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marc

What do you think of the Microsoft Surface tablets?

Microsoft unveiled its Surface tablets today, including the ARM-powered lightweight Surface for Windows RT, and the Intel-powered, desktop-strength Surface for Windows 8 Pro. Do the new tablets have what it takes to compete with the iPad and Android -- and the whole universe of Ultrabooks?

On the, um, surface, the new tablets look very promising. Both include Microsoft's innovative Touch Cover and Type Cover for input, and both are lightweight, powerful, and crammed with useful features like full USB support, MicroSD slots, and output options like Micro HD (on the RT) and Mini Display Port (on the Pro).

The new tablets clearly build on Microsoft's years of experience with pen and touch interfaces, and the Pro seems to have the potential to finally make desktop-strength tablets mainstream products (we've classified it as a laptop in our database, as we do with other convertible and slate-style Windows tablets). The RT also has the potential to change the way people think of tablets, especially given the availability of multiple input options. While a whole cottage industry has grown around the iPad to provide keyboards, Microsoft has cut to the chase, acknowledging that some users will prefer to use their fingers for input, others will want to use a stylus, while others still will use keyboards.

Pricing remains one open question. Microsoft said only that the tablets would be priced competitively with other offerings. But the market keeps shifting, and by the time these are released in a few months, it could be dramatically different than it is today. But Microsoft definitely seems ready for that.

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73 replies
BradGroux

Here are the thing that put it ahead of the competition, including the iPad.
  • It is a fully functioning laptop when you want or need it to be.
  • The smart case is a brilliant idea, especially for office workers on the go.
  • It has MicroSD slots for expandable storage.
  • It has standard USB2/3 slots (depending on model)
  • Bluetooth allows for use of a full size keyboard and mouse
  • Display port allows for large monitor hookup (with ease)
  • The two versions give it a huge customer base, RT model for iPad users, Pro for traveling workers or students.
  • The Pro version works with off the shelf apps.
  • Integration with the built in Windows 8 features for Xbox and other media.
  • The design may spur even better devices from OEMs.
I could go on, but the fact that this gives users a huge choice of exactly how to use the device easily makes it the most versatile (and polished) tablet produced to date. Well played Microsoft.
7 like dislike
Coldain

If you need more than 1 USB port you could just plug a USB HUB in too (it is Windows 8, it would be limited to 127 by USBs restrictions).
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sawilson

You've just described what anybody can go out and buy right now with the Asus Transformer + keyboard/battery dock, minus the Xbox features however, Nvidia recognized how good the hardware was, and I've got this neat little "Nvidia Store" icon where I can install ported Xbox games right now, and use an Xbox controller connected to my bluetooth. Just saying. They may implement it better, but these are all things I have today.
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jkibuule

The problem with the ASUS Transformer is that it's running Android, not Windows 8.
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sawilson

Since 4.0 it's less of a problem, and more of the best thing going at the moment. Certainly the most open and stable. When someone else puts out a 4 core tablet with a keyboard/battery dock with USB ports and memory expansion in the thinnest, most stable, lightest, highest battery life having true desktop replacement available, while having true multitasking, I'll get in line for one. It's not like there's anything else that comes close currently.
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yellow916

And this is a problem why???
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sawilson

That's what I'm saying. I'm USING a prime to do my job. It's essentially my only computer I use for work and play now. Notice I called it a computer. There's no way I could downgrade to an OS that doesn't allow downloading and is stuck in a closed ecosystem. I'm seriously considering going all android, no windows. My next television is probably going to be a K91. Then I won't need windows at all.
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amoakopoku

Microsoft Office is there secret weapon. [word, excel, outlook etc], if they can get that off perfectly on to the Microsoft Surface tablet they have a chance.
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adriel623

Take a base iPad and compare it to a base Win RT tablet (like the Surface) and the Win 8 tab automatically wins with the base functionality. I think MSFT one-upped Apple with the hardware especially by expanding on the smart-cover concept by creating a "real" smart-cover. The big battle here will be the hundreds of thousands of apps on iPad vs the now growing Win RT market (with tons of potential devs due to Windows on desktop popularity and buzzing support of Windows Phone 8) and how they'll benefit from cross-functioning apps (aka less developer work)
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Coldain

Exactly! Though it is full Windows 8. That means everything you can run on Win7 you can do (maybe a few 100?? programs that can't if that) on this. lol Crysis 3? Quickbooks? Photoshop? Let's see some little apps compete with that.
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baileylo

Time will tell if I'm wrong, but Quickbooks and Photoshop are probably not ideal for this tablet.

