Living on the Road with the Surface Tablet

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    I’m traveling this week to Canada and this is the third week of living with the Microsoft Surface tablet. I still think it is the best tablet I’ve ever tried, but there are some interesting issues that I’ll bet the second generation addresses.  

    Let’s talk about the magical Microsoft Surface tablet and some of the things that make it a little less magical. 

    Magical Stuff

    First, though, let’s refresh on what makes this an amazing tablet. It is paper light; I just can’t describe how light this tablet is. Ultrabooks are light, but I picked one up the other day after holding the Surface and it felt like it weighed a ton. You put it in your backpack and it is hard to tell the difference, which does bring up a problem: You are more likely to leave it behind because your backpack won’t feel that much different with or without it (I haven’t done that yet). 

    The magnetic keyboard is geeky cool and it is actually as fun to mess with as the commercials imply. Be aware that the more expensive mechanical keyboard is the best and worth the extra $20 or so over the cheaper membrane keyboard.  

    The magnetic charging cord is another geeky cool thing and it will charge the device when put in either direction. The wireless range is pretty impressive as well; I can generally still reach airport wireless after I’ve entered the plane. 

    But the best part is the massive battery life and the fact that I have yet to run out of power.  

    Not-so Magical Stuff

    There is no VPN yet available for this product and while there are several companies working on them, they haven’t shipped yet. This is an issue if you work for one of the few companies that still use VPNs, or want to use Skype in a country that blocks it, or watch streamed Netflix or Amazon movies while out of the U.S. 

    There are two things about the kickstand that are annoying: One is you can’t adjust it, and to aim the camera, you have to aim your face for videoconferencing. The second is that if you sit on a plane and push the device back like you would a notebook, the kickstand falls off and the tablet falls on the floor (as I’ve done several times on this trip). Fortunately, it is robust but it is also a bit embarrassing. A little connector between the kickstand and the back of the tablet would solve this. 

    Finally, while I love the keyboard, it could be a bit more robust; it tends to bend off the end of an airplane seat table and when it flexes, it can bounce the cursor. 

    Wrapping Up

    This is truly a magical tablet and likely the cause for Steve Wozniak lamenting that Microsoft is out-innovating Apple at the moment. It has some raw parts and while this is a 1.0 product, it is the best 1.0 product I’ve ever tried. The VPN issue will be fixed, perhaps in days; the rest will mostly wait for a refresh, but I doubt anyone will be disappointed if they don’t wait. We are kind of used to getting new tablets about every year thanks to Apple. In the end, this is the first tablet that makes me want to leave my notebook behind and that is truly magical.  

    Rob Enderle
    Rob Enderle
    As President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, Rob provides regional and global companies with guidance in how to create credible dialogue with the market, target customer needs, create new business opportunities, anticipate technology changes, select vendors and products, and practice zero dollar marketing. For over 20 years Rob has worked for and with companies like Microsoft, HP, IBM, Dell, Toshiba, Gateway, Sony, USAA, Texas Instruments, AMD, Intel, Credit Suisse First Boston, ROLM, and Siemens.

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