I’m a little over two weeks with the Surface at this point. I’ve been travelling all of that time, so I have been using the Surface quite a lot, as I used to my (beloved) Android tablet. It took a little while to get functional enough, upgrading the dysfunctional Office that came installed, figuring out how to get various email set up, learning how to use the touch type, and figuring out the operating system. But, at this time, the Surface is close to functional. Close. But what’s it for?
First, it’s a consumption device. I’ve got a web browser in my hands, wherever I go, as long as I can get WIFI. That gives me a hefty chunk of the world to work with. I can rent movies. I’ve got music from my
ZuneXBox account. There are a couple of games that are entertaining. I’m sorry to say, that’s about it, so far. But, that’s not much more than I used my other tablet for.
Second, and I do mean second, it’s a production device. It’s not a full-fledged laptop/desktop/server replacement. No way! But, I’m actually finding that I am able to use it to do a few things my other tablet wasn’t able to. First up, I do have email… and a keyboard. Also, because I can have separate logins, I’ve got my personal email set up under one, and my professional stuff under another. That’s better than I could do with my other tablet. I can take good notes during meetings, presentati0ns, etc. because of the keyboard. Again, an improvement. That also opens up tweeting (which, I can, and do, use my phone for, but it’s a pain), much better than the other tablet. I’m putting this blog p0st together from the surface, sitting in an airport lounge (flight delays, don’t ask) because of all of the above.
Things I haven’t tried include using this to do PowerPoint presentations, remote to another machine, or coordinating the accounts I’m setting up here with another machine. But these are all possible with this device. With that in mind, is it what Microsoft was hoping I would do? What is the purpose of this thing.
I can’t run SQL Server on this. Nor would I want to. In fact, in case you don’t know, while the RT version of Windows 8 looks like Windows 8, right down to the desktop, it’s not, really, Windows 8. This puts serious limitations on this device (not counting the current instability and lack of good, useful apps). So, if I can’t install anything that would run on Windows 8, am I just wasting time with this? (hush, Brent, we already know your answer). I’d say no, so let me say why.
First off, this thing is small and light and the battery really does last all day. It’s been better than the last three tablets I’ve worked with in that regard. While I don’t have access to all the applications that I might need, or want, I have access to the majority of functional apps to support me as a writer and community person. Further, if I can get at my personal machines at home, maintain a decent connection, and use those apps (all to be tested later), I may not need to worry all that much about the need to have the software installed locally. I should be able to get at what I need, when I need it. Mostly. For example, I think, I could do a presentation from this device, if I only needed to use slides. I might be able to do demos if I could guarantee a WIFI connection and access to my machines at home. But who wants to rely on that tenuous a thread? Because the Office products are the same format as what I might bet from a more functional machine, that’s out of the way. I’ve got access to files from multiple machines through SkyDrive. All that combined makes you into a productive person.
Now, that said, why is this not a production device. First, the screen is really, really, really small if you’re trying to type into it all day, work with forms, work with apps, etc. The keyboard, which I’m finding quite functional, you’ll note has a qualifier. It’s not fully functional. In fact, I still back space more than I normally do. Although, not like I did, but it’s a pain in the ass. And while I do get all day battery life, and good performance (except for the random crashes), I’m not exactly smacking the server with anything heavy.
But, was this Microsoft’s intent? I’d say yes. For one reason. While I have complained about it, and will probably continue to, the desktop is right here on the tablet. It makes having things like Office possible. It’s also a problematic place to work on a little device like this. But, they could have just yanked it (probably, what do I know) and gone with just the fancy bits of the tablet interface (formerly referred to as Metro). It would have worked if all they were after was a consumer device. But they left the production stuff in there. They want, even expect, at least a few nerds like me to be pounding our finger tips raw on this faux marble bar top (seriously, my fingers are starting to hurt) to actually produce long and meandering posts. Although, as usual, I’m willing to be educated about how wrong I am.