Microsoft Surface optimize

How Microsoft can convince me to ditch my iPad

Patrick Gray lists five requirements of the Microsoft Surface tablet before considering it over his Apple iPad.

With the recent announcement by Microsoft of its own tablet hardware, I find myself in a similar position as many iPad owners -- that is, wondering if I'll ditch my Apple iPad for a Microsoft Surface tablet once they're released. While there are still many questions around the Surface series of devices, here's what Microsoft will need to provide for me to ditch my iPad for their newest tablet offering.

How I work

It's helpful to understand how someone works before accepting their thoughts on a computing device as gospel or deeming them as an object of ridicule. For example, as someone who travels constantly, light weight and portability are major concerns for me. I spend my days interacting with a variety of computing devices that perform desktop-centric tasks (writing this article, for instance), but I also use a tablet as a digital notepad of sorts when interacting with clients. Thus, a multi-role device like Surface is very compelling.

Requirement 1: Ubiquity

A key selling point of Surface and Windows 8 is an ability to perform multiple computing roles. The new touch-centric Metro user interface is obviously geared toward tablets, and a more traditional Windows desktop lurks in the background.

From a hardware perspective, Windows devices have often worked well with docking stations, and I would demand that Surface be no different. In addition to a traditional desktop dock, the keyboard covers demonstrated by Microsoft seem to indicate Surface could also act as a thin and light laptop. If Microsoft is able to create a device that can act as a tablet, desktop, and laptop, while keeping the same settings, applications, and data, that's a huge selling point.

It's likely years off, but I envision a scenario where a Surface dock becomes as ubiquitous as Apple-compatible docks that adorn hotels around the world. It would be awesome to drop your tablet into a compatible dock at a hotel (or at a client or customer site) and work on a full-size screen and keyboard.

Requirement 2: Fast and light

The iPad changed the rules of the game for speed, size, and longevity in a tablet device -- it's usable milliseconds after hitting the power button, lasts through an entire workday, and weighs less than Atlas Shrugged. Microsoft needs to be in the same ballpark as the iPad on all these features. The devices recently previewed certainly check the size and weight boxes, and hopefully Microsoft has managed to achieve similar parity with longevity and speed.

Requirement 3: Apps

This may be Microsoft's biggest struggle with Windows 8. For the first time, there's a Windows version in the form of Windows RT that's not compatible with legacy Windows applications. From a technical standpoint, adopting ARM support seems to be a wise move on Microsoft's part, and attempting to shoehorn x86 emulation into the ARM platform might be a recipe for user frustration. From a non-technical buyer's perspective, this just adds confusion. There is hope for Microsoft on this front, demonstrated by Apple's ability to rapidly discontinue products and support for them, but Microsoft users have long been able to assume compatibility, which is no longer the case with Surface and Windows 8.

Beyond compatibility, Windows developers will finally have access to a compelling tablet platform, but they'll need to retool their applications and development mindset to the Metro interface. The thought of writing one application that can run on Windows 8 desktops and tablets is surely attractive, but it's transition that won't happen overnight.

Requirement 4: Pen input

Even with iPad-like stamina and the benefit of supporting legacy Windows applications (assuming that there's an x86 version of Surface), Microsoft's offering might not be compelling enough for me to ditch my iPad. On launch day, tablet-specific applications will likely be in shorter supply than the iPad, and the ARM version will be facing a steep uphill climb on the application front.

Facing these difficult challenges, a big differentiator for my usage would be strong pen support. A Metro makeover of Microsoft's OneNote application could be the killer digital notebook I've been yearning for and something that Apple can't quickly respond to through accessories or applications.

Requirement 5: Mobile data

One aspect of the iPad I don't frequently use but find very helpful is its treatment of mobile data. Aside from choosing among the mobile networks your iPad will support, there are no contracts, subsidies, or "lock-in" with the device. There's also an ability to sign up for a data plan right from the device on a monthly basis, without contracts or other foolishness. It's unclear if initial versions of Surface will even have mobile broadband support, but I hope they not only provide the requisite radios, but also easy access and relevant plans.

