When Microsoft announced the Microsoft Surface tablet a few weeks ago, although I was surprised that Microsoft had the brass to make their own hardware I pretty much understood it had to be done. As I mentioned in the previous post, I'm no stranger with small, fully functional PCs so it doesn't surprise me to see one. And most people seem to forget.
This isn't Microsoft's first time trying to make a point for small fully functional PCs.
That honor belongs to the long forgotten Project Origami or rather.. the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) form factor. But of course, then Microsoft didn't make any actual hardware, then as per usual Microsoft advised the OEM partners on what would make a great UMPC and hoped they could do a great job. When the product (or should I call it... the project?) launched, the complaints were basically circling around the expensive price, comparatively lower performance than notebooks of the same price, and battery life that was not useful for the mobile lifestyle companion it was supposed to act as. Oh.. and of course the usual Windows XP wasn't meant for touch comments. (Which was more justified then cause Windows XP really didn't have much touch optimization compared to Windows Vista which came later)
Edit 19th August 2012 : Hey look, I found out I posted about Project Origami... way... waaaaaayyy back!
A comment which I remember reading from Microsoft was that even though those things were a factor back then, given a few years they would not be too much of a concern anymore. And I guess a few years is now. Let's see what do we have now? Given around the same price of a UMPC back then, we can now have an Intel Core i5 that is no slouch in performance, a potential of 5 hours of realistic battery life (My older generation i5 could do 4 hours, I doubt the new ones are gonna be any worse) and a touch screen + pen digitizer combo. And of course, what else has happened?
Windows 8 happened.
If you look back to a post I made when the Apple iPad launched. (And I DID tell you guys to save the post!) I mentioned that Windows 7 Touch Will NEVER Be Better Than The Apple iPad! And that Windows purpose is "to provide a platform for developers to create apps that are designed for touch interaction, and more importantly to allow users to use as many of their applications as possible even though the apps are NOT MEANT FOR TOUCH OPERATION." If you look at the duality of the existence of the Metro interface as well as the traditional desktop in Windows 8, the statement is pretty much ringing true right now. Of course funny thing is now that the Metro UI is taking the center stage right now, instead of users bemoaning that Windows can't be used properly with touch controls (If you have a touch capable Windows tablet and you think that, please refer to this link), now they're complaining that Windows can't be used properly WITHOUT touch controls! The irony! (And something I hope to help with when Windows 8 RTMs)
So finally at this point in time, we're able to get a highly capable PC in a lightweight, portable form factor and with an operating system that can run effectively through a touch interface. And that's essentially what the Microsoft Surface Pro (I'm not talking about the ARM version here) and the many other ultrabook spec'ed Windows Tablet which are coming out are going to deliver...
The UNCOMPROMISING PROCESSING CAPABILITY OF A REAL PC.
As I mentioned before when the Apple iPad launched, it is not meant for me. And the main reason being that anything I need to make a decision into whether to take it with me or not better be worth it. Whatever I would want to do on an iPad, I could do on my phone so how could I justify carrying something around in a bag when the thing in my pocket works just as well? For those of you who are silently thinking "I don't need a bag to carry my iPad, it's light and thin, I just hold it like a small brochure in my hands or tuck in under my shoulder, no biggy." My response to that? Have multiple children, then get back to me on how well having one less free hand works out!
There are those who say that with Microsoft Surface, Microsoft is just trying to stuff a PC into a tablet form factor. To those people I'd have to say that with the Surface Pro at least, there isn't a differentiation. A Windows Tablet is basically a Windows PC, whatever you can do on a Windows PC, you can do it on a Windows Tablet, because.. it IS a PC.
- Download ANYTHING via ANY protocol? Yep.
- Watch any video, using any number of weird codecs and formats? Yep.
- Run the favorite browser of your choice to access browser dependant features? Yep.
- Use REAL Adobe Photoshop? Why not?
If you're a Windows user, and you're thinking about getting a more portable system you really should wait for Windows 8 hardware to drop and check out all the Windows Tablet devices that are bound to show up.
But of course If you regularly take cross continental flights and need something to keep the days you're up in the air. By all means, get an iPad and load up with batteries.
One final note that I have to point out about how well designed the Microsoft Surface Pro is. It was enough for my non gadget head wife to order me to get one when possible. To me, that's simply amazing!