MS Surface Update

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MS Surface Pro

I first wrote about my Microsoft Surface tablet here. I’ve had a bit of time playing with it, but not much. So, these are very much first impressions. I bought the Surface RT—let’s talk a bit about the options first.

Microsoft has introduced two Surface tablets, the Surface RT and the Surface Pro. They look similar, but they are in fact quite different. They have different hardware and different operating systems. The Surface RT is built around an ARM processor and runs with Windows RT, a subset of Windows 8 designed specifically for mobile devices and with its DNA rooted deeply in Microsoft’s earlier mobile platform, Metro. The Surface Pro is based on Intel technology and runs a full version of Windows 8.

I used PCs and Microsoft Windows all of my working life until 2008. At that time, using Windows XP I went through a “annus horribillis” (The Queen and I are both British) (Ed. Yes, they are. And for all of us who aren’t, that Latin means “horrible year”. I know about those.), in which the speed of my computer ground to almost zero, and I was plagued by viruses. I decided to try Mac and bought myself a 17in MacBook Pro. I have never looked back, and currently have a MacBook Air, an iPad, and an iPhone. Looks like I am a confirmed Apple fanboy, but not so.

I like Apple and it is wonderful for the other part of my life, the non-business side—photography. As I love technology in general I like to see what other people are doing and have had my share of Android phones and tablets. I think the 7in tablet hits the sweet spot for sales and my favorite is the HTC Flier as I described here.

But what about Microsoft? The elephant, juggernaut, sleeping giant. However much I think Steve Ballmer has had it, I can’t believe that Microsoft will let Apple and Android walk all over them. So when I heard about a new touch enabled, gesture driven UI, operating system and some new tablet hardware, I wanted to be a part of the action.

It is totally impossible in the crazy world of consumer computing to escape deeply engrained, polarized opinions about the Apple and the PC. Now there is Google in there too, with the Android. The reviewers let themselves get caught up in the bias, so consequently, if you go looking for reviews of the Surface RT, you will find people who love it and those who hate it.

For instance, some don’t like the fact that there are two flavors of operating systems, Windows RT for the Surface RT and Windows 8 for the Surface Pro. You can’t run legacy applications on the RT, you have to use apps especially written for it. The Pro will run all Windows apps. But of course, Apple do the same to their users with Mac OS X and Mac iOS—the iPad does not run OS X apps. However, the Surface RT comes bundled with a full version of Office that has been written for Windows RT—this is a wonderful productivity feature that is a big one-up over the iPad. Microsoft is literally way ahead of Apple in reaching the “pot of gold” solution of one operating system for desktop and mobile.

Ed will start moaning about long posts unless I wrap this up. Do I like the Surface RT—an unhesitating YES.

Look/Feel

Beautifully designed and engineered with a thinner and lighter “feel” than the iPad. Very compact, includes an unobtrusive fold out stand. High quality “metallic” feel.

I/O

Connectors I can recognize and use. Has a USB port that will take anything—I tried thumb drives, radio mouse and an external hard drive. Has a micro SD port.

Screen

16:9 aspect ratio (1,366×768) nice for split screen display. Can show two apps at the same time. I like it better than the iPad

Keyboard

This one is a first for Microsoft. The optional Touch Cover keyboard is just about one quarter inch thick and also serves as a screen cover. Its latch to the tablet is awesome. Hold it near and it seems to automatically connect with a satisfying clunk. I leave mine on all the time. I’m a late bloomer as far as typing is concerned, but this keyboard is great for me (I’m doing this post with it)

File Management

A skimmed down desktop interface provides all the familiar Windows file and folder management, something I sorely miss with my iPad.

I have lot’s more to say about the Surface tablet, but I thought I would expand my adventure back to PC land by looking at a few options for using the new Windows 8. So I will apply to ED for a bit more air time to show what else I am doing. See you next time.

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