For about a year I’ve been putting off the purchase of a new secondary screen. I’ve been dragging my feet for a number of reasons. The first of course is fiscal prudence – It’s never good to spend money if you don’t really have to – but I’ve also been waiting on the rumors about Windows 8 and the new Microsoft Surface to prove their truth.
Yes, I’m as surprised as you are about that last statement. A Microsoft product causing a stir? What’er the odds of that! Sadly, now that the new product has been unveiled, it looks like I’m still on hold.
Here’s my dilemma: I need something that lets me pretend to do all the things that I do on my main rig, but I also want something light and portable enough to do some e-reading and casual mouse-free roaming.
iPads are fantastic, but then I’m stuck trying to do everything I need to do through the iOS app world. Possible, but painful. I’d have a little better luck with an Android-based tablet, but not enough to make it worthwhile. The newish Ultrabook specs are nice, but it’s more than I need, and I don’t really want to pay $1000+ for a device that’s going to be dragged around and abused.
Enter the Surface. Microsoft’s new (first ever!) computer is both everything I hoped for and everything I wanted to avoid. Fun as a tablet, but with a proper keyboard built in, it’s useful as laptop. It has a proper file structure, USB ports and all of the other things we expect from a real computer. And at around $500 it’s the right price to compete with anything on the market.
But then they shackled it to Windows RT, the kid brother of the new Windows 8. Basically, they took a full-blown computer and then hobbled it with all of the limitations of of tablet. It won’t run your real Windows programs, only apps from their new marketplace. Compared to Apple’s app offerings, it’s like switching your shopping from Costco to the Circle K.
There’s talk of a “pro” version in the works – but with the price tag and heft of a full-fledged Ultrabook. Hopefully, Microsoft will see the error of its ways or, even better, some 3rd party finds a way to crack RT and run it like Windows 8.
I do, and will continue to do, most of my work on my desktop in my nice chair with my nice big monitor. But mobility is a key to a productive me. If I had to buy something today I’d opt for a cheap laptop, which is just too boring to be true. Someone (Samsung? MSI?) will get this right sooner or later. When they do, I’ll be cash-in-hand ready to say thanks.
Further reading, from the New York Times: Microsoft Unveils The Surface.