Mobile OS vs. Windows 7: Mobile OOBE Wins

As Microsoft (s msft) and its partners get ready to hit the market with Windows-based tablets to compete with the iPad (s aapl), my thoughts have turned to the all-important out-of-box experience (OOBE) that will create consumer’s first impressions of such products. Tablets are different from PCs in the way they are perceived, probably due to the lack of a keyboard. The first impression is formed by taking it out of the box, turning it on and tapping away on the screen. Windows-based tablets fail miserably in this regard, while every mobile OS-based tablet I’ve tried does a great job.

This is foremost on my mind as I received an unusual tablet today (to review) and the process to get it running to evaluate properly has taken me hours. I won’t identify the product here — that will be done in a proper review — and frankly, the frustration isn’t the fault of the product. The hair-pulling has been all thanks to getting Windows 7 going.

This tablet is rare in that it runs not only Windows 7, but also Android (s goog). It’s an older version of Android (1.6) and it’s not customized for a large screen like the one on the tablet, but that’s not a shortcoming in this instance because Android is a mobile OS designed to be used on touchscreen devices like this tablet. Getting operational was a simple matter of hitting the power button and selecting Android for the boot OS. The Android tablet was running in seconds, and pretty nicely at that.

Then came the Windows side of the device. I had to select Windows in the dual-boot screen that’s part of Windows 7, and it was a show-stopper. This is a tablet, and because the touchscreen wasn’t active prior to Windows actually running, and there’s no keyboard, the simple process of hitting an arrow key to select “Windows 7” from the boot screen was impossible. Game over.

I literally had to attach a physical keyboard just to hit an arrow key to select Windows as the active OS. How many consumers are going to go to that trouble? Those that do will then be faced with the next step, the time-consuming Windows Update process to get the brand-new tablet to the current version of the OS. That was the typical one-hour download and installation of (in this case) 56 OS updates to be current.

Then came the process of downloading and installing anti-virus software so the Windows tablet wouldn’t be exposed to the dangers of the web: another 15 minutes gone by. The setup process was complicated by the fact that some of the dialog boxes with instructions extended off the bottom of screen. I couldn’t tap “OK” to keep going at times, as the button wasn’t visible. I had to hide the Windows taskbar so the button was exposed.

The first boot on each platform was extremely telling: Android  was less than 15 seconds; Windows 7 took almost two hours. These two scenarios were not unique to these platforms, and were performed on the same hardware. The tablet form is tailor-made for the mobile OS, and Windows just can’t compete with that.

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