1) Running Windows Apps
…and I mean all Windows Apps. I can run a Windows XP VM, using VMware Player or other tools, and then run most any application I desire – even those not directly compatible with Windows 8. Yes, it is a bit clunky sometimes trying to “click” in the right place with my fat finger, but pulling out the pen typically resolves this issue. The point is that I can run very important software apps for an IT geek like me, such as protocol analyzers, spectrum analyzers and programming tools and I can run them all in their full-blown power – not in some limited, nearly useless, tablet version.
2) It’s A Computer
…a real computer. Running with 4 GB RAM and a lickety-split fast processor, I can do anything other basic laptops can do. With a small USB 3 hub, I can connect multiple USB devices at the same time. The Surface Pro, and its sister Windows 8 Pro tablets now coming out, is the only tablet that can “really” be used as a tablet and then as a desktop computer. When I go into my office, I can plug it into a USB cable (attached to a powered hub) and have full access to external storage, keyboard and mouse. Then I plug in the video cable and I have a large screen monitor. The performance is as good as my 2 year old desktop sitting across the room.
3) It’s A Tablet
…in spite of what many have said (mostly those who have not used it), the Surface Pro is a tablet. Granted, it’s a bit heavier than an iPad, but, then again, it can do a few thousand things the iPad can never do (because of its limited interface options and applications – that’s right, I just said the iPad has limited applications over the Surface Pro because it cannot run all of the Windows apps released over the past decade or more [see reason number 1]). The touch sensitivity is equal to my iPad and my best Android-based devices. No problems there. The pen is very accurate and makes for excellent diagramming – far superior to that available on either the iPad or the Android-based tablets.
As a side note – I have used iDevices off and on for more than three years and Android-based devices during that time – I have lots of experience with all three device types. I have waited a couple of months to write this post because I was initially blown away by the Surface Pro and I thought, “surely this is going to wear off and I will see the flaws in this device that make it less appealing than the Apple or Android devices.” Based on the reviews I had seen to that point, I thought I must be confused about how great it is. Now, after more than two months of use, I am more convinced than ever that, for an IT geek, the other tablets can’t even come close (though this may not be true for the general user). Going back and exploring those reviews again, it became obvious to me that most negative reviews fell into one of the following two categories:
- Reviews by people who had not used the Surface Pro but commentated only on its features.
- Reviews by people who had used Apple devices for nearly all their work (laptops and tablets) for several years.
Certainly, people in the first category, should not be taken seriously. People in the second category should be taken very seriously because they do present an issue for Microsoft. Microsoft has to address the learning curve for that group (and it includes many, many younger buyers today). But I don’t work for Microsoft marketing, so that’s their problem and this adaptivity is not in any way a reflection of usefulness or value for those who are willing to adapt. Stated another way, if a device is harder to use for someone who has been using another device, this is not an important factor in the measurement of either the usability or the functional usefulness of that device. It is simply proof that they know how to use the other device better. Simple as that. From a functional perspective, no one can argue with sincerity that the iPad or Android tablets offer more than the Surface Pro (with the possible exception of access to memory cards, but that is easily solved with a USB memory card reader – though it is, admittedly, not a pretty solution).
The reality is that I could go on with another thirty reasons that the Surface Pro is far better for the average IT geek than the other non-Windows tablets, but I simply lack the energy to persuade you. My goal is not really to persuade anyone anyway – just to be a voice that is not influenced by the anti-Microsoft bias that is so common out there. Here’s the way I would summarize it. Do you want a device that can do all the following in equal capability to a laptop while being a true tablet?
- Run advanced IT software
- Access custom USB hardware
- Run virtual machines
- Run Office – real Office or Office-like applications with all capabilities
- Access hundreds of thousands (millions ?) of full-featured applications
- Current access to tens of thousands of custom Windows 8 UI apps (with a growth rate surpassing 100,000 by the end of summer) – think of these as the “tablet” apps for Windows 8
- The best Internet browsing experience of any tablet (remember, you can install Firefox or Chrome on here – and I mean the real ones, not the lame tablet releases [smile])
Then Surface Pro (or one of its sister Windows 8 tablets coming out from other vendors) is right for you. Certainly, it’s not for everyone, but I cannot even fathom thinking the competing OS-based tablets are better tablet tools for the standard IT pro. However, many will disagree with me and just keep complaining to software vendors about the fact that their needed IT tools are just not available for the iPad that they use.