Monday, November 5, 2012

Surface RT

I had all sorts of expectations about the Surface device before I had a chance to actually handle one. I marvel at how uniform every review of the iPad is as compared to the Surface device. The iPad seems to be pretty much the same experience for everyone while the Surface obviously produces an array of experiences. People confuse this to mean the Surface must be deficient in some way and that it must certainly lack something as a consequence. 

What it really means is that the device has the ability to be something different to each person that picks it up. That's closer to a real computing experience in my opinion. Maybe I'm just totally immersed in Microsoft's Metro design language and the manner in which it is supposed to reach people, but it's like anything I guess, move or be moved. 

I haven't fallen out of love with my iPad. For someone heavily invested in both Apple and Microsoft's ecosystems I don't see the Surface as a replacement for my tablet. In buying a Surface I would acquire it instead of a MacBook Air, Samsung Series 9, HP Folio 13 or similar. It's what I would get instead of a laptop to run the Windows operating system. 

It's better than an ultrabook because it can pretend to be a tablet when it needs to, while being yet even more portable because of it's battery life and size. I still don't think anyone has made a true Windows tablet device, and maybe no one needs to. The Surface, as it's own form factor has appeal all on it's own without having to plug into the marketing hype Microsoft has tried to foster. 

In truth, I think they would have done better putting it out there with no explanation and no expectations. I think the engineers who engaged a hacker-collective style means of rapid prototyping absolutely won the battle that the marketing department seems determined to lose for them. Yeah, they grabbed headlines and made Marco Arment nervous enough that he had to troll a Microsoft retail location, but they lost a valuable opportunity to stand alone outside of any shadow in the oxymoronic mobile desktop computing world. 

Microsoft could have said that there are two worlds and that they need not collide or compete. People are always going to want the option of a mobile desktop experience, mobile experience and yet even more mobile experience. If you've every traveled and carried three mobile computing devices (laptop, tablet, and smartphone) at once through the airport, you know what I mean. 

Microsoft RT is particularly interesting to me. I think RT will catch on, and being there in the beginning is going to be exciting. Early adopters will watch a whole application ecosystem grow and take advantage of it as it gains diversity. It's something that techies didn't really get to experience with the iPad because iOS had already existed previously on other devices. 

Yes, RT is basically just Windows, but the sort that has no applications outside that which enter the marketplace and were designed for touchscreens. It's like Microsoft is asking what it would have been like to start at the ground level with their OS, in a touch-capable hardware environment. I can't wait to see the answer. 

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