10/26/2012 – A day that will live on in my mind as one of the most important dates in computing history. This date signified the release of the Microsoft Surface to the general public. A device, some would say, as being too late to the tablet party. A device, I say, that has ended the party as we know it (the iPad) and started its own 24/7/365 ballet of death for the rest of the tablet market.
For years people have been buying iPads in the hopes of being able to use it as a laptop replacement. Some users are able to make that happen and with a specific collection of apps even enjoy using the iPad that way. It has been my experience though that most people experience a very rude awakening when they realize that the iPad struggles to replicate some very basic functions we take for granted on our laptops. Most would argue that the iPad and other tablets like it were never designed to be laptop replacements. Honestly, that is OK with me. They were never billed that way by their makers, but it was the consumers themselves that bestowed that want on a device that never was really supposed to fill that role. The iPad and its Android tablet brethren were meant to provide a “mobile” experience. Something similar to what you’d get on a Smartphone but with more computing horsepower and a larger screen. It’s great for consuming media, reading documents, answering quick e-mails, and playing a quick game involving a bird or 2. Apple was the first to market this type of device and they were successful because they built a solid product. I tip my hat to them for this accomplishment but in reality it was never something I was really interested in.
Microsoft invented the idea of the “tablet”. I remember my Junior year of college (2003) when I saw my first Windows XP tablet. It was an LCD screen with a stylus running a special version of Windows XP. It wasn’t very pretty or very intuitive. Microsoft had the right hardware behind their tablet, but their OS (software) was all wrong. It would take roughly 6 more years before someone realized that a full blown desktop OS was not what the tablet market needed. It needed its own beast, something light weight, easy on the battery, something graphical, and easy to use. Fast forward to today…
The Surface runs Windows 8 RT a special version of Windows 8 designed to run on ARM processor devices. ARM processors show up in most of today’s popular tablets and smartphones. This is because of their excellent processing capabilities and small power consumption footprints; efficiency at its finest. Windows 8 itself is the new OS Microsoft has released which is based not upon the traditional start button and desktop concept but on a concept based around titles and touch screens. It is the convergence of the mobile, desktop, & laptop computing spaces, the first OS of its kind to do so. (Other competing OSes have taken an intermediary step before complete convergence.) Gone are the days of having to click through an endless string of folders to find your programs. Instead everything is in front of you waiting to be touched and slid around like that impressive computer Tom Cruise uses in the Minority Report.
The Surface is the type of device that plays to the strengths of Windows 8. Windows 8 was almost built specifically for it and devices like it. The Surface is capable of consuming media just as well as its counter parts. Books, movies, games, and the likes all have a place on the Surface and the Surface handles them just as well if not better than the competition. The true innovation of the Surface that sets it apart from EVERYTHING ELSE is the fact that CONTENT CAN BE CREATED on it, just like you can create on a laptop. Advanced word processing, advanced statistical spreadsheet use, fully animated presentations, and much more are all able to be created on the Surface. No other tablet or mobile device can make that claim. No other device has been built around the idea of being a capable laptop replacement. The Surface is the fully realized vision of a hyper-mobile laptop and tablet in one.
The build quality of this device is solid. It’s like a sleek and sexy steel tank. The screen is bright and beautiful; showing off Windows 8′s colors wonderfully. It also shows off HD video beautifully. It’s no iPad Retina Display but it excels with what it has. The battery life on this device is also excellent. I have been able to leave it on for days on end without having to charge it. I think it’s safe to say that this is the first tablet to truly come close to the battery prowess of the iPad. Other tablets I’ve owned were lucky to still have enough charge after 3-4 hours on standby let alone multiple days. This is a huge selling point for me. It also has USB port, MicroSD slot, external display ports, and Bluetooth. Want to hook up a mouse to this thing? No problem. Wired keyboard? Go for it. Need to increase your storage? Drop in your favorite MicroSD and you’re good to go. Feel like doing some video conference calls? No sweat. Need to create some pivot tables in Excel? Go for it nerd. I challenge you to find ANY other tablet that can do ALL of this. Do it quickly. Do it reliably. Do it the way you want it to.
The Surface is THE FUTURE of computing. Some might say it is a hampered device because its limited to software from the new Windows Store. I say that is really on the individual user to decide. But all in all when Microsoft releases its Pro model, which will be based on a traditional Intel i5 processor, and is capable of running all legacy Windows software then maybe the rest of the world will see the genius that is the Surface and fully embrace this platform. Until then, I’ll take great pride in knowing that Microsoft has returned to their innovative roots and is, for the first time ever, making its own computing hardware.
Microsoft is back whether you like it or not and chances are if you give them a shot you’ll see how amazing these new innovations are. If you agree that the Surface is truly innovative, then maybe, just maybe, you’ll trade in your iPad for one…