Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Surface: Why CIOs think it's a real iPad challenger

Finally, the iPad has a real rival in Microsoft's Surface - the buzz around Microsoft's new tablet is strong "even among iPad users", according to TechRepublic's CIO Jury.

Microsoft's Surface tablet will be the first genuine rival to the iPad, creating as much excitement among enterprise users as Apple's tablet did when it first arrived.

Microsoft recently unveiled its Surface tablet, which will run Windows 8 and is expected to be on sale later this year. It's unusual for Microsoft to build its own hardware, so development of the Surface is a reflection of the importance that Microsoft puts on the tablet market - and the difficulty that Apple's rivals have had in countering the success of the iPad.

And it could be that the Surface will be the first tablet to give the iPad a proper run for its money, because when asked, "Will Microsoft's Surface tablet provide a real alternative to the iPad?" the TechRepublic CIO Jury responded yes by 10 votes to two.

Tim Stiles, CIO at Bremerton Housing Authority, said Microsoft's entry into the market represents "tremendous promise" for corporate IT. "The buzz, even among corporate iPad users, is very strong," he said, while Kevin Leypoldt, IS director at Structural Integrity Associates, said: "I can say with confidence that we are very much looking forward to a tablet that has a fully-fledged Microsoft office suite available. From an enterprise perspective this has been the one of the few missing pieces in the tablet market."

Jeff Canon, CIO of Fire and Life Safety America, said he was getting as many requests for the Surface as he got for the iPad when it first came out. "Users seem to be excited for the product… as long as it performs as well as demonstrated," he said.

The Surface will answer a lot of the concerns that corporates have with Apple products in the enterprise, said Adam Gerrard, CTO at Laterooms.com, who argued that from both a business and consumer perspective, the Surface will complete a strong product line-up that will challenge Apple's dominance.

"Having a consistent interface on your phone, tablet, desktop and even TV and games machine with the Xbox, suddenly puts Microsoft back into the market as a major player after a long time without an answer to the mobility solutions on offer from Apple and Google," he said.

Many IT organisations have been reluctantly supporting iPads until now, and so a successful Windows tablet would be welcomed by many as a way of providing an alternative tablet device that fits their existing computing infrastructure.

As Matthew Metcalf, director of IS, Northwest Exterminating, put it: "Do not underestimate Microsoft's entrenchment in the enterprise and the level of frustration IS professionals have with some of Apple's 'integrations' to the enterprise."

Scott Kerr, head of IT at Scotmid, said success will depend wholly on the user experience and how well it integrates into other Windows operating systems, adding "We are looking at the Surface tablets to deliver a seamless experience for business users across phones, desktops and tablets. Something the iPad doesn't do."

Ben Denison, CIO at the Bar Council, said the Surface will be attractive to business, because the interface will be more familiar, but he added: "I'm not parting with my iPad, though...".

Madhushan Gokool, IT manager at Storm Models, said: "The tablet and smartphone markets definitely need a bit of a shake-up and I think [the Surface] is in with a fighting chance."

But Graham Yellowley CTO of equities, risk and client service at LCH Clearnet, said while the Surface tablet looks pretty and the kick-stand is a good idea, there is still a question mark over apps: "Will Microsoft be able to build a wealth of apps in time for launch and a mechanism to distribute them easily which could entice other users? Personally, I think it is too little too late. Apple have the market."

This week's CIO Jury is:

  • Shaun Beighle, CIO at the International Republican Institute
  • Jeff Canon, CIO of Fire and Life Safety America
  • Ben Denison, CIO at The Bar Council
  • Adam Gerrard, CTO at Laterooms.com
  • Madhushan Gokool, IT manager at Storm Models
  • Scott Kerr, head of IT Scotmid
  • Kevin Leypoldt, IS director at Structural Integrity Associates
  • Matthew Metcalf, director of IS, Northwest Exterminating
  • Joel Robertson, CIO at King College.
  • Tim Stiles, CIO at Bremerton Housing Authority
  • Richard Storey, head of IT at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust
  • Graham Yellowley, CTO of equities, risk and client service at LCH Clearnet

Other members of the CIO Jury group made their opinions heard. Kevin Fitzpatrick, CIO at Sodexo Northern Europe, pointed to the scale of Microsoft: "With the huge installed base and familiarity of Windows in both business and personal markets, this will be the iPad's largest threat to date.

"Apple sells on style, design, ease of use and brand - it's the IT fashion icon at the moment. Microsoft trumps Apple on ease of use because everyone on the planet with a computer either is or has been a user. If the design is right, the market is huge - the world's largest apps library is already there."

Afonso Caetano, CIO at J Macêdo in Brazil, said: "I believe that the Microsoft Surface will be used for corporate solutions, as that has been the profile of new products launched by Microsoft in recent years. The iPad will still reign alone over the next two to three years."

