Saturday, November 3, 2012

Windows 8 – Seventh Pass: The Surface Tablet

For many reasons I’m very interested in the new Surface tablet from Microsoft – that runs Windows 8. This device could perhaps be my dream device. A tablet that can do everything my laptop can do and allows me to dock it at work and at home to use my peripherals but also travel with all my stuff without the need to carry a bulky laptop.

Early reviews are good but the sequence Microsoft is using to deploy the Surface seems to be derailing a bit of the momentum.

The Surface you can by now is the RT version, or Run Time version. This runs on a processor that requires applications to be specifically designed for it. Microsoft says their App Store now has 50,000 apps that will run on the Surface RT. While that may appear to be good news, it really isn’t. For me the issue is can it do everything my laptop can do?

The RT version may have some apps but it is missing several key things. It can’t run Office right now, there is no RT version. You can get to your Exchange mail using the Mail app for the Start Screen but it isn’t Outlook. While there is a version of One Note that works well on the Start Screen it won’t run the current desktop version. It also can’t run Photoshop.

For some this isn’t a deal breaker but in order to replace my laptop it needs to do what my laptop can do. The bad news is right now it can’t, the good news is in January they will release a version that can. The January version, called the Surface Pro, runs on an Intel chip and can do everything Windows 8 on a desktop or laptop can do. The challenge will be whether or not it is powerful enough to pull that off in ways that doesn't make me miss my laptop.

I’ve talked with several developers and others using the Surface RT and they like it. I’m sure for some it will work fine, but for me, in order to replace my laptop and iPad it has to do everything they can do and then some. Will the lack of a Retina display be noticeable? Will it be fast enough? Will the touch keyboard cover be an adequate replacement for my laptop keyboard? Will there be wireless accessories for it?

If the stars align, it may just be the ticket and may just be the only way Windows 8 can show some relevance. If so then Microsoft just has to convince everyone that doesn’t own a Surface that designing Windows 8 around the Surface doesn’t hinder it being used effectively on your current laptop or desktop.