Sixth in a Series
If there is one universal need with the internet, it is search. Search engines have come and gone and Google was able to build an empire on it. So it is no surprise that search is present on tablets. In today’s battle between tablets, I look at search.
How do you use search on a tablet? Do you find you use it more often than on a desktop/laptop or is your tablet your computer? Your phone might even be where you conduct your searches but either way you look at it, search is an important part of using a tablet, so let’s see how they compare.
To compare results I searched using movies, music and natural language. I felt these choices gave a good overall view on how search works on each device.
You can access Search a couple of different ways. Swipe from the right (in any app or at Start Screen) and hit the charm or hit the magnifying glass icon on the Start Screen (if you have a keyboard attached you can use Winkey + S). It never remains too far away from access.
By default it searches Everywhere (includes web)– or you may narrow your search to the computer (files, settings), web images or web video. As you are typing, Windows auto-completes so it can be used to launch apps or other files directly from this side pane.
Try a search for movie information, hit enter, and depending on the movie a specialized view takes over the screen. You get local matches, Wikipedia, best match website, images, videos, store apps and then lesser matches.
Some sections have headings through which you can view more matches like apps, videos and images. The browser (IE) opens for web links and videos and images are displayed with Search. Windows allows for infinite scroll so no need to have to wait for a new page to load to see more results.
However search for a musical artist and you get a different view. You get local info and then band/artist info from Wikipedia and a selection of music. It lists a selection of songs and offers to play them and it will launch the music app (Xbox Music) to play them.
Finally, I gave it the natural language test. I asked “where is the nearest Microsoft store?” (there is one about an hour away from me) and the results were just normal web search results, no map, no suggestion that one was nearby. I also asked it “what is the weather for tomorrow?”, it couldn’t tell me, it just showed me the weather presently.
Accessing search on Android is like part of its DNA, it is right in your face. There is a widget always at the top to use when in portrait and in landscape to the right there is a “g” and microphone to launch it. I added an additional widget in the screenshot so you could get an idea of the portrait widget (just normally don’t need it in landscape).
Annoyingly you can’t type right in the widget (either the always present one in portrait or the added one in landscape). You always must launch the search app. Additionally there are no choices to separate content searches like in Windows. True there is no desktop but being able to search settings like you can in Windows is a terrific feature.
Typing in your search, Google also provides auto-complete but you won’t be able to launch apps (like Windows) from it, this is strictly for searching the web. Only 3 possible matches were ever shown, where Windows showed more (though most hidden by keyboard).
The movie results divided similarly to Windows, with the main website match, a Wikipedia entry, images and then various other matches. It does not provide infinite scroll, so you’ll have to hit Next to continue to more results. Images open within the search app (just like Windows) and other links open in the browser (or videos can open in the YouTube app).
If you prefer a musical search, it isn’t too different from a movie search. The results do provide a listing of some songs but provide no option to play them. Even when clicked on I couldn’t hear a sample. I’m not sure why they aren’t linked to Google Music of all places! Google does provide a link to a YouTube clip but that opens a separate app.
Google though excels with natural language. Ask it where the nearest Microsoft store is and it shows a map, even prompting to open up the map app to give directions. If I ask it about the weather tomorrow, it shows me the forecast for tomorrow. Not only does it provide more useful results, but you can use the microphone to speak your request rather than type.
Note: Windows at some point will be updated with Cortana, which aims to provide better results to natural language, context of request and using your voice.
One area where Google lags is apps. It will provide app information in the search but doesn’t know what I already own and will not launch it from the search, so local device search is not present.
Search results are fairly similar for both with Windows doing a better job showing local content (partly due to its PC roots) and it is a step above for media searches. While you can easily access both searches on their respective devices, only Windows is available from within all apps as well (even if that app doesn’t allow you to search itself). Windows does lack the voice search and does not properly handle natural language searches at this time. Google’s results more closely resemble what any browser will show you and both handle images well though were uneven with other media.
Despite Windows having better looking and more complete or useful (opening apps) results, Android moves ahead due to natural language recognition. On the go having this “smart” search can really come in handy.
Cortana could even the playing field, but today the winner is Android.
Windows 2 Android 3
Next up: Store Part 1
Devices used in comparison
Asus Vivotab Smart: Windows 8.1 Update 1, 10.1” screen 1366×768, microsd slot, micro hdmi, micro USB, 2mp front camera, 8mp rear camera w/flash, 64GB storage, 2GB RAM, NFC, 2in1 audio jack.
Nexus 7 (original): Android KitKat 4.4.2, 7” screen 1280×800, micro USB, 1.2 mp front camera, 8GB storage, 1GB RAM, NFC, headphone jack