By the myBusiness techblog team
Remember a couple of months back, we blogged about the New iPad and whether businesses should consider it a significant product update to warrant upgrading or purchasing it for their businesses? Now there’s a new kid on the block which MAY be an interesting alternative to the iPad.
Microsoft just made a major announcement at a press event in Los Angeles where they announced not just one, but two tablet computers with the ‘Surface’ branding. Both are tablet computers with a similar form factor as most tablets out there, but the difference is in it’s operating system.
While the iPad runs on iOS, and most other tablets run on Android, what you get on the Microsoft Surface Tablets are Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system. There are 2 version – Windows 8 RT (which stands for Runtime) which run on an ARM-based processor (made by NVIDIA), while the other version has Windows 8 Pro, which runs on Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors that are designed for Ultrabook computers. The RT version will most probably feel more like other tablet computer in terms of the user experience, while the Pro version may have more of a desktop experience since it is running a variant of Windows 8 that is meant for laptop and desktop computers.
Hardware-wise, both a similar in dimensions, with the Pro version being a little thicker at 13.5mm while the RT version measures just 9.3mm thick. They come with a 10.6″ Full HD display, weigh around 1.9lb (around 860gm), and will come with either 64GB or 128GB of built-in storage, WiFi, and USB support. The Pro version will also come with a pen that can be used with its digital ink support for handwriting input. A kick-stand is also designed into the back of the tablet so that it can be propped up.
An interesting accessory that they have also announced is similar to the iPad’s Smart Cover, but with a twist. The Microsoft Touch Cover and Type Cover both attaches itself to the tablet using magnets, just like the iPad’s Smart Cover. However, it also has a built in keyboard and trackpad which allows the user to very much use it like a mini desktop computer when the tablet is propped up with the kick-stand.
So what does that all add up for businesses? The one to look out for will probably be the Pro version with it’s Core i5 Ivy Bridge processor running a full version of the upcoming Windows 8. With it’s USB support, digital pen and the keyboard/trackpad cover, it’s practically good enough to replace standard laptops for the more mobile workers. Since it’s running a full version of Windows 8, that will mean it is able to run most general applications such as Microsoft Office, and I’d expect it to be able to run proprietary software as well. So if you’re a business that requires customised software, then you’re in luck.
The experience of typing on a flat, non-tactile surface like the Type Cover may possibly be a better experience than typing on a glass touchscreen surface, but that really depends on the individual user. Given that Windows 8 does incorporate a lot of multi-touch input methods (taken from their Windows Phone 7 interface), perhaps the keyboard may not be as in use as we’d thought. Hopefully the new interface will be a lot more intuitive, which was a shortcoming that caused previous Microsoft tablet computing projects to be not as popular.
Here’s the official video of the Microsoft Surface tablet:
Pricing has not been announced, so let’s wait and see if it’s competitively priced enough to make it a viable alternative to ultrabook laptops. There’s also no mention of the battery life in the reports we’ve seen so far, and that’s a very important factor when selecting a mobile computing device.
All in all, it does seem like a very promising device, especially for Windows-based mobile warriors who need a very portable laptop replacement. We’ll just have to see whether Windows 8 delivers that user experience that will convert more traditional laptop users to tablet computing.
Do leave a comment to tell us what you think about the new Microsoft Surface Tablets.