Jeff Bacon is the Director of Mobile Strategy at bitHeads, and our regular developer correspondant. But thesuavehog was so excited about Microsoft’s recent tablet announcement, we let him post his thoughts on the Surface. Enjoy! – Ed.
It’s been a little over a week now since Microsoft unveiled one of the best-kept secrets in mobile, which should be blowing the minds of everyone that’s paying attention. Microsoft has re-invented the way people will think about mobile computing with a device that’s going to revolutionize (again) the lives of “the other 95%” — i.e. everyone without an iPad. It’s not just a tablet, it’s a new way of thinking about mobile computing.
Essentially Surface is two tablets. One tablet is a thinner, lighter, more iPad-style tablet, the other is a powerful laptop replacement running the same version of Windows 8 that will run on laptops sold by Dell, HP, Acer, Lenovo, etc. It’s the second one that is the most interesting. The thinner tablet will be attractive to many as a very strong iPad competitor, however it’s not going to change how you think about mobile computing.
The Windows 8 Surface tablet will run every application you run right now on your Windows desktop. All of them. Not some tablet-ized version of Office that sort-of works and is not optimized for touch, not an email program that “mostly” does what you need it to, not Photoshop Lite but full-on super-powered feature-rich Photoshop. Quite simply, it runs everything. Until now, using a tablet and a laptop was a mess of syncing files and making sure whoever built your tablet app also had a desktop version or else use a standard file format or “mostly” interpreted the Microsoft Office file formats correctly. This problem is now gone, for the simple reason that you no longer will have any need to have a tablet separate from your laptop — they are one and the same with Surface.
When you’re at your desktop, you set down Surface, plug-in your external monitor (as I presume you’ll want a larger screen) and start working. When you need to go, you just grab your Surface and all your files, programs, settings, profile and applications come with you. Think about that. No making sure to copy files to Dropbox so you have them on your tablet, no forgetting to hit save and not having the latest copy, no saying “just let me finish this email” because you don’t want to start it from scratch when you get home.
Surface won’t require you to learn a different interface from your desktop PC, won’t require you to learn different programs, or have different peripherals (monitors, keyboard, mice, etc.). It will be all your information, with you, wherever you want it, seamlessly. And it will do all this without you having to buy accessories like stands and external keyboards that don’t marry well with the device — since those both come built into the back and cover of the Surface (respectively).
We are living in a world where massive valuations are being assigned to companies that are trying to solve a problem created by having too many devices. With Surface, Microsoft is providing a solution that, for most people, is the simplest of all: fewer devices. And despite my love for mobile technology, and the affection many people I talk to regularly have, we would all love to carry fewer devices with us and be able to manage our lives in a simpler fashion. Surface provides us that opportunity in a package that suits both casual and power users alike. Get ready 2013, Surface is coming, and we’ll look back in 18 months and wonder how come it took so long for someone to get tablets right.