There are other reasons besides performance that "mobile apps" are different than "desktop apps". Touch screens usher in a different experience which doesn't correlate to mouse clicks. The App Store contains apps that are better suited for mobile devices not just because they're "lightweight", but because the ui has been around the touch interface.
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sawilson

At least with Photoshop, I love Photoshop Touch. I've used it on my New iPad and my Asus Transformer and it is brilliant on both, with a nod to the New iPad for being a little bit snappier.
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frankspin

You're getting a little ahead of yourself here on what these are capable of. Without full information you can't just think it will do everything that you're regular PC can. The RT version will certainly be limited and while the Pro version will be more capable all we know is it has an i5. How much memory will be in there? Are they doing integrated, discrete or both for video? Is it flash based drive or SSD? Storage performance will have a huge impact here.
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sawilson

I'm not. It very well better be a desktop replacement. I'm already using Android 4.0 as my sole Desktop OS at work, right now. The workflow is quicker than windows 7. They best at least match that functionality. I'd imagine they will. Windows 8 has true multitasking, and I'm sure there will be great office, networking, and productivity apps considering Microsoft pretty much sets the bar on those. Just because the most popular tablet is a horrible desktop replacement doesn't mean they all are.
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frankspin

sawilson - my reply was in response to coldain who said things like Crysis and photoshop but I'll apply my response to your comments as well. You using Android as a desktop replacement does not speak to the larger demographic of PC and tablet users. If you're able to do that, good for you but for myself and I'm sure a large population of users Android does not translate into a desktop replacement. My concern with assuming the Pro will and can perform as a desktop replacement is we know nothing about the full hardware spec. You cannot judge a products performance based on minimal specs and an unfinished OS. RT and Pro will surely act differently too in how they handle process and background tasks which will be a big factor for battery performance, which again we know nothing about. I applaud Microsoft for this and am excited to see them putting some serious effort into their products but there are a lot of unknowns.
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sawilson

Understood, but be clear that your "Appeal to popularity" logical fallacy does not change the fact that the tech exists today, and you can go buy it. Being a Desktop OS isn't some amazing feat.

1) Can I quickly enter data
2) Do I have fast task switching
3) Do I have compatibility with open standards
4) Can I use all office formats
5) Can I print (sadly it still matters)
6) Can I use all websites
7) Is it quick and stable and easy to use
8) Does it have true multitasking

That's most people. For people like me there are a few more caveats:

9) Does it have a great ssh client
10) Does it have a great VPN client
11) Does it have a great remote desktop client
12) Does it have Citrix Receiver

Windows 8 is going to have all those things. Android 4.0 has all those things, admittedly somewhat recently. I'm a bit of an early adopter.
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frankspin

Again you are not the average user so yes to you these things exist already in tablet form with Android 4.0 on a Transformer. However to a large segment, and honestly the people who matter in the devices, they don't know this and don't care to know. A huge factor in how this does will be how software is developed for it. Will it be full on desktop level software or will it be in the vein of Diet Coda where it's just powerful enough to allow for tasks on the go without the need for a full desktop environment.