Similarly, Apple's current cloud offering is relatively weak for enterprise users, who are unlikely to be impressed by cloud music and photos. Microsoft has made strong moves in the cloud arena, and if they could deeply integrate their cloud offerings into Windows 8 and Surface, it might be another compelling and hard-to-replicate feature vs. the iPad.

Granted, it will be a few months before I can touch and feel Surface and decide if it's worth abandoning my iPad. However, we'll all be winners in the enterprise space with Microsoft once again throwing considerable resources behind tablet computing.

What features and capabilities do you require from Microsoft Surface? Share your list in the discussion thread below.

About

Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company, and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology, as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. Patrick has...

28 comments
AudeKhatru
AudeKhatru

Under Apps: ...Microsoft users have long been able to assume compatibility, which is no longer the case with Surface and Windows 8." Untrue. Windows 8 and Surface Pro will be compatible with Windows apps. Surface and Windows RT are not compatible with Windows apps. Windows RT will require Metro apps.

OldHenry
OldHenry

Doesn't a Windows Tablet need to be better than an iPad? I don't own a tablet and will likely buy a Windows or Android one with a stylus using either OneNote or its equivalent. As for no lock in on Apple, don't forget the App Store. The only way to get apps on an iPad (or music or videos for that matter) is through Apple and they get a piece of the action for all of it. That has proven to be a huge source of revenue and absolutely locks in users.

HGunter
HGunter

1 Decent amounts of storage. 64GB is inadequate. This, of course, means a disk drive, and a substantial increase in weight, but without adequate storage a machine is pretty much a toy. 2 Abitlity to drive a decent-sized monitor at the resolution the monitor actually supports, not just the resolution of the inherent screen spread over a bigger surface. 3 Ability to use an external keyboard and pointing device. 4 Ethernet port for high-speed networking. 5 Infra-red two-way interface (so it can replace my many remote control units!). 6 HDMI I/O. Pretty much, a machine that can do what a desktop does, or disconnect from peripherals and still be useful. The built-in keypad and stand are attractive, but it needs to interconnect with other devices without requiring a docking port to be carried around.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Because I wouldn't consider ditching a two-year-old, functional device that cost me several hundred dollars unless someone else was paying for the replacement.

tmmeehan
tmmeehan

I did 3 hours worth of work in an hour before leaving home this morning on an Acer IconiaTab running Windows 7 Pro. Battery life sucks but being able to enjoy my coffee and the news and knock 3 hours off my work day on a tablet with full Windows capability, including RDP to access desktops, other networks and other Exchange servers can not be beat. Absolutely handy and useful device but the battery, the way I use the tablet, is maybe 3.5 - 4.5 hours. I also would just like a bigger screen. I help a doctor purchase an Asus Eee Slate B121 (Windows 7 Pro again) and was so impressed I purchased one for my brother who travels a LOT and needed this exact type of device for working on the road. Again teh battery life isn't great but with a little bit of management and care it get's him from charge to charge. I Microsoft can better those, I'm definately a potential customer!

