Windows 8 tablets like the Microsoft Surface are great for all ages

Christmas is the perfect time to show your family the latest tech and find out what they think. So yesterday, I sat down with my grandfather and pulled out my Microsoft Surface with Windows RT tablet. I’d shown him Windows 8 on a laptop while it was in the pre-release phase, but this was the first time I’d seen him since the OS – and the tablet – hit the market on October 26.

Based on past experience, I wasn’t sure how he’d react. He loves technology, but he hasn’t followed the tech industry for a few years and, as a result, has gotten pretty far behind. Additionally, he hasn’t always been too excited about some newer software updates and he isn’t afraid to voice his opinion. So part of me was surprised when he couldn’t stop raving about the Surface.

Windows 8 is, in many ways, a big change. It’s arguably the biggest update to Windows since Windows 95, bringing with it a whole new interface and ushering in a new era of laptop/tablet hybrids. While there is a slight learning curve, my grandfather mastered it quickly and was soon navigating the new interface with ease. What really impressed him, however, was that it worked great both as a tablet and as a traditional laptop. He’d been thinking about getting a tablet for some time now, but he didn’t want to give up his traditional desktop applications. While they won’t run on the Surface with Windows RT, the upcoming Surface with Windows 8 Pro will support them. After spending a little while with the Surface and discussing the differences between the models, he quickly decided to pick up a Surface Pro when it’s released next month.

Touchscreens can be difficult for some people to use, since their fingers will often accidentally move or bump something. But the experience is still, in many ways, superior to a mouse and keyboard for people like my grandfather. Of course, when he needs the finer control provided by a mouse and keyboard, it’s right there waiting for him. The Surface’s kickstand, too, proved to be a huge bonus, since he didn’t have to hold the device the entire time. At one point, I had him switch to an ASUS VivoTab RT tablet (check back soon for our review) for a few minutes, and he immediately complained about the lack of a kickstand.

Many people have said that the experience of switching between the new interface and the traditional desktop can be jarring, but my grandfather seemed to transition effortlessly. He loved having the desktop for programs like Access and AutoCAD, but he really enjoyed the new app experience as well, particularly Weather and News. No, seriously, he probably spent a good hour checking the weather back home.

In the end, he actually ended up calling other friends and family members over so he could show them the tablet and apps, and spent time demoing them without any involvement on my part. The fact that he was able to quickly pick it up well enough to teach someone else is telling. Yes, Windows 8 is a big change, but it’s actually a good one. Best of all, it works for all ages and use cases, from kids to seniors and students to business professions. And if you’re a power user, here are some tips on how to make Windows 8 “not suck.”

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William Devereux

William Devereux is the former Microsoft editor at Pocketables, as well as a Microsoft MVP and SkyDrive/Outlook.com Insider. As his title implies, he wrote about all things from Redmond, including Windows 8 and Windows Phone. He is currently carrying a Windows Phone 8X by HTC and a Microsoft Surface with Windows RT tablet.