On The Surface

Tablets are driving the rapid adoption of cloud services by consumers. Surface will do that for businesses.

Microsoft was first to market with a tablet OS. That was 20 years ago and the market wasn’t ready. 20 years ago one of our firm’s prized possessions was a Compaq Tablet running Microsoft’s Tablet version of Windows (with stylus). It was slightly bigger than an iPad but thicker and heavier. We loved it and carried it far and wide to client meetings. But the product failed in the market place and our lovely little Compaq Tablet became a curio. Windows for tablets went on to carve out a niche in industries like rehab clinics where mobility was a key advantage for users.

Fast forward to the cloud with ubiquitous access and you have finally the perfect primordial soup for giving life to tablets. With Surface, Microsoft has taken their time to get everything right. The user interface is a reinvention of Windows and unlike any other tablet. The Windows 8 esthetics are far more elegant than Android or even Apple’s iOS. The best-kept secret in tablet computing is that no company has more experience in this space than Microsoft and with Surface their experience shows up all around. It’ll be interesting to see how users take to it this time.

The keyboards work fine but the way to interact with Surface is through the touch screen which is incredibly satisfying. Getting used to it takes only a few minutes of instruction but you’ll need it. Surface is the end state of Windows with an abstract human-scale interface, elegant color palette, and totally optimized for the cloud. The screen quality is unsurpassed and the corporate user will not be able to tell the difference between Surface and the Retina display on their iPads. In your hands Surface has the enterprise-class feel that is reassuring in all the ways other tablets are not. CIOs are going to love the Pro version when it arrives.

Enterprise-class is the secret mojo of Surface. The Windows 8 Pro version of Surface will come enterprise-ready and quickly replace laptops in corporate America. The engineering, design, and software is high technical achievement. There’s nothing close to it. While Apple and Android own the consumer space Surface is clearly the benchmark for business users.

Which brings us to the new Microsoft stores where you’ll often find more sales people than customers. That said, the people are friendly, knowledgeable, and relaxed (many of them came over from Apple). The considerate intelligent attitude of the Microsoft professional sales force is evident now in the retail stores. It’s a wonderful shopping experience. The loud annoying buzzz in Apple stores make them exceedingly unpleasant places to shop. Microsoft stores are the exact opposite and a welcome relief. You’d still have to pry the Macbook Pro Retina from our cold dead fingers but in a corporate environment Surface would be our first choice. No one will want to be seen lugging a laptop when their colleagues start showing up at meetings with Surface. There is absolutely no way.

Bottom line: Its physical ruggedness combined with the security features of Windows 8 Pro make Surface the only credible tablet for any company with a professional IT organization. And as a cloud solution for enterprise users, Surface is in a class by itself—Business Class.

All Photos © 2012 Nick Noecker

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