I sell technology solutions; specifically I sell technology solutions that are powered primarily by Microsoft technologies to the commercial real estate industry. The genre of product I sell is in the CRM or customer relationship management space, one of the main drivers of which is making mobile workers (i.e. brokers) more effective. So when the iPad first came out and I saw a few of my clients with them at meetings, I immediately became intrigued by the possibilities of this new computing option.
Having had a positive experience with the iPhone, I quickly purchased an iPad and started to incorporate it into my business day. Within 2 hours, I had set it up to sync with my corporate Microsoft Outlook/Exchange server so that I could send/receive emails as well as get my calendar and contacts to show up on the device. I have to admit I was astonished at how easy it was to get up and running. Having enabled those “basic blocking and tackling” tools, I found myself hungering for more in my quest to free myself from the bulky laptop that I had been carrying around. From a business tool perspective, this is when I started seeing some challenges in making this my sole tool for getting work done.
Getting access to and working on Word, Excel and Powerpoint files ended up requiring a series of work-arounds. Before incorporating a DropBox account, I would send emails to myself with attachments of Microsoft docs and then save them to my iPad after having opened them up using Pages, Numbers or Keynote. In each instance of conversion, there was some loss of fidelity in the documents ranging from simple formatting to lack of font support. Needless to say, the ability to modify those documents and then send them back and forth to my PC and/or clients was incomplete at best.
In the instances when I chose to look past the fidelity loss in the document, I had to exercise some patience to muscle out any content of size on the screen based keypad which I got better at with time but never could come close to matching the speed at which I type on a regular keyboard.
In the end, it really wasn’t an option to leave the office without both my tablet and the laptop. That is, until the Microsoft Surface arrived.
With all that said, let’s talk about how my perspective changed after spending just a week with the Microsoft Surface powered by Windows 8. Let’s start with the integrated Surface keyboard! Wow, what a liberating feeling to type on a real keyboard. Within a week’s time, I am not too far off the pace at which I type on my PC’s full sized keyboard (there is a learning curve but it is a short and worthwhile one). One important note for all of those who have learned to use keyboard shortcuts (Cntrl-C/Cntrl-V for copy and paste), that a
ll works like you are used to. Related to this and what ultimately makes typing on this
keyboard possible is the integrated but seamless kickstand that props this up to make the whole unit look like a micro-laptop.
Couple the keyboard with Microsoft tools like Word, Powerpoint and Excel in their NATIVE format (no converting to Pages, Numbers or Keynote) and the productivity soars; receive, edit, create documents with full fidelity.
When on my company network wireless, I can use the very familiar Windows Explorer to view network shared directories as well as store documents in folder/sub-folder structures as you always have. It comes loaded with Office 2013 which has incorporated integration with Microsoft SkyDrive so that you have the option to store the documents up in the cloud and have them available to you on other devices.
That is just a glimpse into my initial impressions and experiences of using the Surface over the first few days. In the rest of this article, I have tried to outline other experiences I have had, both good and bad, in hopes that it gives you a good sense of what you can expect out of this new category of tablet. Is it a tabtop or a laplet; I don’t know but I do know it’s not an iPad and in this case that is a good thing.
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