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I am new to the tablet market, but i am trying to learn more. Are any current tablets capable of running programming software such as Visual Studio? I understand they'd have to come up with some kind of streamlined version, but I can imagine the programmers out there excited about the possibility.

Does anything like that already exist, or are there rumors of it being available in the near future?

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Tablet programming belongs to the field of embedded software development: the tablet is a target and you have another computer connected to the tablet and playing the role of host: with IDE able to debug programs running on target. – mouviciel Nov 29 '12 at 16:56

10 Answers 10

up vote 19 down vote accepted

To be honest I think the tablet form factor would make for a very poor development environment.

Screens tend to be small, keyboards are virtual (and if you're carrying a physical keyboard too then why not just carry a laptop and be done), there's no mouse (yes there's a touch screen but think about precision and movement of your hand up to the screen continuously) and they're under powered by laptop / desktop standards.

Maybe that will change one day but for now I'd stick to a desktop / laptop for development and look at tablets for more casual use, media consumption and creative tasks they're more suited to.

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Agreed. A development environment requires more than an IDE; a comfortable keyboard is pretty much a must for me. I could see getting a tablet just to install Emacs and OpenSSH to do some quick and dirty server admin while I'm on the road, but at that point why not just use an iPhone? It can pull the same tricks (once jailbroken) and it doesn't require a laptop bag. – Inaimathi Nov 12 '10 at 12:27
I have my eyes on a Surface Pro so I can use it to develop in a pinch (but mostly as a tablet). Then again, the surface pro is a laptop as far as this discussion is concerned. Also, Microsoft TouchDevelop looks pretty neat. – David Cowden Nov 30 '12 at 6:11
To try out simple examples when reading programming books in tablets, is enough. – Vigneshwaran Nov 30 '12 at 6:29

So long as they have enough RAM and disk space, any tablet running a regular desktop copy of Windows (ie, not Windows CE) will be able to run Visual Studio. There's tons of them, and they've been around for years. You'll want some sort of external keyboard of course, unless you get one of the more fancy 'convertable' laptops.

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A tablet running a Desktop OS has proven wrong for decades. That's why tablets never had mass success until Apple lauched a tablet with as OS specially designed for tablets. Also a tablet with a phisical KB, a mouse and a desktop OS is a laptop. And that's why Surface sales have been "modest" (Ballmer dixit). Don't ask a tablet do the job of a laptop. – Tulains Córdova Nov 29 '12 at 16:37
Ignoring for a moment that you're commenting on a 2 year old post, long pre-dating the surface tablet. The question is if a tablet could run something like VS. The answer is yes, any tablet that runs a compatible version of Windows can run VS. The question was not whether such a setup is ideal, which I dont think anyone is suggesting. – GrandmasterB Nov 29 '12 at 17:07
... And the fact that some of the modern tablets have the power of last-generation desktops. The Surface Pro certainly looks to have better specs than my old machine. – Clockwork-Muse Nov 29 '12 at 22:37

For android there's a special Android IDE including code editor witth auto completion and compiler. So one could write complete Android apps on a device.

In practice I found this nice for playing with smaller changes in small to medium sized applications. Downsides are the available RAM (compiling code takes memory, Android then kills too many apps), issues with keyboard (writing code with the on screen keyboard is a pain, external keyboards all seem to have limitations, too), switching between different code files, documentation and the app being developed is annoying (you can't have multiple "windows" next to each other, task switch akes relatively long etc.

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I think it also provides a very quick start into writing "my first android app" (aka hello-world) apps, to get your toes wet. Getting Eclipse on the PC up and ready takes some time, while installing AIDE is just a click in the PlayStore. – user281377 Nov 29 '12 at 11:25
AIDE does make starting super easy - but does not stop there. I have read about entire games being written FOR Android ON an Android device. And we're just at the beginning. – Dylan Yaga Nov 29 '12 at 12:32
While doing Hello World is complicated ... there's no visual editor for a user interface so you have towrite ML by hand. On my Asus Transformer Chrome is being terminated for memory reasons while compiling, which makes it annoying to follow the tutorial, compiling and looking for the error you've made (restarting chrome takes time, it has to reload the page, you have to scroll to the correct location) and so on ... but yes, that's what i did for my "hello world" .. before i installed eclipse ;) – johannes Nov 29 '12 at 12:32

Full Windows 8 tablets will be able to execute VisualStudio. The new Surface Pro can be a good option as long as you use an external monitor and probably a proper keyboard to use it as a productive tablet.

There are other competitors that look very powerfull and productive, take a look at Sony Vaio Duo 11. It's a hybrid tablet/ultrabook that can fit perfectly for programming and using it as a tablet. I'm quite excited about using the new vaio with VisualStudio '12. However the price is a quite high and makes me wonder if I really need all those fancy stuff if in the end I'm looking for a good laptop to programm with.

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I used a Lenovo X-series convertible tablet for a couple of years. I had a docking station for it with a large monitor attached. It had enough oomph to run Visual Studio and I used it as the one place where all of my notes, etc. were. With OneNote I kept all my project notes, scanned anything hand-written into a PDF and put it in there and linked notes to Outlook messages. Software development for me is not just banging keys. There's a lot of face-to-face time and having to gather lots of information, collate it, etc. as WELL as banging out code, etc. It was a good setup given how many things I was responsible for and my need to move around. I also appreciated the tablet factor as it made it easy for me to read on an airplane. For some reason the form factor never really took off (the convertible tablet) but they are still selling updated versions. If you meant an iPad then your best bet would be to get some remote desktop software for it and remote into your development machine. Get a bluetooth keyboard and you'll have an okay if not great setup. Learn as many Visual Studio keyboard shortcuts as you can and you can hide most of the UI surroundings.

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The short answer is that yes, such a thing will be available soon.

Intel powered tablets running Windows 8 are due out next year, and will be capable of running any Windows 8 based software in both Windows 8 Style mode, and traditional desktop mode.

Therefore Visual Studio should work on these devices. Whether you'd want to though, is another question!

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Given that Squeak Smalltalk(*) runs on Android, and ViewSonic have their ViewPad 10 out, I think it's certainly doable, if you're a Squeaker or Pharo programmer.

I'm more than willing to find out, if someone wants to donate the hardware!

Oh, I forgot: Bert Freudenberg's already demonstrated EToys on the iPad, so Squeak already runs on a tablet.

(*) Squeak is its own IDE or, if you prefer, Squeak ships with an IDE.

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Given that a netbook will happily run Visual Studio (I used one a lot for about a year) I'd say yes many of the x86/WindowsXP (or above) based ones will be powerful enough. The keyboard would be an issue, but you could look a say a PsiXPDA.

Your other option could be Emacs, Mono and any stock Windows CE device. I've tried this with Java a few years back. Yes compiling hello world did take 50 minutes :)

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It's possible, but IMO, if you're running dev software on a tablet you're doing it wrong. Use the tablet as an interface to a more powerful machine elsewhere that's actually running the dev stuff. Got a powerful PC sitting on some fast Internet? Connect to that remotely from your tablet. If not, consider a cloud solution.

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Depends. What do you want to program?

There is even a Scheme IDE for Windows Phone 7.

I would stick with an convertible laptop.

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