In my work as a consultant and presenter, I travel a lot. My primary machine is an Apple MacBook, and I love it, but I need a backup machine in case the primary one dies. My presentations (and consulting gigs) must go on – but I hate traveling with additional weight. So what’s a guy to do?
For the past few years, my backup machine has been a first-generation Apple iPad. It handles most of the duties beautifully – keeps me busy on planes and trains, has 3G built in so I can connect everywhere, and is a wonderful conference machine. It’s great for keeping up with Twitter, email, and writing blog posts simultaneously at conferences (even if it isn’t a true multitasker).
There’s one place where the iPad falls down: presenting. Apple Keynote borks up my PowerPoint presentation formatting just enough that it annoys me. I put a ton of work into my decks, and I want them to look perfect, but a lot gets lost in translation between PowerPoint on the laptop and Keynote on the iPad.
When Microsoft announced their new Surface RT tablet, I was mesmerized. An iPad clone with Office built in? Sign me up!
I’m willing to make a lot of compromises if PowerPoint works well with a remote clicker, and it sounds like I’m going to have to make a lot alright. Here’s what I’m losing from my first-generation iPad:
No 3G connectivity – at conferences, I’m going to be relying on the conference WiFi (BWAHAHAHA) and pairing the Surface RT with my iPhone. Goodbye, battery life.
No iOS apps – I’ve got a handful of apps I’m addicted to. I use TripIt to manage my travel and 1Password to sync all my passwords everywhere. I rely on RememberTheMilk.com for task management, and I love having the same to-do list synced over my laptop, iPad, iPhone, and the web. I can live without these apps on the Surface RT because I’ll have my iPhone with me, so I’m comfortable with this compromise.
No iTunes/iCloud syncing – iTunes sucks. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. But when you’ve got all Apple devices, it sucks a little less because when you buy an app or music or movie or book or anything else in the Apple ecosystem, it appears on all of your devices. Presto – the music is on my iPhone, the movie is on my Apple TV, and the book is on my iPad. Not so with the Surface RT, but again, this is a compromise I’m willing to make because of my goals for the Surface.
Licensing will theoretically cost more – Mary Jo Foley points out that if you use the Surface RT for work, you have to be covered by Office 365 or one of the new Office 2013 desktop licenses. There’s no Office 2013 for Mac announced yet, so I’m going to be using the software illegally. Arrr, matey.
Stability – This is the one that scares me the most. Microsoft is shipping a tablet to me next week, and most tech journalists still haven’t put their hands on a working production model. I’m fully expecting a crashtastic, buggy mess that will be a big step backward from the stability of iOS. I just closed my eyes, crossed my fingers, and clicked Buy in the blind hope that Microsoft will get it right within a few software updates. (64GB with both keyboards just out of curiosity.)
I can’t imagine a lot of consumers making the same number of compromises I’m making to get a Surface RT. I can kinda-sorta imagine hard-core IT types getting a Surface Pro with its full-blown version of Windows, but I’m really not convinced Microsoft can deliver a good experience there. After all, they’re holding the Surface Pro delivery until next year, which makes me think it’s less baked than the RT version. Not a good omen.
Even with my concerns, I’m really excited about the arrival of my Surface RT. Because, hey, it’s a gadget – and who doesn’t like gadgets?
Sounds like you need to set up your iPhone to tether for your new Surface.
Its interesting to note your reasons for opting for this over an iPad but what you don’t explain is why you chose a Surface over the other Windows RT options, some of which will have the built-in 3G connectivity that you correctly pointed out the Surface RT does not have (the Yoga is interesting me for example: http://crave.cnet.co.uk/laptops/lenovo-yoga-rt-version-set-to-be-a-folding-surface-rival-50008883/).
Anything to add on that?
Jamie – yep, the answer on that one is pretty simple: it’s a backup machine for me, not my primary. I don’t want to lug another four pounds around.
OK, just to clarify I didn’t *specifically* mean why did you get it in preference to the Yoga, I meant why did you get it in preference to *any* other RT tablet 🙂
Still a valid answer tho – Surface RT is very light by all accounts.
Just an observation – there are Win8 tablets that will come from other companies running the non-RT version. Lenovo, ASUS, Acer, HP, Toshiba all have tablets from what I can recall and they weigh about as much as the Surface but with a processor that can run most x86 apps and with comparable battery life (if not build quality – no skateboards for them).
The concept looks interesting, but I’d love to see more native apps for Win8 before committing to an RT tablet. I’d also like to get my hands on one before buying. I totally get that having a working PPT makes a lot of sense for you and look forward to hearing about how that plays out in your real-world usage.
Peter – can you point me to one? I haven’t seen a 1.5-2.0 pound Surface from other vendors that look any good.
I’m TOTALLY with you on the lack of apps – it scares me on that one.
Hi Brent, I cannot understand why Microsoft does not provide 3G support on these machines. That is totally the reason that I do not buy this RT edition. Unfortunately Pro edition is same too. That seems a marketing not to sell, just for advertising of future models…
Yeah, I’m not feeling the love for a Surface. I’m thinking a Kindle Fire HD or even an Ubuntu laptop as my next geek possession (or I may just try and save money and find where I threw my craptastic Dell Precision and try to install Ubuntu Studio on it…).
I’m keeping an open mind, though.
I’ll definitely be following your experience with it.
The ads look cool. The eagles of death metal song they use rocks.
OMG!! Why.!! why didn’t they incorporate 3g into the surface. The whole notion was that you were to be connected online…constantly even when you were kinda powered off. How the hell are you supposed to be online if you shift from a hotspot to another. I wonder if Windows Phone 7.8 is going to have tethering capability?
Amaan – this is just a guess, but based on the first group of Surface RT reviews, they had a hard enough time meeting their shipping date with just the features they have. I’d agree that I would much rather have 3G (or preferably 4G) connectivity on a tablet though. In the meantime, I’ll be using the WiFi hotspot built into my iPhone.
Really excited to read your review once you have it in your hands. Hope you got the hot pink!
Well, it kinda sucks – to get the 64GB model, you have to get the black keyboard. (sigh) I actually wanted that pink one!
[…] the built-in stuff is so incredibly bad. The lack of apps wasn’t a problem for me – I explained why I preordered a Surface RT – but the quality of the built-in apps […]
[…] Answer: I wrote about that here: http://ozarme.wpengine.com/2012/10/why-i-preordered-a-microsoft-surface-rt/ […]
Really interested what is your impression about Microsoft Surface RT ? 🙂 Have you got it? Is it worthy ? I own by myself pre Windows 8 tablet (Acer w500 x86) which runs Windows 8 Pro and it allows me to use 3g Usb Modem, but one of my friends , who have IPad 3 , IPad 2 planning to get Microsoft Surface RT. Got sick of static icons 🙂
Robert – I blogged what I thought of it here: http://ozarme.wpengine.com/2012/10/why-im-returning-my-microsoft-surface-rt/
[…] because the built-in stuff is so incredibly bad. The lack of apps wasn’t a problem for me – I explained why I preordered a Surface RT – but the quality of the built-in apps […]