Friday, February 8, 2013

Why Microsoft's Surface Pro is important

I'll go out on a limb here. I think the Surface Pro is something special. While Apple has been busy printing money, Microsoft put their shoulder to the wheel and made a tablet that you can use for work. Not a tablet for consuming silly games, taking Instagram photos, doing Facebook, and reading the news. A serious tablet for work. That's a crucial difference. The Surface Pro isn't perfect, but it sounds like the device that everyone was clamoring for when this tablet thing all began: a MacBook Pro Touch. I don't know if anyone out there still wants one of those, but I sure do.

In the beginning...
The iPad has become so dominant that most consumers have forgotten about this MacBook Pro Touch dream. Before the iPad, the Mac faithful wanted a MacBook Pro Touch. (Some companies would even retrofit a touchscreen onto your MBP for a price.) And it was also the kind of tablet that Microsoft was making at the time – Windows with a stylus (yuck). 

In classic Apple style, the boys from Cupertino decreed that such a device wouldn't work. What we all wanted, according to them – because we didn't know what we really wanted – was something else, a much simpler, less powerful device for consuming media: an iPad. And the rest was history.

Meanwhile, in Microsoft...
Apple was right of course about creating a whole new OS for touchscreen devices. You couldn't just add touch to Windows or OS X and expect it to work. It didn't work well at all. But while Apple has been (successfully) selling us simplified tablets, Microsoft has been on the case, quietly working out how to make a tablet that does everything your laptop does with Windows 8.

Surface Pro was born, a tablet that was created for work and everything else (even some gaming). And if the reports are to be believed, it mostly works. You can buy it next month. And Microsoft's partners will all be making their own versions down the road. 

The future of tablets
I don't know if anyone will actually buy an expensive tablet for work. But whatever happens, the Surface Pro will help determine whether or not we'll see tablets taking over the job that laptops currently hold.

The Surface Pro has a couple of things going for it. It's a swell device, according to early reviews, it's powerful, and it's got a proper version of Windows 8 on it, not RT. So you can get all your work stuff on there, no problem. The keyboard is expensive, but it does the trick. Sure, the Surface Pro is quirky and weird, and, yeah, it's Windows. But I for one am willing to give it a try if someone can make a sexy version (Asus, make it happen!) because, for now, this is the closest I'm going to get to that MacBook Pro Touch.

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