I think we're agreeing to disagree here.
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sawilson

To me? You seem to be suggesting that I exist in some alternate reality and what I'm saying isn't true. You also seem to be suggesting I don't matter, and there is some magic segment of people that "do matter", that function in some alternate reality that you know about. There's no real confusion on what constitutes a Desktop OS. It can do the things I listed, or it's sub-optimal for business. There's nothing to disagree about. If you want to completely reinvent reality to make your argument, I'll agree to pretend I don't notice your reality distortion field. We can get a talk show on Fox together.
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Coldain

@frankspin They showed it using Lightroom. It will have integrated graphics for sure and hopefully discrete as well. I suspect it will be SSD. They showed moving a 1GB folder of Hi-res images to the device in 7 seconds (using USB 3.0 didn't seem to be bottlenecked by slow storage speed or data transmitting between the USB port and the storage). All of this referring to the Pro version of course. As far as battery power 42 Wh (31.5 Wh for the non-Pro) compared to sawilson's precious Transformer which has 24.4 Wh battery.

Yes there are still a lot of unknowns but the knowns are still pretty WOW-factor worthy.
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sawilson

Oh, I'm hardly married to the Asus Transformer. I just needed the smallest possible remote sysadmin freedom device with a good keyboard. It's been an ongoing quest that went from Macbook Air to New iPad/Logitech Ultrathin now to TF201 with keyboard dock. So far the TF201 has been nearly as useful as the Macbook air while being smaller, and having more battery. Much cheaper also. If this comes in at a price point close to the TF201, and it can run for 20 straight hours on battery, and it can do everything Android 4.0 can do, I will own it. No question.
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Mrgq09

So true...
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baileylo

Maybe it's that I don't have an office job and I'm not writing papers in any more, but the office suite no longer is what it was. Google docs offers all the same goodies at a much more reasonable price - free.
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Omen20

I went through college using Ubuntu and OpenOffice. Vista was horrible in terms of response time so I never used it. Unless you're using Excel as a student then Office is pretty useless.
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fortyoneacres

I don't know, with excellent Microsoft Office integration would be a killer feature. I know Microsoft is looking to add some textbook support to it. Truthfully why would they continuously mention how much it looks like a book if they didn't plan this for students.

I can imagine getting one of these instead of a laptop. I love multiuse devices and I'd gladly buy one...if the price is right.
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Coldain

Or you can just have an email account with them and use their more powerful office suite for free.
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baileylo

Are you suggesting I get an hotmail account?
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frankspin

Your Xbox Live account email doubles as your Windows Live account, so you technically don't need to have a hotmail account.
1 like dislike
baileylo

My xbox account is hooked up with my hotmail account =P
1 like dislike
Coldain

And I thought you were going to troll. :D
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Coldain

Hotmail, msn, live, msnhotmail... etc.
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baileylo

Hotmail/Live has come along way since I first registered in '98, but I think the internet remembers quite well hotmail spambots and BSOD. Microsoft has a long way to go before it can dispel these prejudices.
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Mrgq09

lol
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Coldain

Wow I think you really nailed this one. After playing around with Office 2013 preview I'm pretty excited for everything they're going to do. Also the OneNote MX (Metro Experience) shows a really nice way of how they could bring complex programs, such as Photoshop, to the metro world. I really like the radial menu, it's essentially a simple, beautiful, out of the way, and context smart right click.
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Omen20

Looks slick for a new college student. Win8 for me is still primarily a desktop OS, just as an AIO now. I'm excited to see more details on that 22" Android/Win8 tablet/AIO than I am this Surface. I love the 7" form factor so I'm waiting for the Google Nexus.
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whiskeymb

Just doesn't seem like there is a killer enough feature to justify moving away from an iPad. I'm very curious about docking capabilities through the display port. The keyboard seems nice. But where are the prices? Don't announce a device like this and not announce the prices, unless it's way too high, which it probably will be.
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fortyoneacres

Yeah I wanna see some prices as well. It may not move people away from the iPad (for those that currently have one) but there are plenty of people looking for a tablet that can do more than surf the web then this would be awesome.
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ssstraub

More than surf the web... You mean like an iPad?
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Coldain

Not a killer enough feature for you? Maybe you over looked some of these USB 2.0 (or 3.0!!! for the pro), micro SDXC (maybe in a few years they will start to approach the 2TB theoretical limit), "Clear HD screen," Windows 8 (does SOOOOO much more than run simple apps), everything will be linked through SmartGlass/SkyDrive/Cloud, and so on.
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whiskeymb

