverts for both Lenovo and Windows 8. Starting from the point Kendrick calls the Tablet 2 “very light”, continuing past the point he exudes that the device is “very very thin” right until wrapping up with “really cool, I’m impressed with this tablet”, I don’t think Kendrick is giving readers a fair impression of what the tablet offers or how it compares to the competition.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 weighs 1.3 pounds — but Kendrick doesn’t mention the iPad Mini weighing almost exactly half that whilst discussing thickness. (The Retina iPad weighs in at 1.44 pounds.) In fact, the only time Kendrick mentions the iPad — or any other tablet — is when comparing the physical dimensions of the Tablet 2. He calls the device “very very thin” during the video. It’s 2.6mm thicker than an iPad Mini and 0.4mm thicker than a current generation iPad. Sure, it may be “very very thin” when compared to a laptop from ten years ago, but what are we comparing this device to? There is not enough context, leading the whole piece to feel skewed and lacking integrity.

Let’s get to the meat of the video. It’s clearly about “inking” — it’s in the title, after all. So, what does Kendrick think of using the included pen whilst playing with the Lenovo Tablet 2? Here are his own words, transcribed by yours truly from the video:

“A good use for this pen on Windows 8 is in the Desktop because all these controls and menus that you see are really tiny, so this makes it a very easy way to manipulate when the fingertip is just too big.”

Does it sound like Microsoft thought about people without pens? It’s worth noting here that this tablet does not ship with a pen, according to Kendrick. It’s optional. Not all Windows 8 devices will be available with pens, either. Suggesting the pen is valuable because it allows you to interact with Windows 8’s broken desktop interface is the epitome of sweeping the real issues under the carpet. Windows 8 has a lot of problems.

Kendrick finds it “odd and quite strange” that Microsoft hasn’t updated Windows Journal to support the touch UI in Windows 8. I think it’s an embarrassment to the company. Microsoft is a software giant, shipping devices without appropriate software. Kendrick sounds genuinely surprised when Windows Journal correctly recognised his handwriting. Considering the app has been around since 2002, always having been designed to be used with a pen, I’d have expected that to be a pretty nailed feature by now. Personally, I was more surprised at the ten-year-old user interface of the app: why was Journal not updated for Metro?

Windows Journal is included in Windows 8, yet Microsoft — a software company — hasn’t optimised their software to work within the UI constraints of their own operating system. Windows 8 is a clunky mismatch of touch-first elements and pointer-first elements. Styli just happen to behave more like pointers than fingers.

Microsoft is not having a great year.