JJFitz
JJFitz

Requirement 1. Ubiquity I am assuming that the USB port on the Surface Pro acts like any other USB port and supports a USB laptop docking station. If so, this option already exists and could become popular in hotels. Requirement 2. Fast and light The Surface RT will probably have good battery life because it runs lightweight apps like the iPad. The Surface Pro will be more processor-intense as it supports the full feature programs we are used to on a desktop or laptop. I hope wake up from sleep is as fast on the Surface Pro as it is on Win 8 RP is on my 3 year old convertible tablet. Reboot is still reboot but it might be quicker with an ssd hd. I am also hoping for a fast RDP to my desktop where my bigger programs will remain. Requirement 3. Apps The Surface RT is mostly a consumer / media consumption device and should not be touted as an Enterprise computer. I hope people don't get confused and expect to bring them into work and expect them to work on an Enterprise network. Most IT Departments who decide to purchase a Surface will choose the Surface Pro for its AD integration and GPO support. Requirement 4. Pen input YES! I agree with you completely on this one. I use a pen on my current Android and Win 8 tablets. They are so much better than any fat spongy capacitive stylus. I use OneNote extensively on the Win 8 tablet and EverNote on the Android. The ability to take searchable handwritten notes synchronized across all of my computers is a huge plus. Requirement 5: Mobile data is not a major concern of mine. I can get away with tethering my device to my Android phone or the company MiFi.

mkottman
mkottman

A concern of mine is pricing for apps for the x86 Surface. Traditional Windows applications are an order of magnitude more expensive than the iPad apps in the App Store. That will be a major disadvantage for Surface until new, less expensive, apps are made available. That may become a chicken or the egg problem if developers wait for a market to develop and the market doesn't develop because of a lack of inexpensive apps.

pastubbs
pastubbs

I am wondering if the full blown x86 tablet will be like those XP netbook bombs. They were great when they fist came out, very light and portable, not that powerfull, but very handy (on trains, cafe's etc) However after Microsofts 'update' team got to them 'fixing' windows they slowly ground to a hault in no time flat. Will the same happen, how future proof will the new surface pro be? Or will Microsoft take a different apporach to the holes that will be found in windows 8 and actaully fix their code, rather than add a ton of extra baggage and blote them into oblivion.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

in the first place. I don't, so I won't be buying either. I suspect a very large proportion of tablet owners buy them just to have the latest gadget, not because they meet a real need.

glnz
glnz

I'm a total newbie on Apple and pads, but I'm about to return my first-ever iPad for the following reasons: 1) It doesn't have any way to look at my home network (all Windows) on wifi - there is no equivalent to Network Neighborhood or Explorer that lets me see shared home folders, use the iPad to play or work on the shared files, or copy such files into the iPad. Importing files via iTunes is a pain. 2) Apple will not play avi's. Why not? If I'm in error re the above, please let me know. In the meantime, after I return my iPad to the Apple store, please let me know if anything is ever developed that does iPad plus the above.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

ayep, the average sod will end up with a piece of incompatible garbage because the retail marketing crap from MS will NOT tell them that.

ycc
ycc

I run one note, in fact all of office 2010 pro plus on a generation II i5 processor tablet (800gms). It has hdmi, ethernet and extra usb on the dock. I use widi for big video and it's perfect. I got rid of my ipad and use this device for all work. As it is a full windows machine(64bit windows 7) I have the functionality of a full desktop. Battery life, you ask! 4 hours minimum but usually 6hrs before I need to plug in. Will I upgrade to Windows 8? Maybe, the current system (Samsung 700 T1A) is fast enough for me to develop on Excel os Access, running SQL Express. I use full Outlook including tasks and colour coded projects. I think that the suggesions here have been addressed by this system already. The only thing to add would be the metro interface if you wanted it. Oh, by the way, the touch sceen is capacative AND pressure sensitive to 1,000 levels as designed by Wacom so my signature looks reall rather than a single thickness line. NOTE: I do not work for any of these companies. This is a comment from a user of great technology. thanks fir reading Graham

JJFitz
JJFitz

so most of your requirements are addressed. I doubt you'll get #5.

