Recently, I had the quintessential Starbucks experience (or it would have been if not for the 6 a.m. hour after dropping my son off for swim practice). Tall, skinny Pumpkin Spice Latte in hand, I was working on notes for my Sunday school class on Jonathan Edwards. I had my Kindle Touch (now upgraded to a Paperwhite, but that’s for another post) for source material and the Microsoft Surface RT to write. These two items fit easily on the little table; the angle of the screen, using the built in stand, was ideal, and off to writing I went. It helped that the music was great (not overwhelming) and few patrons walked through the door at that hour. That was the beginning of my Surface experience. That experience was indicative of my use of the Surface; a truly well thought out tool that fits well in my life. Overall, my time with the Surface has been one of delightful surprise; as Guy Kawasaki would put, one of enchantment.
Let me step back a bit. My company, Builders Mutual Insurance, experiments from time to time with different technologies. One such experiment is the new Microsoft Surface, the RT for now. I’ve previously played with beta versions of Windows 8 on the deeply flawed Dell ST, in another such experiment, so I’m fairly used to the interface. My expectations were fairly low. In fact, I asked one of my colleagues, Todd: “Who would ever by that machine? Even a consumer would want the Pro.” Why? I thought the RT would be under-powered and too limited without supporting general Windows apps. I was definitely wrong on the first count and the second issue may not be that huge for many consumers. The Surface is a really lovely experience for both consuming and composing. The consuming part of web, media and social networks, is great. This is to be expected; however, the screen is truly fabulous, the responsiveness is first rate and the apps are nice. I really didn’t think the RT would perform well; I thought you should wait for a “real” notebook processor, not a tablet processor. What I discovered is that everything is snappy, there are no delays and whether I’m looking at a 720p YouTube video or streaming music through Amazon’s cloud player while I’m checking up on Twitter & Facebook feeds. There is no slow down, stutter or any hint of performance lag.
More surprising is the content creation side. Whether it’s writing this blog, working on a spreadsheet or updating a document, all is done with relative ease. I’m fairly accurate and quick with the keyboard. The screen is more than adequate to see what I’m doing and the applications are all I need for creating documents.
Is it perfect for every task? No. There are many apps I run that won’t run on RT, Surely a good, full- sized keyboard coupled with dual monitors is a better setup for hard core work, The point is, that when you want mobility, there is little you have to sacrifice to have it. Can you tell I really like this machine?
A special note about using Microsoft Office 2013 on the Surface RT: Skydrive integration rocks. All of my notes are on Skydrive. Access and editing is fully baked in. I edit in Word and always save to Skydrive. I’ve used Google docs for years and especially love it when collaborating, but it doesn’t come close to using Word with Skydrive. You get all the familiarity of Office, all the fonts and other features, while working in the cloud. Nice.
One other primary difference from other tablets: I come to the Surface with the mindset that I can get things done. Taking a line from Father Christmas: This is a tool, not toy. My encounters with the iPad seemed more like a most fun, consuming device. Now I know you can buy all sorts of add-ons, both software and hardware, to extend its capabilities and make it a working machine. The Surface, however, seems more designed for work and play, a tool for accomplishment. It does so with elegant and relatively painless compromises to fit within a more mobile lifestyle. Those little café tables don’t look quite so tiny anymore,