Surface in an office environment for a week
I've replaced the IPAD with the Surface for a week and these are my impressions and improvements to my workflow when using Surface.
+ Lenovo Windows Workstation - to run CAD, MS Office Suite and Project Management Software.
+ Windows Phone - mobile device for communication, email on the run, photos and one note.
+ IPAD - to take into meetings capture notes on one note, Review information with colleagues, capturing notes and photos in the field.
I've always used OneNote and SkyDrive to sync Notes on the go and Photos amongst the devices I use. As an early user the free 25GB was one of the best differentiators for Microsoft.
Device Portability Size and Weight
For the first day I carried both the IPAD and SURFACE, both feel the same to me. During the Surface launch Panos Panay mentioned when you first pick up the Surface the moment of the device feels lighter. I have to agree with this and so do others who have picked up the Surface in the office. It must have something to do with how the individual component weights are distributed within the product.
Screen Size Resolution and Legibility
No problems with resolution and quality of the display. There seems to be a grid of touch circuitry that is visible in sunlight. It would be great if the Surface RT had a resolution of 1920x1080. I came to the realisation this morning after reading the news on the IPad that once the 'visible-pixels' disappear. The device ceases to be a PC or Computer and becomes a true media consumption device. The added pixel density will no doubt add to small tablet productivity applications, like 'Paper' on the Ipad. For everything else RT Office Suite, Email and Internet Explore the resolution was more than adequate.
Surface performs well dealing with numerous Internet Explorer Tabs, and one or two Office RT apps left open. However if you open a game and a few more Office RT documents, Surface starts stuttering and is not as reactive to your touch commands. I had to 'test' a few games to push the performance and I found intensive processes in games where you had a lot of horizontal panning or movement on screen resulted in stuttered performance with dropped frames as well as dropped sound.
In Use - This is where the Surface beats the IPad or Andriod tablets
Attending a meeting with an IPad means a lot of prep work either you have to email documents to your email, clogging up your email or syncing to DropBox or similar. I would also have to PDF content to ensure that the documents opened up with good legibility.
I have mapped and 'pinned' all the office network drives to the start screen and can access files on the move, this is invaluable. Previously with the IPad if you needed to bring up a document that was on the network in a meeting, I would try and fiddle with the Citrix App to bring up a document, this never worked well and I'd always leave the meeting with a promise to email the document when I'm back at my desk. I can now access the office network with a touch friendly interface, open documents and edit them at a meeting. Now I'm finishing work and collaborating better at meetings.
I can now view hyperlinked documents in emails where once I had to receive or send the document as an attachment. This leaves more space in my mailbox and lets people work on one document rather than have various versions floating in people's inboxes.
So far I have achieved 2 days with non stop use from one charge, if you are out in the field being able to go without a recharge is a god send.
If Atom/Clover trail devices can be as thin, light weight and have a good battery life like the Surface RT, Surfaces days are numbered. If they can't match the form and battery life, Surface RT should be the immediate first pick for any Corporate portable device where communication and access to office suite is a priority.
3G/4G - Surfaces BIGGEST Flaw
If there is one important thing that Surface is missing is 3G/4G connectivity. If the Surface came with this option the decision for many corporate buyers would be straight forward. When there is no Wi-Fi availability having to tether the device is inconvenient especially when on the move.
I'm returning my Surface because the forward facing camera came with a defect. Microsoft advertised the cameras as 720p, this cleverly hides the fact that it's only a 1MP camera. As a minimum 2.3MP should have been the standard for the rear facing camera or have the ability to capture Full HD photos 1920x1080. The camera quality is poor and it takes an abundance of natural light to give better results. What factory in China is still making 1MP camera components, and why did Microsoft even knock on their door.
It works as promised and I have had no issues with the use. As an industrial designer I had doubts on the construction of the keyboard and I doubt it will be a durable product in it's first version. Expect to get a year and half use before considering to buy a different colour or replacement. Hopefully other manufacturers like Logitech might come out with alternative versions and functionality. I had placed my phone on top of the cover and thought Nokia should make a touch cover which doubles as a wireless charging pad for the 920.
A flaw with the touch cover is that when you flip it around and use the rear camera the touch cover obstructs the lens. I can't believe Microsoft didn't get this little detail right.
There are a mere handful of apps that will hold their short attention spans the quality, experience and price points of the apps don't match. Microsoft needs some 'professional' developers to create IPad quality apps. I don't agree with most Journalists when they say don't buy the Surface because of the lack of apps. Developers will not create any apps if there is no demand, so if the Surface ticks all the other boxes for you and lack of apps is a concern, I would still go ahead and buy it. More Surfaces in the market means more people emailing publishers asking for their favourite app.
USB and Home Networking (No I-Tunes!!)
Plugging a USB in lets you do things a normal PC. I can connect to my Wireless HUB and stream movies from attached Hard Drive. Fetch files from other Windows 8 PCs and laptops. IPads and Androids just don't communicate as well with other devices.
Multiple User Logins
Setup up personal and work accounts. Kids can use the Surface without affecting your work or settings. One of the best features of Windows 8 gives the Surface RT an advantage of IOS and Android - for now.
Windows Phone 7.5 Users - Beware
It's like Dad not being able to talk to his Son. You can plug your WP7 phone into the SurfaceRT and do nothing with except charge. Microsoft needs to provide something to allow Windows 7.5 users sync photos etc. It was a bit strange talking to the Microsoft Surface tech on the phone trying to find a solution, his comments were 'they are both Microsoft products they should talk to each other'. I realise I can shuffle things over sky drive but sometimes it's just quicker to sync over USB.
Will the Surface replace the IPad
Yes for the ability to get work done then and there. It's not just a content creation device it's also a collaboration device being able to sit with someone adjust numbers in Excel, modify copy in Word or PowerPoint means you don't have to sit back late in the office deciphering handwritten notes on print outs. Most people I showed around the office were keen on the device and saw it as an opportunity to replace their laptop.