Our Summary and Conclusion
However, there are a few negatives that need to be mentioned. The touch-targets in desktop mode felt a little small to us. Desktop mode is usable with touch, but it was obviously designed to be used in conjunction with one of Surface’s keyboard accessories, which have touch-pads as well. Applications also take a relatively long time to launch the first time. Multi-tasking on Surface is excellent, so leaving many applications open at one time isn’t a problem, but when first launching an app, it can take multiple seconds to open. If you’re used to tapping an icon in iOS or Android and having an app quickly pop open, you’ll definitely notice the lag when initially launching apps of Surface. This will probably improve over time as Microsoft and developers further streamline the OS and apps, but for now there’s clearly some optimization work to be done to speed up application launching on Surface.
Microsoft’s first stab at building a premium tablet was a very good one in our opinion. Microsoft still has a lot of work to do to build out the Windows 8/RT app ecosystem and consumers in general still seem to be apprehensive about Windows 8’s radical new interface, but the Surface tablet itself and its array of accessories are excellent. Microsoft has proven that they can hang with the best of them in terms of hardware design and manufacturing.
With that said, Surface (and Windows 8) is in for one heck of an uphill battle. The fact that parts of Windows RT are best used with a keyboard and touchpad is sure to put off some consumers. To get the most out of Surface consider one of the $120-$130 keyboard accessories a must. Add that investment on top of a $499 (32GB) or $599 (64GB) tablet, and you’re talking about $520 to $630 for a product that doesn’t offer nearly the number of apps that its competition from Apple or Android, with screen that’s potentially lower-resolution screen as well. Surface is a premium product, no doubt, but it faces some stiff, already well entrenched competition at similar or lower price points. What Surface does offer that no one else can is Microsoft Office. The inclusion of Office with Windows RT alone may be enough to sway some consumers to give Surface a chance.
When the dust settles though, we think Microsoft is onto something. Having switched to Windows 8 a few months ago, I am now a big fan of Windows 8 and the new interface, even on desktop systems . The new UI and Start Screen isn’t very visually attractive, but it is faster and easier to navigate than the old Start menu and the OS itself has many underlying improvements that are worth the upgrade. I will never consider going back to Windows 7. Windows Phone 8 and its associated devices are also generating a lot of buzz. Windows Phone hasn’t gained much of a foothold yet, but now that Microsoft and its partners will be offering a more robust and feature rich mobile OS on devices that compete favorably, and even surpass, much of the competition in terms of specifications, Windows Phone 8 could finally be poised for some serious growth. And then there’s the synergy with the Xbox 360 to consider. When you roll that all up, Microsoft is uniquely positioned to offer seamless integration and a consistent interface across desktops, laptops, mobile devices, and even the living room. It’s going to take a monumental effort and consumers are going to have to warm up to the idea, but Microsoft has now laid the foundation for growth in a world increasingly dominated by mobile computing devices and touch interfaces. It remains to be seen whether they’ll be successful or not, and it may be years before we have an answer, but Microsoft is making some bold moves that can’t be ignored. To think the battle between Microsoft, Apple and Google is already over is just plain foolish.