Category Archives: Tablets

Microsoft Surface, Windows RT and Windows 8 – A Developers Perspective

By Tim Daniels
This is the first in a series of blog posts about my experiences with the new Microsoft Surface tablet, the Windows RT operating system, and the Windows 8 operating system.

On Friday October 26th, the first day they were available, I bought a new Microsoft Surface tablet. Microsoft installed one of their pop-up holiday stores at North Star Mall, here in San Antonio, Texas. The Microsoft store is located in the mall just a few 100 feet from the Apple store. The Microsoft store is cool and modern looking, but it certainly can’t compare to the style and the on-going buzz of excitement, ones gets at the Apple store. The people working in the Microsoft store were friendly, knowledgeable and very helpful with hands on demonstrations and training. You can also get more information at the online Microsoft Store.

Microsoft Pop up Store

Purchase of the Microsoft Surface Tablet at North Star Mall

It’s been two weeks now and I’m really enjoying the Surface tablet. In my opinion, Microsoft brings a right out of the box, fantastic product to the market. Surface meets all expectations, by providing a great mobile tablet experience, in a light weight and very durable package. More importantly, Surface exceeds expectations by taking the tablet to a whole new level of usability, by extending the desktop PC and notebook experience to a mobile device.

The Surface comes with several built in components which also provide a great notebook like experience.

  • Side mounted USB port
  • Snap on screen cover that doubles as a key board with track pad
  • High definition video output port
  • Memory expansion slot that will accommodate an SD card
  • And Finally, a built in kickstand to prop up the screen at just the right viewing angle
  • Here is an article at Information Week with more details on the Cool Features of the Surface

I’ve been using the Surface tablet on a daily basis for two weeks now. The user experience is fantastic. Of course, during the first few days there was a small learning curve. This was mostly adapting to the new Windows 8 style start screen, which replaces the Windows start button, which was first introduced in Windows 95. Using the touch screen was no problem at all, because of previous experience with smartphones, iPads and iPods. The one thing that did take some time to get used to, is how every edge of the Surface also has functions. The left edge is used for navigating to all the apps you happen to be using. The right edge has a feature called the charm bar, which has functions for search, computer settings and navigating back to the start screen. The top and bottom edges provide functions based on the context of the app you are currently using. The bottom edge also has a built in button for returning to the start page. Once I learned the edges, I found these features to be very useful. They provide a fast and smooth transition when switching from one task to another.

Clearly, this new user interface is a bold attempt on the part of Microsoft, to reach out to the consumer who simply wants to consume content on a mobile device, and perform some light content creation tasks, such as responding to email, and interacting on social media like Facebook and Twitter. The Windows 8 style user interface will also appeal to the consumer who simply wants to use a computer, and is not interested in learning about file systems or managing the hardware. This is similar to the experience you get with an iPad or a MacBook; you just turn on the device and start using it, intuitively learning as you go.

However, there is another side to the Surface experience, which is very appealing to the traditional Windows desktop user. A user who wants to not only consume content on a mobile device, but also generate content and perform office productivity tasks on the same device. The Surface tablet runs a version of the Windows operating system called Windows RT. This version of the operating system also supports the traditional Windows desktop. The desktop is simply another active tile on the start screen that you tap or click on to start. Once in the desktop, it looks very similar to the desktop in Windows 7. The Surface comes with the Office 2013 suite of productivity apps preinstalled. You get;

  • Word
  • Excel
  • Power Point
  • One Note
  • All of the other productivity accessories we are used to having available in the desktop

In my opinion the Microsoft Surface is the only tablet on the market that lends its self very well to enterprise productivity. Mainly because it does a good job of extending the traditional PC desktop experience to a mobile device. Along with the high resolution screen, the screen cover which also acts as a keyboard, and the built in USB port to support other peripheral devices like a mouse, a memory stick, etc.. In fact I wrote this entire post using the Surface, and my productivity was equal to, if not better, than using a traditional desktop PC.

During this two week experience, I found only one item to complain about, and that is the track pad on the keyboard. I’m using the type cover, which has mechanical keys that work great and feel natural. However, the track pad is adequate at best. Compared to the smooth and accurate performance of the track pad on the MacBook, this track pad leaves a lot to be desired. However, It was easy to work around this problem. I simply attached a wireless mouse with a USB receiver to the Surface,¬†and kept right on working. Besides, the natural tendency to manipulate the touch screen with finger gestures, kind of makes the track pad redundant.