However, other tech chiefs were less convinced by the Surface. Tom Galbraith, director of IT at the US District Court, said unseating the iPad is a formidable challenge: "Even if there is a compelling differentiating factor that Surface offers, Apple's first-mover advantage and their position as the standard by which all others are measured certainly tilts the odds in Apple's direction."

Brian Stanek, VP of IT at Namico, sounded a note of caution, as Microsoft's intention to offer the Surface with two different operating systems adds complexity.

"Microsoft likes their different flavours of Windows. I think one of the strong advantages that Apple has over Microsoft is the concept of a single operating system over all mobile devices. And you can upgrade for the most part without purchasing a new tablet."

He added: "Microsoft announced that the current Windows phone users cannot migrate to Windows 8 and now there are two versions of Surface devices. Will they be compatible? Will they be upgradable in the long run? If I purchase a Surface and Microsoft comes out with Windows 9, will I toss the tablets?"

He said that at least with the iPad, he can skip a release or two. "While there seems to be a lot of good in the Surface, and it would be more compatible with our Microsoft laptops, for now I will still suggest the iPad," he said.

And Scott Klauminzer, director of IT and security at Hacker Group, said: there are unanswered questions: "The Surface platform appears compelling, but the key issue they will need to solve is how this device will fit in with the enterprise platforms currently in place, laptops and desktop computers. If this is meant as an iPad competitor, then it must have a dead simple way to interact with the user's main system. How users get content onto the Surface will be the key."

Smith C Scott, director of technology at 32Ten Studios, said: "It will be years till the software is there for the functionality. Windows might help it integrate better, but I don't think that will be enough," while Edward Beck, vice president of IT for Line 6, said the Surface will provide another alternative for those seeking better Microsoft Office and related integration.

He added: "Unfortunately it may also mean driving upgrade requirements for other Microsoft Office users to get full operability. Some people will gravitate to these naturally, but the ecosystem for apps and other goodies will need to ramp up fast."

Want to be part of TechRepublic's CIO Jury and have your say on the hot issues for IT decision-makers? If you are a CIO, CTO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company, working in the private sector or in government, and you want to join TechRepublic's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should, then get in contact.

Either click the Contact link below or email me, steve dot ranger at techrepublic dot com, and send your name, title, company, location, and email address.

About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.

32 comments
neldeeb
neldeeb

Glad to shut-up all those microsofties :)

neldeeb
neldeeb

I always go for the original. MS simply dismantled a laptop and made it generally look like an iPad :)

Knighthawk5193@Yahoo.com
Knighthawk5193@Yahoo.com

Personaly I don't subscribe to the notion that Microsoft, with all it's "software building" skills have all of a sudden, and magically become somehow endowed with the ability to build a tablet. Its not a question of if they CAN....but more a question of if they SHOULD. Microsoft has been, and always WILL be known for software,......buggy, quirky, broken software, but software nonetheless, the few "hardware" devices they've built, (and even some of those are outsourced to other places!) cannot be put on the same playing field as the Samsungs, HO's Hitachi's and Apples out there. The only hardware I've known to come from them besides the XBox would be the few "Microsoft" keyboards and mice.....now they're just going to "build" a tablet and it's going to be on the same level as Aple?....maybe even give them some form of competition? I'm sorry.,...I just don't see it happening. If anything Microsoft will make a decent showing, but I don't think they're set to pounce on any serously sized market share of the tablet community.

neldeeb
neldeeb

Surface is, after all, and like Android tablets, just an immitation of the iPad. No innovations. Clumsy software. No proper apps market or across-the-board infa-structure. All those IT people who still live in a Microsoft world are simply missing the point: Microsoft means low quality, compared to Apple products, and innovations-wise, is, now, very far behind. The problem, itself, is, in-fact, in MS's infra-structure and culture as a company. Both cannot produce strong and innovative products!

instinctive
instinctive

You mean, its sales performance should be roughly equivalent to the number of Internet Explorer crashes per keynote, or what exactly? I wonder, did any of this enthusiastic press people ever watch the keynote or spend a second thought, or are they all "bought" (as Apple is often accused of)?

omg.itlead
omg.itlead

Whatever became of being independent of the platform? One device should be as good as another and all should operate within standards.

