Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Digging Beneath the "Surface"

Bad pun aside, no doubt you have heard the announcement regarding the Microsoft Surface tablet computer. There are many interesting things about this announcement but as usual, I care about how it effects us going forward.

Surface is a game changer as long as Microsoft executes well (and I believe they will). Here are a few reasons why.

Windows 8
People are going to use windows 8 on their office/home PC, they are going to be come familiar with the system for using on the tablet.  I've been using Windows 8 for a few months now on my home PC and I don't really care for it much but mostly because it is designed for a tablet.  Fortunately, I can run the "Windows 7" style from the PC easily so it's almost like an extra feature rather than the operating system making the transition to Windows 8 smoother.  

Windows Phone
The current Windows Phone has been getting some pretty great reviews by consumers and professionals alike.  So while way behind iPhone and Droid, it's beginning to build a name for the brand.  Most important, Windows 8 Phone will be compatible with your Windows 8 PC and Tablet.

Design
Microsoft has received numerous accolades for the design.  They did this one right.

Keyboard cover
Part of the great design is including a usable keyboard as part of the cover.  I haven't used it but am reading very positive reviews.  And one of my biggest complaints about my iPad is that it is much easier to consume than to create. Give me a great keyboard and MS Office applications and why do I need a laptop?

XBOX
Kinect voice and gesture recognition is amazing and makes navigating through menus easy.   I'm sure some/most of that technology will be embedded.  Xbox already access media from my Windows 7 machine and is a great device for much more than games.  But they've also announced how you can use Surface to interact with your XBOX games with an app called SmartGlass which will let users stream content straight from consoles to mobile devices.  They just drew in a big crowd of young gamers and made Nintendo even less relevant.

SKYPE
Many people use SKYPE. PC, MAC, IPAD, DROID, Windows Phone.  You name it.  Facetime only works with other "i" devices.  So Skype has a huge user population that you'll be able to video call with no matter what device.

Price
The price is going to be key to success and rumors are between $599 and $999.  So why pay more?  Well, it's not really more when you compare the amount of storage and what apps will be included.  Throw in the cost of the keyboard and/or cover and you are less than the cost of an iPad.  But this point is still open for debate, because value or not, $399 is much easier to spend than $599.  This one will take time for people to overcome and may slow consumer adoption but businesses should be ok.

Even the Geeks will be happy.
No proprietary connectors or hardware preventing Geeks from supporting the devices and making cables, etc interchangeable.  And your office IT staff, if you have one, will like that there will be better security management that ties to their existing infrastructure.

There is an app for that!
Windows 8 apps will be compatible with your tablet, phone & PC, any app you buy for your PC will (theoretically) run on your phone & tablet.  Most of us will eventually buy a new PC (an ultrabook is my next personal purchase) and it will have Windows 8.  And then we'll want apps to run on that PC that will come from the Microsoft Window App Store. 

It is no slam dunk. Microsoft can blow this but for the first time in as long as I can remember, I think they have a real winner here.  Much of their corporate business remains challenged so this is too critical for them to botch and they know it.

WHAT TO DO?
PC -- If your PC is really old, go ahead and buy the cheapest Windows 7 machine.  Windows 7 is great and you'll find good use for it.  Dell and Best Buy have great desktops and even laptops for under $400 that will serve you well for a few years.  But if you can wait, Windows 8 is to be released in Fall of this year and you could have the latest hardware and software.

Mobile Phone -- You should really wait to buy your next phone.  Once you buy a phone you are locked in for 2 years.  I love my droid but I will probably switch to the Windows 8 phone based on what I see.  Slated for a Fall 2012 release and lest you think it will be a "beta" phone, the Windows 7.5 release is very stable so you can safely buy the Windows 8 phone (but don't buy any current Windows phone, Windows 8 will not be compatible with existing devices).  When released, I expect great deals to motivate you to switch.

Tablet -- Go ahead and buy an iPad for $399 (skip the latest $499 generation).  It's a great device and you can always sell it for $300 if you wish to switch to Microsoft Surface.  But you'll probably wait until the 2nd Surface is available so you'll get a good year or two out of your iPad before you buy Surface.  Once the hype goes away and the real picture of what the Surface can do is clear, make your own decision.