Wes Snow gives his take on the new Microsoft Surface tablet along with a comparison to the iPad. Want to see Part I? Click here or read Part II below. My first introduction to an Apple product was the iPhone 3. It didn’t take much to convince me to switch from my Blackberry to this new device with the touch screen and the evolving apps that were available.
I remember getting one for my wife shortly thereafter and realized that Apple was really on to something when she was able to master the use of the device in a 24 hour period.
I must mention that she struggled with the Blackberry device I gave her 2 years earlier describing it as a bulky and overcomplicated phone.
Having been in the business world for 20 years working with and selling Microsoft technologies, I have to say it was strange carrying around an iPhone those first few months (especially as I walked through the offices at the Microsoft campus). Soon enough, most of the folks that I worked with were using the iPhone and the new normal began.
In Part I of this blog series, I discussed my initial experience and opinion of the new Surface tablet. However, every new technology has positives and negatives – that’s why we have versions!
If I’m being honest and fully disclosing my experiences with the Surface, there are some things I encountered that need work or simply don’t exist at the present time.
Windows 8 is a new OS and there are still times when it feels that way; a few bugs here and there (the keyboard when flipped back and forth doesn’t always want to re-engage and allow for typing on it).
You’ve probably read about the shortage of apps in the marketplace. I have found many I would have expected like news apps (USA Today, ABC News, FoxNews) and others like Netflix and Evernote but a Facebook app hasn’t made it to the Microsoft Store yet. Nor have I seen Twitter or ESPN. I’m a big sports fan and find myself hungering for a good sports app. I’m guessing that these and many more are “in the works” but they haven’t made it yet.
I don’t know what to expect out of a camera on a tablet and the usefulness of it. I would say that the pictures that I’ve taken so far are “so-so” at best.
The dimensions of the device and its weight make it a bit more awkward and unnatural to type on or work with when not resting it on your lap or a table top. It’s a must to put the keyboard in split-keyboard mode if you are going to type with it in your hands.
Although in most circumstances, the angle of the kickstand is right on the money, there are instances I’ve encountered where I wish there was the ability to adjust the angle ever so slightly. I can imagine in an upcoming plane flight that will be desired where extra space is at a premium.
Connecting it to a projector proved to be a little sensitive. The small I/O port does not provide a confident connection when inserting the adaptor and proved to be problematic when not seated properly.
I haven’t found a way to have files from Network shares to automatically be synch’ed back and forth to my Surface
I can’t seem to send a Word document that I’ve just drafted to my email account. I’m not sure if I’ve done something wrong in the setup or if that just isn’t supported yet.
I wish it had cellular capabilities instead of having to depend on solely on WiFi. I’ve learned to live with it and carry my Verizon MiFI hotspot around with me on a more regular basis now.
Loading up emails is a bit sluggish. Although they show up in the LiveTile, it takes a few moments before the actual email shows up in the inbox.
The combination of Microsoft Office availability combined with the touch cover keyboard transform this “tablet” from what is initially considered a toy/entertainment device into a productivity tool.
Imagine feeling absolutely comfortable with the idea of leaving your laptop behind on your next business trip and depending solely on your tablet knowing that the limitations that held you back in the past are removed. Even for internal meetings in the office, I always felt compelled to bring both my laptop and iPad to the meetings in that I just couldn’t get access to everything on the iPad (I eventually stopped bringing the iPad to those meetings altogether). Those days are over for me.
This may seem a little odd in that most articles talk about people moving away from Internet Explorer to tools like Firefox and Safari but for me, I really enjoy having Internet Explorer available as it is familiar to me and it runs our CRM solution. This was not possible with the iPad!
Want to move a music, documents, photos, etc. in bulk. With the MicroSD card slot, it’s quick and easy. I had stored up photos on my home PC over the years and was able to move my entire photo library along with my music for CD’s that I had ripped in less than 10 minutes. And with the USB port, I can connect external mouse and keyboards as well as my Jabra wireless headset. And for us business people who on occasion will get a “thumb drive” handed to us from a client or prospect, the idea of instantly loaded that on the Surface is a fresh change.
Over the years I had heard about people using Skype to communicate. I tried it a couple of times but it was just this nonintegrated app on my iPad or iPhone that I quickly forgot about. With Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype, it is now integrated throughout the Microsoft Surface. Below is a real use case I experienced on Day 3 of using the Surface.
I receive an email from my business colleague that I need to follow up with via a phone call. Since my MS Surface has a USB port, I connect my Jabra wireless headset, and then click through from the email to his contact record in the People hub which presents me an option to call him via “Skype”. One click more and Skype loads and I’m talking to him on my wireless headset – now that’s productivity.
One of my favorite features of my Surface is the ability to split the screen to show two applications at the same time. Imagine monitoring your email box or messaging center while you are browsing a website or typing up a Word or Excel file.
Unlike on my iPad, where I had to click the main button to see what apps I have running, you use a swiping motion to toggle between apps on the Surface. It’s quick, easy and intuitive. Say you are writing a document like I am doing write now and I want to go to my People Hub (equivalent to Contacts on an iPad) account, I simply swipe from the left and flip through the various applications until I get to it. This swiping motion is useful in other areas as well. For instance, if you are browsing the web, instead of hitting a back button to get to the page you were on before, you simply swipe the page like you would in a book. Really efficient.
I though LiveTiles were really just a cool and different way to present apps but they actually can be quite informative, especially on dynamic content apps like Mail and Newsfeeds. Instead of just seeing that I’ve received two new emails, the Live Tile gives me visibility as to who the email is from as well as a snippet of what the email is about.
Searching within apps or across apps is quick and intuitive using the always available “Charms” bar which presents itself with a quick swipe from the right side of the screen. Say you are in the Mail client and you want to search for all emails from a particular person, just slide the Charms bar out and tap Search and you are off to the races. The beauty is that it works the same way regardless of where you are or which app you are in.
Also located in the Charms bar is the Share facility. You want to quickly share a webpage with someone or you are in the People Hub and want to share a contact with someone, simply swipe the Charms bar over and tap Share and it presents you with a variety of apps to use to share this information.
I guess you have to ask yourself; what is the primary use of the tablet; personal use first with some integration of your calendar, email and contact address book OR is there a true need to use this as a business device trying to accomplish meaningful tasks throughout the business day (whether remote or in the office)?. Put another way, do you simply want to consume data or is creating and contributing data while on a tablet important to you.
If you are like me, I started with the iPad because it was the only viable option out there but quickly became disenchanted with its inability to really be an effective business tool beyond simply contact and calendar management. Yes, I get some personal benefit and have a great experience with apps like Facebook, Pandora, Angry Birds, etc. but always wished that the iPad could be so much more to me. In the end, I’ll have no problem waiting on the Microsoft Store to play catch up on the quality and quantity of apps, as I know they will do in time. The Microsoft Surface was absolutely designed with me in mind; the mobile worker who chooses to use the tablet not as a personal play toy or data consumption device but as an extension and in some cases replacement of my laptop to get serious work done while at the same time using it as a tablet in the manner in which the iPad has defined it.
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