Catz122
Catz122

If I were a CIO mentioned in this article with a quote talking about how a tablet that can run office is a major competitor to the iPad, I would be embarrassed. I hope the CEO's of the companies represented are watching this because I would certainly question the Chief of my technology if he takes this ignorant of a stance. The installed base of apps and media make this a VERY difficult game for Microsoft to continue to compete in. Also, has anyone tried Windows 8? It stinks. Which makes the promise that you can use a stinky OS across all of your devices even more stinky. You can use office programs for free off the internet. Google docs does a fine job at getting all of your office work done. Even Microsoft lets you access the office programs for free online. What does the surface offer that supports this in a different way? A keyboard? The iPad has those and if you really need that then get a laptop. I am not seeing it. Really.

smckenna
smckenna

Sounds about right. Pick the tool that makes it more difficult to do your jobs. I hate CIOs that think they know what there people do, what tools they need, as opposed to what they have asked for. A few years ago our group of SAs had a meeting to decide on which of 2 competeing doc tools we should settle on. (all were home grown because, of course, the corporation didn't provide anything). After we decided on one, our CIO came along and nixed the idea and gave us some awful VB application that never worked right.

mkottman
mkottman

Sound familiar? While the Surface certainly has some intriguing attributes, there are too many unknowns to crown it as the next coming. Here's a few concerns until we have more details; - Price - Battery life - App pricing - Compatibility with legacy applications - App availability

neil.postlethwaite
neil.postlethwaite

What do CIO's know, other than how to brown-nose their way to the top. Ker-ching.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Multiple manufacturers released tablets running a tablet-optimized version of XP years before the iPad was a ink stain on Steve's drawing board. I'm not saying they were very good, but they predated your 'original' iPad. The apps store isn't even original; it's a variation on Linux' repositories.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

MS has had great luck with peripherals, but those are just rebranded by the original manufacturers. I don't know about getting into the hardware business on this scale. Xbox seems to work okay now, but it took them a couple of years / revisions to get that right. Maybe Surface is like any other MS product: wait until the first Service Pack...

matthew_maurice
matthew_maurice

Or the incredibly successful Kin? How can you doubt Microsoft's hardware prowess? Why, in 15 years, the Xbox has only lost about 7.7 billion dollars. Microsoft has proven again and again that it can conceive, design, and market innovative, profitable products to both the consumer and enterprise, just look at the Courier. [/sarcasm]

fhrivers
fhrivers

Microsoft has had ten years of building a successful hardware platform. Look at the Xbox and Xbox 360 the latter of which is the sales leader in North America among dedicated gaming consoles.

Slayer_
Slayer_

With the red ring of death

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If you're looking to run this in a corporate environment, it's important that it run the Windows-based apps your company has already developed or purchased. The ability to run applications developed for other Windows systems outweighs the limited ability to run apps developed exclusively for tablets. I am definitely NOT saying this is (or is not) a superior product, or that there's anything new about it. But it looks like it will better meet the needs of corporate, Windows-centric IT shops better than previous alternatives.

AudeKhatru
AudeKhatru

What I saw was a tablet that makes the iPad look like last year's news. It looked better than any iPad. The kickstand and the TouchCover are major innovations that put it out beyond the iPad, and Windows 8 is anything but clumsy, which anyone who uses it will tell you. Try putting down your cup of Kool-Aid and take off the Apple shaped glasses and what you will see is Microsoft leading the way and Apple trailing behind. I cannot wait for the next iPad, when Apple will copy the features of Surface and all the fanboys will talk about how revolutionary it is.

AudeKhatru
AudeKhatru

I watched the Keynote and I don't know what you are talking about. I saw on Surface fail in one operation. In case you couldn't see it, Sinofsky was trying to pull down the top "tab" bar in IE and it didn't work. The OS did not blue screen or show any major problem. He was in the middle of a major presentation and rather than figure out what was going on, he grabbed another unit to continue the presentation. I didn't see any other crashes, either IE or anything else. Seems like you are the one who is bought (by Apple) who fails to give a first thought.

AudeKhatru
AudeKhatru

That is the point. YOU are not seeing it. It is there, and these CIOs do see it. It is there to be seen. The free apps cannot replace Microsoft Office. The paid version of Google docs may be a rival for Office 365, but lots of people want Office locally, and MS can offer that. Honestly, I have yet to meet anyone who thinks Windows 8 stinks who has given it a real chance. Now, you haven't said why you think it stinks, but each time I read the whys offered for why it stinks, what I see is someone who did not give it a chance. It runs great on my portable. I set up a dual boot with Windows 7, but I don't use Windows 7 anymore....ever. Windows 8 is that good. Windows Vista drivers work correctly in Windows 8, so no worries about incompatible hardware, if it works in Windows Vista, or it works in Windows 7 it will work in Windows 8. I actually use the online Office apps a lot. I like the convenience of saving everything on SkyDrive, but I cannot imagine actually asking anyone to use them for real work. They just aren't there yet. There are questions still to be answered about Windows 8/RT and Surface/ Pro, but nothing you bring up is among those questions. Surface Pro is going to give you a full Windows PC in the same form factor as the iPad (at least the new one, thanks Apple), but it will run the apps you already know. Yes, it will cost more than an iPad, but you will be getting more than an iPad...in every way. Apple can brag about how many apps they have, but it doesn't really compare to the number of Windows applications and they will all run on the Surface Pro. I don't know if Surface and Windows 8/RT are going to be a big hit, but they do provide a better option for IT.

