An objective opinion on Surface
Yes, I'm aware of the contradictory nature of the title, but I'm trolling: no-one is really ever objective about technology, and that's okay. But. Let's bring a bit of moderation to the furore over Surface.
My credentials: I'm a bit of a Microsoft fanboy, something that I was most certainly not this time 2 years ago. But I try and look at things as objectively as I can, even the parts of me opinion that aren't objective at all. I've been using Windows 8 from the Consumer Preview and got the RTM about 2 months ago.
Surface or Windows?
I think that Windows RT was always going to be a massive disadvantage to the Surface device, because it is essentially a brand new OS. The problems that I have gleamed from the reviews are thus:
- Performance isn't as good as in Windows 8
- Not enough Apps
- Core apps aren't good enough
In my opinion, anyone disagreeing with these three points is both flat out wrong and also misguided. Regarding the former, if it was a single review you might be able to argue bias, but it's a common theme with Surface reviews; for the latter, I'll explain why I don't think you should be worrying.
With an audience of Microsoft fans, I shouldn't even need to explain why this shouldn't be a long-term problem, but let me try. Compare the recommended specs of Windows Vista to 7 and then to 8. Notice how instead of getting higher, the majority of specs have actually gone *down* over the years. Microsoft knows how to tweak their software and have been gradually pushing forward with extreme efficiency for a while on both Windows but also Windows Phone 8 (notice that WP8 may have required certain specs from newer hardware, but they were mostly concerned with things like cameras, resolution and gyroscopes, really low-powered Windows Phones running 8 are still possible).
A bigger problem, but another than I'm not concerned about. If you're a responsive developer and you're not already planning a Metro app, then you're not a responsive developer any more. Even if you assume that it'll be Windows 8 and not RT that gets the majority of market share, the Windows Store is still there and we've seen the power of the app store model from the other platforms. I don't think I'm going out on a limb here when I suggest that anyone building Windows apps right now is very likely to be building a Metro app.
This relates to all the previous points, but here I'm not necessarily just speculating, but also drawing on my experience of using Windows 8 as my primary OS over the last 8 months. If you've been doing that also, you'll have notice that it has changed radically from Consumer Preview to RTM, but the momentum didn't stop when that released. Core apps like Mail, Music and Games have been getting frequent and major updates since then, Mail especially has transformed from a brutally simple mail client into something much more useful.
There are two important bits to draw from that - Microsoft is pushing hard to keep to a very aggressive release cycle and they have constructed this OS such that they can update bits (apps or components) very, very quickly and easily.
The Surface reviews were GOOD
So what to take from all of this? Well, look, we're reading the Verge so much that we have joined a "tribe" about it: it is clear that we are likely early adopters. As such, we should be considering device reviews very differently from how they are written, we need to be thinking about the hardware separate from the software. Considering this, take another look at The Verge review of Surface:
- Design: 8
- Display: 7
- Camera: 6
- Speakers: 6
- Battery Life: 8
- Dock: 8
- Performance: 7
- Software: 7
- Ecosystem: 4
Let's bring software back into, it's arguably very weak right now, but as early-adopters, that's what we're used to facing. Frankly, I think I'll ignore any review of software on Surface for now, for the reasons I have outlined above. Would I do the same if I was buying into an ecosystem with a dubious future like WebOS? Absolutely not. I trust Microsoft to live up the potential, which is why I'll be buying a Surface.
Too long, didn't read? Hardware - great. Software - poor. Software can be improved though.