If you haven’t heard of it; for the love of God – go check out the Microsoft Surface Keynote! It’s 47 minutes long, and every bit worth watching!
There’s absolutely no doubt that this is a stunning keynote, but more than anything – what I’m most amazed by is that this literally resolves all of the issues that plague our famous flagship tablet; The New iPad.
Pen input that’s unaffected by our palms
We’ve all seen the attempts. Whether it be the casual “sausage-ended” capacitive stylus, or the more honest attempts such as the DAGI P504, the advance of touch input (and the death of digitizer pens) has come hand-in-hand with compromised written input… which is NOT good. Any student above high school level knows that typed input is not always a premium choice. As a matter of fact, when all those dynamic types of notes (like charts, graphs, tables, references, diagrams, visual aids and steps) come into play, written input is absolutely 100% irreplaceable.
…this does not bode well for iPad… because pen input is… well… awful. Pen accuracy is already far from fine, and it isn’t helped by the fact that resting your palm on the screen sends the device into a total freakout. That means that entire level of dynamic input is lost. Microsoft’s Surface’s approach is to relieve this problem with a fine-point (first party!) “digital ink” pen, and screen technology that integrates dual digitizers such that the closer proximity of the pen can make the screen prioritize pen input.
What does that mean for us? We finally have something that returns the practicality (and accuracy) of WACOM tablet stylus input, without being too old-school for capacitive touch input.
A REAL operating system, with REAL, FULL-BLOWN software
The biggest qualm with any tablet nowadays is that mobilized software simply isn’t a substitute for the real deal. Try to take a professional office class and you realize quickly that none of these QuickOffices, Libres, iWorks, OpenOffices are a good way to end up lacking all those buttons, tabs, arrows and wizards that are copiously used are mis-located (if they’re even present at all).
The same goes for any form of media editing, professional drafting, modeling and the like. We need the real software suites, not the silly little “mobilized” version that comes with 1/16th of the features, and certainly not the cheap imitation that can get us flunked out of any given course. On these mobile phone-based tablets… achieving that is a problem. On the Microsoft Surface; that will not be a problem.
Cooling that can’t be blocked
Tablets are getting advanced, tablet specs are getting to rival our set-tops, which means we’re obviously nearing the age where tablets will needs set-top-tier cooling mechanisms. You can’t type “iPad” and “heat” without Google automatically filling you in on a vast history of complaints concerning extreme heat problems. Now if a mobile-phone OS-based tablet can get us all hot, one of these full-OS beasts are gonna give our hands some revolutionary third-degree burns, right? Nah… Microsoft’s thought of that; and given us what they call “perimeter venting”. In a nutshell, it’s evenly-distributed cooling system that’d require an army of 3-6 people to successfully ‘block’.
Built-in stand, and keyboards for every occasion
Bar none, the most popular thing to do with iPad is to try to pretend it’s a laptop. I’ll admit, I’m quite captivated by the act of scourging the internet to see just how unique these keyboards get. What doesn’t captivate me; however, is the process of having to pair them… or re-establish the connection per every session… or having to worry about managing the charge of something else when I already have to charge the tablet. Cumbersomeness is the enemy of convenience… and all those iPad keyboard solutions are cumbersome in more than one way.
Microsoft, on the other hand, presents a solution that’s a snap! No, seriously… the keyboard just snaps on; no pairing process required! Initially, I took one look at their heavily pushed SmartCover and thought “That… is gonna be a bitch to type on without tactile feedback.“… and before I could successfully begin gritting my teeth in agony, they ponied up a keyboard that’s got some texture to it. Color me satisfied.
Ports for external devices, Built-in HDMI
Quite possibly the most agonizing thing about iPad is that Apple speaks a language of excruciating proprietaries and limitations. This means that you’re dealing with some ugly, protruding brick of an adapter if you ever want to connect any kind of USB device; same story applies to TV connectivity because God forbid we actually want native everyday conveniences of that flavour.
Luckily the Microsoft Surface has been made just thick enough so that USB ports are no obstable, and of course they’d be cruel to not add a mini-HDMI DisplayPort (such as what we have in all our cameras and cellphones nowadays). This relieves a great amount of complication for those of us who would like to connect one USB hub, one larger monitor and have our mobile workstation be one and the same with the powerhouse that puts them dollars in our pockets and food in the fridge.
Or, on a less worky-worky serious note, a port to enable any given USB gamepad for those of us that want to game on with these ultrabook specs.
16:9 screen so video isn’t letterboxed (or cropped) all to hell
It’s quite astounding how many people have their video image compromised and don’t even know how to tell it’s being compromised… but I suppose Apple’s greatest successes do really come from a grand majority that can be commercially manipulated based on their oblivion. If you contain even a modicum of understanding about what I’m talking about though, you already know just how bothersome it is that watching videos (or trying to type!) on a 4:3 screen is a lose-lose situation. Obviously, I wouldn’t have started this segment if we didn’t have the Microsoft Surface riding in with something that’s actually ideal for our various forms of media.
Combines tablet form factor with ultrabook capability
More important than anything mentioned thus far is that this is still a tablet! Traditionally, a tablet does not replace a netbook, laptop or ultrabook because it’s capabilities are sub-par. The Microsoft Surface marks the first massively marketed tablet that marries tablet form factor with something that’s truly practical enough to be full-fledged for work and entertainment.
All that aside…the magnetic pen/keyboard stuff is just sexy.
Microsoft already ‘had’ tablets before Apple started pretending they invented them…and now there’s finally a first-party Microsoft tablet that’s mainstreamed to appeal to a crowd larger than those that buy into the likes of a Motion Computing tablet… and it’s mainstreamed without sacrificing power/capability! This looks to be the tablet that’s truly premium regardless of whether people want entertainment, work or both… and I do want one… very badly!
Apple’s trying really hard to push iPad as a device that students and professionals can find ideal… in all honesty though, to call the college/professional experience on iPad mediocre would be giving it too much credit with it’s lackluster input methods and cheap, knock-offy “mobilized” software. If you’ve already had the tragic experience of trying to take notes on an iPad, you realize that typed input is good, and dynamic input is bad. Pick from any category of capacitive pen inputs and you find that as soon as notes get “dynamic,” the iPad becomes inadequate. Jumping from the collegiate level to the professional business world; It’s easy to be impressed by base-statements that “94% of the Fortune 500 uses the iPad,” but this wouldn’t be a VeryTechnical-tier article if we let base-statements impress without looking deeper. What you find when investigating this claim is that deceptive wording would make us think the Fortune 500 truly run the world off their iPad, when the reality is that iPad’s non-real OS limitations keeps it handling the novelties – and only the novelties – while the major bulk of work that runs this world goes towards less-limited hardware.
This? This is a beastly-specced tablet with a real damn operating system capable of running real damn software… I mean… that’s game over! You can’t beat the unadultered experience that all the app creators cheaply imitate. If Microsoft doesn’t botch this with outrageous pricing or wait too late to deliver, we will definitely have established a “king” of tablets.