D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

Surface and the Uphill Battle to Win Over iPad Users (Namely: Me)

Monday, June 25, 2012 9:12 AM

I went away this past weekend and decided to bring along the Windows 8 tablet from the Build conference last year – y’know, to give Windows 8 a try in a typical scenario. I also brought our iPad 2 along since I figured my wife would want to use that.

I’d love to tell you how I found using my Windows 8 tablet but I can’t – I used the iPad exclusively the entire weekend. It was during this that I realized what Microsoft needs to do to win me over as an iPad user. As you’ll see, I’m left wondering what it is that Surface is meant to compete with: iPad and other tablets, or thin laptops like the MacBook Air or Ultrabooks.

Device Size
I really like the size of the iPad compared with the Build tablet. It’s not as long and the thinness/weight of the device makes it feel more like you’re holding a magazine than a computer. I’m pleased that Microsoft will be matching the thinness of the iPad with Surface, but I’m suspect as to what that actually means. The iPad’s edges slant inwards where the Surface has a thicker boxish look (similar to the iPhone 4S). So while they may have the same depth at the deepest part of both devices, I bet the iPad will come off feeling thinner. However, its not lost on me the number of external port options the Surface’s design provides over the iPad (Usb, etc.). With that said, I haven’t missed having a USB slot on my iPad.

I’m not a fan of lengthening the Surface screen size to almost a full inch over the iPad, mainly because…

Vertical Orientation Experience
Did you notice at the announce event, in the images of the devices that have been released, and in any marketing for it, that the surface is always displayed in horizontal orientation. This is a huge beef I have with my Build tablet and why I prefer the iPad. Yes the iPad can do the wide-screenish mode, but the iPad is oriented to be vertical by nature. Don’t agree? Look at the button and camera placement – both on the shorter sides of the device. Compare that with the Surface, where the orientation for the button and camera is on the longer sides.

To be fair, Blackberry and the horde of Android tablets out there haven’t gotten this either – since most monitors are widescreen nowadays tablets should be too right? Wrong.

Widescreen is great for certain things, but tasks such as reading is not one of them – hence why monitor companies like Dell provide stands that allow you to flip your widescreen monitor to a vertical orientation. That Microsoft has chosen a horizontal orientation by default for Windows 8 is disappointing – hopefully hardware manufacturers will be given the option of a default vertical orientation.

Fast Startup Time
I like that I can turn off/turn on the iPad very quickly. Even from a true “off” mode and not just sleeping, the iPad boots up very quickly. Windows RT needs to have that same quick response. If I start finding that I’m waiting for the device to boot up for more than 30 seconds that could be a show stopper.

No Heat
I really hate that the Build tablet has fans that kick in to cool the procs, but its basically a slate computer and I get its part of that prototype build. For Surface, it needs to be the same type of experience as the iPad – no heat! I know Surface doesn’t have fans and uses some cool new vent system or something like that, but even then – I want to sit and read a book on my Surface without having to feel any heat coming from the device, which is the experience I have with the iPad now.

What About Apps?!
I am definitely not the target client when it comes to app stores. On my iPad I use:

Kindle Reader
Twitter App
Settlers of Catan
TSN’s App

And that’s it. So really, while its nice that some version of Office might be available, I’m not planning on utilizing a Surface for creating a PowerPoint or working on a Word document – that’s what my laptop is for. I want my tablet to be for information snacking or as an e-reader and occasionally an entertainment device.

Surface vs iPad or Surface vs Air?
The more that I read up on Surface, the more I wonder if it won’t be a touch-enabled MacBook Air competitor more than an iPad one. Also, I really question if Microsoft gets tablets – when one of your main selling features is a built-in physical keyboard it speaks more to a traditional laptop experience than a tablet one that’s entirely reliant on touch.

Still, I really love the Windows Phone interface – way more than iOS – so I’m still very optimistic that the Metro experience on the tablet will be fantastic. I just worry that Microsoft has interpreted a tablet as a computer with a removable keyboard and a touch screen, and that’s not what tablet computing is about at all.


# re: Surface and the Uphill Battle to Win Over iPad Users (Namely: Me)

I have been wondering about the horizontal orientation myself. One of the biggest problems I see is that you cannot reach the "home" button with your thumbs like you can with the vertical orientation of the iPad.

Also, even if manufacturers give options for default vertical orientation, the Visual Studio templates for metro apps are all focused on horizontal orientation so the vertical experience in apps might be less than optimal 6/25/2012 9:54 AM | David Paquette

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