l_creech
l_creech

Runs very well currently on my Samsung XE700T1A Slate, much better in fact than Windows 7 does. That said, I'll wait and see what the final release looks like before I decide on any upgrades for my collection of devices as I don't care for Metro on my workstations (they may well stay at Windows 7) even with touch capable monitors. As for the CIO's embarrassment, I'd be more embarrassed if I wasn't at least weighing the pros/cons now with plans to do hands on testing as soon as reasonably possible among a variety of my mobile user base.

fhrivers
fhrivers

Surface Pro will be x86 so "apps" and compatibility won't ever be a problem and it's enterprise so if productivity depends on an app, the price doesn't matter. These companies spend tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands on MS software licenses anyways. Surface Pro will absolutely blow up in hospitals where they'll replace carts and bulky Windows laptops.

AudeKhatru
AudeKhatru

Price? We know the price at least roughly. Surface with Windows RT, same price as a similar spec iPad. Surface Pro with Windows 8, same price as a similar spec ultrabook. Personally, I think you can take that to the bank. App Pricing & Availability - this is only an issue for Metro apps, so this is only a concern for Windows RT and Surface. Windows 8 and Surface Pro run all of your Windows applications and you know how much they cost. I have yet to find any Windows application that does not run on Windows 8. So, this also removes any questions about compatibility with legacy applications. If it runs on Win7 it will run on Win8. That only leaves us with one question, battery life, and I agree that is a question mark, and a big one. To have a real shot at the iPad, I think that Surface with Windows RT has to match the iPad's battery life. Surface Pro may not need to match it, but it will have to put in a pretty good day's work without a recharge, say 6 hours minimum. I'd look at the ultrabooks for comparison, and I haven't looked at their real battery life.

trevor
trevor

Valid questions but comparing the motorola zoom to the surface is irrational. You might as well compare the surface to the kindle fire. The ARM version can be compared to other tablets but the intel version is the one that will be the real competition in the first year. The arm version will likely suffer from a lack of great metro apps and feel more consumer oriented. The intel version will be sought after, and potentially recommended, by IT professionals that support a mobile workforce and can leverage "Compatibility with legacy applications". Since it's full windows 8 and not a gimpy kneecapped tablet OS. Sure, battery life is a concern, but it is one that many of us have learned to live with with laptops, because sometimes being productive takes a little extra energy. I'll put out the energy to find someplace to charge devices that make me money.

neldeeb
neldeeb

Let me simplify it for you. When I say "I follow the original" I ONVIOUSLY mean THE ORIGINAL SUCCESS, of course, i.e. THE iPad.

matthew_maurice
matthew_maurice

Entertainment and Devices Division showed losses for years, including a multibillion dollar charge for the aforementioned red ring of death debacle. And yes, while that unit shows a profit fairly regularly, if you take the time value of the money Microsoft has spent on Xbox, it probably could have made a greater profit by putting it in T-bills.

matthew_maurice
matthew_maurice

Why don't you go out and get that "tablet that makes the iPad look like last year's news"? Oh, that's right it's not available, and won't be for months and months. In fact, we don't even know how many months it will not be available for. But hey, at least you can budget for it in next year's accounting. Oh wait, you can't do that either, since you don't have a price for it, except for a vague promise of it being "comparable" to something else. You say that you "cannot wait for the next iPad", but you're totally content to wait (likely as long) for a Surface Pro? OK, so your glasses are Microsoft-tinted. Get off your high horse, and enjoy your vaporware.

instinctive
instinctive

You'd have to agree that opening Internet Explorer was the "major milestone" he had to do in his presentation, and that's what's failed. It also doesn't matter if the OS blue screened, green screened or red screened: The fact remains that the device was completely out of control for "the" Windows expert on the planet, so completely out of control that even after like 20 attempts to fix it, he had to grab a backup unit in an embarassing manner. If that's not a "major problem", what is?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Honestly, I have yet to meet anyone who thinks Windows 8 stinks who has given it a real chance." I think it stinks on a desktop or laptop, the systems I use There's too much to relearn, and not enough benefits in return. However, I easily see how it would be a good OS on a tablet, the platform MS clearly had in mind when developing it. And we agree that the apps available for Apple and Android tablets aren't what these CIOs are looking for.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We've already had our hands on the Zoom; no one in the 'real world' has seen a Surface yet.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Your posts speak for themselves. I learned much from them.