Microsoft’s Surface Tablet: Nice, Not Needed In My Household
The “Surface” is the tablet that Microsoft unveiled Monday at a rather (over?-)hyped invitation-only “mystery event” (announced five days prior) held at 3:30pm PST in Los Angeles. The Surface, which will be available later this year, has a 10.6 inch display, uses the Windows 8 operating system and will come loaded with Office Home & Student 2013 RT, the next version of Microsoft’s Office software. It also has a magnetically attached cover that can be used to type on, a USB port and an integrated kickstand.
There are plenty of reviews out there about the Surface; please note that what follows is a very personalized response!
Microsoft Makes Its Own Tablet
By producing its own tablet, Microsoft is altering its strategy of writing software for devices created by others (IBM, Dell) and directly challenging Apple, whose iPad now dominates the tablet market. As Matt Burns writes on Tech Crunch, “Microsoft clearly built this tablet, or rather, PC, to give Windows 8 a fighting chance. Or, to put it another way, Microsoft built this product because Microsoft doesn’t trust its hardware partners” — Microsoft wanted to build a tablet that would showcase its own products in the manner it would prefer.
Two versions of the Surface will be available, one with 32 gigabytes or 64 gigabytes of storage and an ARM chip, which is widely used in mobile devices; these will run a version of the new system, Windows RT. The other, “professional” (i.e, aimed at the business customer) version will have an Intel chip and greater storage capacity (64 gigabytes or 128 gigabytes) and be a bit thicker; it will run Windows 8 and could cost about $1000. The Surface will only be available via Microsoft’s Web store and its 20 retails stores (five more stores are in the works).
Early reviews by tech writers give the Surface strong reviews. Here is a tablet that, because it uses Windows, because it uses Office, means you can do everything on it that you can on a laptop or PC. I definitely prefer reading ebooks from an iPad rather than my computer and I’ve noted the huge difference the iPad has made in my teenage autistic son Charlie’s life but I can’t write a Care2 post on an iPad and word processing is not quite the same.
Why My Household Won’t Need a Surface Tablet
But I don’t see this as a huge issue at all; I’m not sure we would have gotten an iPad if it hadn’t been for Charlie. Everything I use the iPad for, I can do on my iPhone, with the main difference being that the iPad has, of course, a much bigger screen. Indeed, the iPad has the magical touch screen that Charlie, who struggled for years to learn to use the keyboard and the mouse (he could never figure out how moving the mouse was connected to the blinking cursor on the screen), could finally operate all on his own.
But one of the best things about the iPad for Charlie was one that I don’t think most tech manufacturers are thinking of. “It has no movable parts!” as my husband Jim immediately noted when Charlie first got an iPad.
The Surface looks like it has a least three parts to bend and… break off.
Charlie, who is on the moderate to severe end of the autism spectrum and has little speech, can be tough on things (like the walls of my house). His iPad is encased in a sturdy metal, hard plastic and silicon case that has helped it survive banging, pounding and the occasional throw. Whereas, laptop computers have keyboards whose keys can be pulled out and need to be connected to networks to have internet access. VCR players (ours is long, long gone) have plastic doors that can be swung back and forth, back and forth, plus the videos have separate components including tape that begs to be pulled out. DVDs and CDs are readily ruined by fingers touching their sensitive bottom sides.
You might wonder, why give a child an expensive device if he is liable to damage or break it? I wonder that a lot myself. Most of the time, Charlie uses his iPad with care and respect; he was amazed to find videos through YouTube that he remembered from when he was little and he plays music constantly (sometimes, he tells us how he’s feeling by what he is listening to). Kids like him can learn to use iPads and such devices and need to be given the chance, but I can see why a non-profit found that it might be more effective to give Kindles to Ghanaian kids instead of $100 laptops as the tablet design of e-readers withstands the, um, “treatment” that children can put things — even those they love — through.
The Surface seems aimed at the business and professional consumer; if priced right, I could see college students might use try it instead of a netbook. But the compactness and design of the iPad are innovations that make it usable by consumers who, I admit, are not Microsoft’s, or most of the business world’s, target audience.
What are your thoughts on the new Microsoft Surface tablet? Will it offer Apple some serious competition or join the ranks of gadget failures?
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