While those are all GOOD features, nothing is really making me go "oh, that's going to be way better than the iPad I have, I should switch..."
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Coldain

Are you CRAZY?? What kind of user are you? Gamer? Business? Hobbyist? You don't think you could benefit from the power of a PC? Crysis 3? Quickbooks? Photoshop? USB is something I have been dying for, just waiting for the tablets to get it. The pen looks to be the best out there by far. Surface has an unlimited potential compared to Ipad.
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whiskeymb

I'm a causal user as well as Enterprise. I mostly use my iPad now for browsing imdb/wikipedia when watching TV (something I'd love MS's new second-screen tech for) and Settlers of Catan games.

As for Enterprise, I actually think this is where this device will have the most value. Any shop already on the MS stack (Exchange/AD/SharePoint) will love the advantages this device has over iPads/Androids.

But from a consumer standpoint it's all about apps, and not Office, but Angry Birds.
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sawilson

But best buy would be your app store. You'd be able to get apps anywhere, including online. Plus you'd have desktop versions of apps rather than crippled tablet versions. Yanno what the number one use of the iPad is in business where I work? Using Splashtop to connect to windows machines in meetings so you can do something useful with an iPad in a meeting other than taking notes. Number one accessory at work? Logitech Ultrathin so it's easier to use Splashtop to connect to windows to do something useful in a meeting with your iPad. That's why a lot of us have gone Asus Transformer. This? This would be cutting out the middle man.
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frankspin

Best Buy is not the app store to the consumer though. The app store is iTunes and if people pick up a a Windows 8 device they're going to want to hit "Marketplace" and see apps. If popular apps are not there they're not going to be happy.

Just like people associate iPod with mp3 player, people now associate apps with all things software.
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sawilson

Itunes? The app store is walmart for most of us. It's bestbuy. Hardly anybody is using macs. Tablet adoption isn't as wide as you'd think in this economy. Itunes? I think I'm beginning to understand your disconnect with reality better.
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frankspin

This isn't a matter of tablet adoption this is a matter of iOS adoption and it's foothold in the consumer's everyday use. My comment was not limited to tablets I was speaking in a broader sense with iPhones and iPads, both of which have sold millions of devices world wide. Whether you like to acknowledge it or not but in my "disconnected reality" iOS has more or less supplanted itself as what the average consumer likes to associate with apps and the App Store/iTunes in iOS is how people think of software now. Combine that with the overwhelming market share of Android and it's use of the Play Store there are millions upon millions of people who don't think of software like it was once thought of.
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sawilson

No, it hasn't. Seriously. If you go look at the numbers for even smartphone adoption, and you realize half of those people use android, and only 1/3 use iphone, then you look at the numbers for tablet adoption, you'd realize 90 percent of the people haven't even heard of iTunes. You understand this right? You and I are the lucky ones. We can buy toys. I have a ton of apple and google and microsoft products, and more Sun hardware than I'd feel comfortable admitting to. We do not represent the average consumer. Apple certainly doesn't. Don't confuse some minor success with a line of phones as being a big game changer.
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sawilson

No, it hasn't. Seriously. If you go look at the numbers for even smartphone adoption, and you realize half of those people use android, and only 1/3 use iphone, then you look at the numbers for tablet adoption, you'd realize 90 percent of the people haven't even heard of iTunes. You understand this right? You and I are the lucky ones. We can buy toys. I have a ton of apple and google and microsoft products, and more Sun hardware than I'd feel comfortable admitting to. We do not represent the average consumer. Apple certainly doesn't. Don't confuse some minor success with a line of phones as being a big game changer.
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frankspin

I think you just made his point with those examples though. People have different wants/needs for a tablet so it will come down to a matter of use.
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sawilson

Well, it depends if you want a toy or a desktop replacement. The adults are making tablets now. If Apple can hire talented enough people to port OSX to the iPad and make it usable, they may matter in two years.
0 like dislike
sawilson

Well, it depends if you want a toy or a desktop replacement. The adults are making tablets now. If Apple can hire talented enough people to port OSX to the iPad and make it usable, they may matter in two years.
-1 like dislike
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