Me? Still alive!
Surface? Arrived Friday!
Excitement? Still growing…
It’s been a while since I published something on this blog (for various reasons, not the least that I was – sorry – pissed about the way Microsoft treated Silverlight). But last week the //build/ conference took place, Windows 8 became GA, Microsoft took the covers off Windows Phone 8 (I’m still jealous about the colleague who attended //build/ and got a Nokia Lumia 920 ;-)) – and my Surface RT arrived! What better reasons for a restart?
Note: The following is (deliberately) MY opinion. I don’t expect anyone to concur with my statements, and I respect anyone how does not agree with me.
So here it is:
First impression: Works as advertised! Reading web content, playing games, windows store apps mostly presenting content.
I’m not yet sure about the wide screen, but it has its advantage:
In portrait mode much more screen real estate is actually used, which applies to many web sites.
One of the games I tested was Adera:
It not only works “fast and fluid” (to borrow Microsoft’s marketing slogan), it also allows “looking around” by actually holding and pointing the device in a direction. Perhaps a gimmick for a game, it gives some hints as to what is possible, e.g for augmented reality applications.
BTW: Not all applications are available on ARM:
Anyway, had it stopped here, I wouldn’t have bothered even considering writing this post. It would have been just another tablet, same as iPad or Android with less Software available, good for couch surfing but not much else.
So, what sets the Surface apart (again: my opinion) are actually two things:
- It’s got Microsoft Office and a type cover
- It’s Microsoft technology
and I’m not saying this as a “Microsoft fan”, but because these things matter!
Microsoft Office and type cover
What is it, the average consumer or business user wants to do with a portable/mobile device? Consuming content, mostly from the web? Casual games? Yes of course. What else? Writing a letter. Taking notes during a family planning or business meeting. Calculating the vacation budget or reviewing some revenue numbers in Excel on the train. Showing a PowerPoint presentation with grandmas life time achievements or a sales presentation.
And the applications used to do this (like it or not) are Microsoft Office.
BTW: I know about a survey among certain business users (which I’m not allowed to share, so you have to take my word for it) which at first assumed the iPad to be the “canonical” tablet (for obvious reasons), but then declared the availability of “Microsoft” Office the single most important demand these devices fail to meet. I put “Microsoft in quotes, because people did not expect a Microsoft application per se, but an application able to work with Microsoft Office file formats. And experience so far shows that none-Microsoft applications are not always up to the task.
Equally important is the fact the the Surface RT (which will very likely become the conical prototype for Windows RT devices, even with – or because of – all the variations in available devices and form factors) comes with a type cover out of the box. Neither iPad, nor Android devices have this by default. And “by default” is the operative term here, as it defines the baseline of what vendors and customers expect from those devices.
Of course it does not stop at Microsoft Office. Many people have other productivity and office applications, running usually on Windows. And many do not expect substitutes, but complements, i.e. applications that let them work on the same files and data, independently of the device they are currently using.
And the availability of such complementary applications on tablets in the long run is far more likely on Windows RT devices than on iOS or Android. Which brings me to the next point…
I have traditionally been a Microsoft minded developer. In recent years I have mainly worked in C# and .NET, and used most XAML dialects. Some time ago I started playing with Windows Phone and later with Windows 8 – using the tools I already used, the language and programming model I was familiar with, and getting results quickly.
I’m also not the only one in our company: It was really no big deal to get our applications deployed and running on the Surface RT (even if side-loading is “a little less” convenient than the app store):
For me developing for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 simply made a whole lot more sense than adding Java on Android to the mix, or even start working with Objective C. The same is true for many companies and software developers, including enterprise companies and their in-house developers.
This is a very important aspect: Not the fact that Windows Phone and Windows 8 have a market share that is currently neglectable compared to similar devices, but the fact that there is an army of developers who can now transfer their knowledge in developing classical desktop applications to those devices.
To be fair, I have actually done my share of work in Java, and there is certainly a considerable number of Java-minded companies and developers. And those have, and will continue to, create a similar effect on Android. And while I am thrilled that Microsoft has left the bench and is back on the field, I was always an advocate for at least “peaceful coexistence”, if not cooperation, between the two camps.
Come to think of it, I don’t quite see how Apple fits into that picture.
Of course there is a lot to be desired. The addition of Outlook to Office in the Surface RT, better infrastructure integration for business users, missing API’s. And while I think that the new stuff has a bright future, it is still a version 1 (though much better than those have traditionally been at Microsoft) and there is no telling yet, what kind of customer feedback Microsoft will get and in which direction they will evolve the platform in version 2 and 3. But what the heck, that’s what keeps me in business ;-).
Disclaimer: I’m quite aware that this is an “opinionated” post, but there are plenty “objective” evaluations out there (if such a thing even exists). Some links to those can be found at MJF’s post…
That’s all for now folks,