The Windows Surface Tablet Experience: 3 Days In

November 14, 2012

windows surface tablet

The Microsoft Surface Tablet In Person

Last week, I discussed the merits of Microsoft going bold and embracing a Tablet orientated Operating System in the form of Windows 8. Over the weekend I actually went to the Microsoft Store and, somewhat on impulse, bought a Surface Tablet. I wanted to share my impressions.

The Microsoft Store Buying Experience

I decided to go in person to the local Microsoft store to evaluate the customer experience and the Surface. The store was brightly lit, with an airy feel and an interior decor generous in its use of color. The salespersons wore bright shirts that were not so subtle copies of the Apple Store next door.

The Surface was prominently featured up front, and there were numerous sales people eagerly standing by to help. One thing jumped out right away, however — surprisingly, the Windows Phones were nowhere to be seen. I had to ask, and was told they “were in the back.” That was pretty disappointing, given the fortune Microsoft has spent promoting the product.

The salespeople were low pressure and unassuming. They asked nicely if you wanted help, and if you said no they left you to your own devices.

There were plenty of Surface tablets up and running and the demos were well laid out. Pricing was featured discreetly next to the products similar to the manner of the Apple Store.

I hadn’t planned on buying a Surface. But after an hour of playing with it, I decided it was well worth it. The Microsoft sales person quickly processed the transaction and then walked me through the process of setting it up. Great orientation, very similar to what luxury automakers do when they deliver a car. The sales experience definitely had that “premium” feel to it.

The Surface in Person

The Surface comes across as well made, modern looking, and versatile. Purely on construction alone I was impressed. The kickstand comes out with a satisfying click and is made of metal. However, the standard “TouchCover” feels like you are typing on something made out of egg cartons. The slightly more expensive “TypeCover” provides a better experience. It also comes with a USB 2.0 port, mini HDMI out, and a SD card slot to inexpensively upgrade the storage capacity.

The Surface is powered by a ARM processor, so it can’t run legacy x86 programs nor is it as powerful as a Core i5/7 Intel based PC. However, it seems to competently do most tasks. The screen resolution isn’t up to Apple Retina standards, but it is sufficient for most uses.

Microsoft Builds Their Disruptive Innovator to the PC

Last week I mentioned the traditional PC space had been “disrupted” by tablets and smartphones. The Surface goes one step further in disrupting the PC market. Here’s why:

The key feature of the Surface is Windows 8 RT. My desktop PC runs the full Windows 8 Professional edition, so within a few minutes I was able to acclimate myself to the Surface. The touch screen makes navigating the operating system much easier.

The main interface formerly known as “Metro” is simple and easy to use. Anyone who found the traditional desktop of Windows past overwhelming will prefer this one. However, power users are more likely to be annoyed at the “cuteness” and difficulty of changing settings.

The Surface comes preloaded with Internet Explorer, Skype, Office 13, Skydrive, and some basic apps. The addition of Office 13 is what distinguishes Surface from any tablet on the market and positions it as a PC replacement. With the TouchCover keyboard, I was able to use Office as I would normally would on my laptop. And it’s free to boot.

With Wi-Fi turned on I’ve been able to use it for 5 hrs and still haven’t charged it yet. That’s the advantage of a ARM processor versus a x86 one. It also doesn’t generate a lot of heat, like my laptop normally does.

As I mentioned in my last post, Apps are a big problem for Microsoft. This is where Surface lets you down. The Windows App Marketplace is largely barren — no Google apps, Firefox, or Chrome. The upside is that Surface will be the beneficiary of the huge Windows 8 ecosystem. Programmers should be able to port their PC-based Windows Pro Apps over to Windows RT with relative ease, so this drawback will be addressed in due time.

The Verdict:

If you are a power user, wait until early next year for the Surface Pro. It will sport a Core i5 processor and be a true PC replacement. However, if you are looking for a tablet that will allow you do most things your PC can, then the Surface is a compelling alternative to Netbooks and iPad/Android based tablets.



Corporate Strategy, Sales Operations

Sudip is in charge of Corporate Strategy, Sales Operations at <a href="">Alegeus Technologies</a>. Previously, he worked at OpenView from 2012 until 2014 with portfolio companies to provide insights on the markets they operate in, their customers, and drive development of business strategies.