It has been less than 24 hours since I received my pre-ordered Surface via UPS delivery. The delivery occurred when I was working from home on a presentation with my work laptop. Taking a break, I took the Surface from the box, powered it on and it prompted me for my LiveID (@hotmail.com) and WEP security code for my home wireless. About 10 minutes later, it asked me to sign in. I swiped my finger across the screen to the PowerPoint tile and pushed it. It opened to the “recent” sidebar showing the document I was working on 20 minutes ago on my work laptop. I selected it and presentation loaded into PowerPoint on my Surface.
You will notice something different immediately about the Surface:
Unlike other tablet devices, it’s intended for real work
The touch keyboard really works for data entry. I am a very proficient typist, I write documents, program code and use applications with a high degree of efficiency. The touch keyboard is almost as productive as a full size keyboard and light-years better than an on-screen keyboard. It is unbelievably light and thin and while it looks toy’ish; it is not. It works very , very well.
Surface has all the Office 2013 Applications. Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Even better, they are all cloud connected. No more transferring or emailing files from machine to machine. My files are immediately accessible from SkyDrive in the applications regardless of the computer I am working on.
Surface immediately saw all my other computers on the home network, it took me 30 seconds to configure a Remote Desktop Connection to my work PC and put the tile for it on the main screen. What it means is that my fully secure Enterprise PC functions are now extended to my Surface. I don’t have to join a Domain, worry about VPN’s or tangle with certificates. I just attach the Surface to the screen of the work PC. It’s fast, the resolution is good and very usable.
In about five minutes I configured my work Exchange email (@microsoft.com) to be available through the Surface mail app and another three minutes to load LYNC (Enterprise IM, Voice/Video conferencing) to link into my corporate Unified Communications system.
In the next two hours, I got back to work but continued working now on my Surface; working on my PowerPoint presentation, answering four emails, writing two more and taking a LYNC voice call. The transition from my work PC was transparent and productive. It was in effect, a lighter, more mobile and easier to use version of my work PC or perhaps better stated, a mobile extension of my Enterprise PC work environment.
When Microsoft originally announced the Surface one of the descriptions provided to us was that it was not just a “consumer” device, it was a “producer” device. I didn’t get it. A consumer device allows people to watch videos, look at web sites, read emails etc. Consumer devices generally have limited capabilities for efficiently producing content or collaboration. They are limited by screen form factor, poor on-screen keyboards and substandard office productivity software etc. The Surface on the other hand was designed for productivity. Bigger high-res screen, fantastic keyboard, seamless Cloud integration for document/data storage and an updated version of the full Office software suite. After using the Surface for a number of hours, I now understand what they meant.
The Surface still has the “consumer” abilities. You can download the Netflix and Kindle apps, you can add Skype (which it will convert to your LIVEID by the way). It is auto-integrated with Facebook and Twitter. It has a very nice Photo viewing app and a front & back camera for web-cam grade pictures and videos. Finally…. Microsoft has gotten rid of the less than friendly Zune Music software and replaced it with a very cool, very intuitive Surface music application. The Windows RT touch interface takes about an hour to get comfortable with it, but after that you quickly realize you can do things much faster than you could with a mouse in Windows 7.
So did the first 24 hours surface any concerns? No, not at all. Everything I tried with my Surface worked, worked well and in some cases surprised me by just how good it really is.
This blog post of course, written on my Surface.