JJFitz
JJFitz

Other People's Money is always nice. :)

JJFitz
JJFitz

They will have to keep the price comparable to Apple's and Android's offerings. Besides, apps are lightweight, minimal feature programs that should not be very hard to develop compared to a full featured program. So the price should reflect that.

pastubbs
pastubbs

One of my main reasons to buy, was so I could join the wife in the loungeroom rather than being stuck in the study sitting at a desk. (I tried a laptop, no good for me in the 'lap' only good on the kitchen table)

ManoaHI
ManoaHI

1. GoodReader for iPad. It can see shared folders on several places. Closest thing to a file manager on iOS. I almost never use iTunes to import files, for that I use Dropbox, SkyDrive and GoogleDrive. 2. There are a few AVI players, but not native.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Microsoft have invested so much effort in making it hard for anyone other than Windows to talk to Windows. Apple have also started to follow a similar path as they feel if Microsoft can work towards a non Industry standard total vendor lock-in, they should be able to as well. Mind you I don't use Apple either, nor do I have a iPad or tablet as I don't need one.

wcassana
wcassana

1) there are several good apps to "explore" windows pc, and share or download files between the iPad and pc , like fb(file browser) or good reader or I you wants media explorer, you can see avi , MTV, mp4, etc. The only regrets is the safary don't see flash videos, but that is a "old technique " they are changing to html5 .

alexstriganov
alexstriganov

Why don't you try a good Android tab, for example Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1? Get it from Costco, see if it will fit your needs, and return it back if it doesn't.

JJFitz
JJFitz

I am using a Fujitsu Lifebook Convertible tablet with similar specs as your Samsung. It is working great on Windows 8 too. The biggest issue is the price you pay for all of the features we have. The price keeps the average consumer away. I am hoping that the Surface Pro is priced so that the average business consumer is not scared away.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

one with short legs to sit over your legs and give a stable place to put a meal - some TV dinner trays are similar but smaller.

ManoaHI
ManoaHI

Our company is largely a Microsoft shop. I use a Mac, iPad and iPhone. I have no problem connecting to our servers, not just mail, I can access our servers so that I don't have to download files.

Greg Mix
Greg Mix

If that was the case, MS wouldn't use SMB/CIFS. Nearly every other network OS has support for CIFS. MS just hasn't gone out of their way to support other protocols. Linux distros are good about supporting many file systems and network protocols because being more in the minority, they need to fit into other environments.

tmac9182
tmac9182

Interesting... Especially in light of the fact that Apple broke SMB and FTP sharing with Windows on OSX Lion which worked in 10.3-10.6 versions. Apple does not care about interoperability unless they feel that they need it to sell their "shiny" products. Before anyone judges my motives. I own 2 iPods. a 60GB iPod classic, and a 16GB Nano. And I actually do prefer iTunes for music management. My problem with Apple is that they have a fancy GUI on an Open Source code and standard hardware (at least internally) and yet they charge a premium to sell or service it. They were still selling Core2Duo MacBook Pros for $1800 when Windows Laptops were coming with 2nd Gen i7 QuadCores for less than $1200. They are beautiful and stylish, they work well, and are completely overpriced. Are they better?... Sure. Are they 50% to 100% better (based on pricing for similar hardware)?... No. They did some good when they went to Intel chipsets and processors, but now they are going back to their proprietary hardware roots, and dictating to the public what they "need" and what they do not. I actually saw a post on the Apple Support forum that there is "NEVER" a reason for anyone to use FTP, so Apple should have gotten rid of it completely, not just made it all but impossible to configure and use. What about LAN communications with legacy apps and hardware. Apple's niche is people looking for shiny new tech that looks pretty. They are not "Business" class machines.

JJFitz
JJFitz

I modified a lapdesk that had a lift-top to accomodate a surge supressor so I could plug my laptop in when I wanted to. All of the wires easily stored inside when not in use.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Usually cushioned on the bottom with a hard surface on top. Usually 18-20" wide by 12-16" deep, often with a built-in cup holder.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

- Apple's niche is people looking for shiny new tech that looks pretty. They are not "Business" class machines. - I know many people who work in graphics arts and they all say that the Apple Mac has been THE industry standard system for graphics arts work for about two decades. I don't know, I don't use Macs or do graphics arts as a living, but I've been seeing them in certain industry fields for two decades.