As you have probably heard by now, Microsoft announced their new tablet technology, called Surface. By most accounts the hardware appears to be high quality. The 10.6” screen has a very nice display, touch screen technology and the device has many available ports for connectivity.
Rather than debate the functionality of the iPad vs. the Surface, we will take a different approach to our discussion. What should you know as a business about this new technology?
For starters, the Surface will eventually be running Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 8. This operating system is key to the success of Microsoft as it will be the operating system to run PCs and laptops as well as tablets. The merging of the tablet and PC operating systems is the evolution that many have been waiting for. This means that any programs that you can run on your PC can run on your tablet, unless your device requires Windows RT, a scaled down version for phone/tablet level hardware (ARM hardware). The important thing to note is that Microsoft will begin releasing the Surface with Windows RT. Many Windows applications will not run on this operating system. Microsoft plans to follow with a Surface tablet that runs the more business friendly Windows 8 Pro at a later date.
Another point of interest is that Microsoft will control the hardware on the surface much like Apple controls the hardware for the iPad. From a business perspective, the good news is conformity usually leads to stability. The bad news is that you are locked into whatever hardware choices Microsoft chooses to make.
The bright side is Windows RT will be available on a variety of tablet platforms such as the Samsung Galaxy and others. The question remains whether software developers will embrace the Windows RT platform or not. The full Windows 8 will be able to run on a variety of hardware choices in the desktop, laptop and net book space. The choices for tablets capable of running the full version of Windows 8 will likely improve in the future.
Tablet devices have appeal for businesses in many areas, including sales, field users, and of course the executive toy. The superior screen display along with the emergence of cloud technology which allows applications to be accessed with simply a browser make them functional choices as well. Today tablets fall short running many on-premise line-of-business (LOB) applications and management of proprietary solutions like the iPad are a business challenge. A Windows 8 tablet running a full version of Windows will open many doors to these business challenges. Just make sure you know what you are buying before you buy it and don’t get fooled into buying something that cannot meet the business objectives.