Microsoft Surface Tablet Review
Changing course is hard for Microsoft. It is like making a hard left with a cruise ship- it just doesn’t happen. For so long Microsoft had been about the desktop- a big fat machine with a permanent 120 volt connection and unlimited storage and CPU horsepower available. It didn’t much matter how bloated and inefficient your software was when the hardware was sufficient to push like an icebreaker through the flaws. As laptops gained market share on desktops Microsoft slowly started turning the rudder to consider things like battery life, limited hard disk space, reliance on wi-fi for connectivity and a growing reliance on the cloud. A few years back when laptop and other "mobile" device sales surpassed that of desktop systems the Redmond company realized that the rocks ahead were much closer than they thought and they started furiously trying to turn the ship. But as they tried to make Windows work better on laptops the big switch to smart phones was happening. As they changed course again to focus on phones tablets became the rage. And in late 2012 Microsoft will finally catch up with computing 21st century style. They will finally be pointing in the right direct, but will the technology currents created by Apple and Google and Amazon push them onto the rocks after all?
The Surface looks nice. It might be the coolest way ever to carry a tablet computer and a laptop- together. It even improves on the highly-regarded Asus Transformer with its detachable keyboard. Microsoft takes a tablet about the size of the iPad and turns the peel-off cover into the keyboard with a kickstand on the back of the tablet to hold the "screen" up at a comfortable viewing angle. Cool design trick. But wait- there’s more! This tablet will run Windows- and not your stodgy old Windows 7, but the "designed for tablets but we won’t admit it" Windows 8. So, no more programs that won’t install because you are on a Samsung Galaxy Tab or an iPad. No more having to search through apps to find something that will let you work with .doc and .xls files. No more checking to make sure your printer supports AirPrint. It is almost like….being back in the 1990s! But is that where the world wants to go?
Is enough of the population living in a "post-Microsoft" world that all of this no longer matters? Do Apple and Google have such a head start that Microsoft’s place in the future world of consumer computing is only to be an imitator? We should know at the end of the Christmas shopping season. I like the new Surface tablet and would probably use it regularly if someone gave me one for Christmas- but with expected pricing to be in the $400 ~ $800 range I would prefer an Ultrabook- running Windows 7. For one thing the surface will be too small for me to get real work done- a 10-inch screen is for occasional, casual viewing. The cover/keyboard concept is wonderfully compact and efficient, but I am picky about my keyboards- I like key travel and good feedback. Am I going to get that with a plastic bump on a piece of vinyl? I enjoying playing StarCraft 2 with the graphics settings on high- will this device be able to do that? I can also do everything I need to quickly and easily (now that I have suffered through the initial learning curve) with my Google Galaxy Nexus phone. How much time and how many frustration headaches will it take to master Windows 8?
I would like there to be lots of options for computing- something for everyone who has their own different, quirky, way of doing things. So I wish Microsoft well with the Surface Tablet. But my fear is that it is too late and cool as the Surface may be not enough people will want to unlearn their iOS/Android ways of doing things and start all over learning Windows 8. Good luck Microsoft.
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