The Lazy Blogger

Who needs the Surface Pro?


By Sumit


(Image Copyright: Microsoft Corporation, not to be reproduced from here)

So the Surface PRO reviews are out and the pundits are all confused with what to do with it. I am having fun watching them trying to make sense out of the PRO and trying to like it. Those who don’t like Microsoft, just because it’s Microsoft, are having a field day hating on it.

After being heavily influenced by the pro-Apple brigade when I was in the States and having invested in a iPhone, MacBook Pro, iPod Touch and using an iPad that I got as a gift, it’s fair for me to say I have seen both sides of the PC story.

Today I use a self assembled Windows 8 Desktop for 90% of my work and it’s fair to say that in the last 10 months or so I’ve become a MS Shill. Now that I have given you the context, let’s see who I think needs a Surface PRO and why.

Let me start by saying I have a Surface RT already and even if the Surface PRO was available in India I wouldn’t be rushing out to exchange it for the PRO. But hey this is not about me, back to topic who is the Surface PRO for. Let me give you a little background first.

In my previous job I was a contractor with a Network Equipment company in the Bay Area (no not starting with C). It’s a mid-sized company big enough to have a fully staffed (over staffed?) IT department supporting the company’s core competency - Network Storage equipment design and manufacturing. I was a part of the IT dept. and for four years worked for a Team referred to as the Operations Team. If you considered the whole company a car, these guys where kind of the gearbox. Technically sound but rarely writing code. They used the Office Suite, Adobe Products and the browser (unfortunately saddled with IE6 thanks to Oracle but that story is for a different day) some had specific hardware design software on their machines. Essentially most of their work in office involved a computer. The company issued pretty decently configured Dell Latitudes to the Operations team and they could lug it home or keep it docked to their desk. Every employee’s desk was equipped with a docking station that had a keyboard a mouse and one or two Dell 19” 4:3 Monitor. Most people used the docking station to turn their setup into a dual monitor setup. Now 90% of the people hated their PCs. Why?

  1. Windows XP used to take 10 minutes to boot
  2. While docking if your PC was running it would BSOD, repeat step 1.
  3. While un-docking if your PC was not in sleep/hibernate it would BSOD, repeat step 1.
  4. Every once in a while people’s hard drives would crash resulting in a costly rebuild backup/restore process for IT.
  5. If Hard Drives worked the NVidia graphics chipsets would conk out resulting in what the IT referred to as ‘chassis swap’ where they would take the hard drive of the broken laptop and dump it into a working on with the same (or nearly similar) configurations.

Now these folks were always moving from meeting to meeting, conferences to conferences and would often travel to their factories in US, Mexico and China. The mobility offered by the ‘laptops’ were a hindrance more often that they would have liked. Result, people who could, ditched their office PCs and started purchasing MacBookPros. Was a small number but it started happening 2 years back, I can only assume that it progressed since then.

Does it start making sense as to who the Surface Pro is for?

Yes, the Surface Pro is for the above Operations Team. It’s perfect for them, runs all their software, dock it at office, take it home or travel with it or seamlessly move between meetings with it. You cannot ask for more. For the IT this will be heaven sent. No crashed drives, no loaner laptops, no cribbing users claiming their machine is crawling, all peace and quiet.

I think it was Mary Banscombe of ZDNet who got this first when she wrote Microsoft built the Surface for itself. It’s probably true, that they modeled it after their ‘Operations Team’ but as I see it Surface is a winner for all ‘Operations Teams’ in all medium to big sized companies and its Pricing is targeted for these very people. After all how many consumers go buy a Dell Latitude for home or a HP EliteBook? Surface Pro is taking aim at those devices and not at the iPad.

The SideShow of Dell’s ‘Privatization’

Dell going private is coincidental, given the poor quality of products they dished out, ‘PC Assemblers’ did better job of assembling computers than them. Hope they grow some guts and do something right to differentiate their products.

I’ll give them a few hints, build a wireless monitor that works with the Surface! Let Apple innovate all they want with $50 cables, one up them by taking wires out. I don’t see why it’s not possible. Think of devices beyond a single piece of equipment, think of an office desk, think of the entire office, think of a usage workflow.

Even with a wireless Desktop, Keyboard and mouse I have unimaginable ‘wire clutter’ on my desk. Go figure out a way to clean this up.

If you want to continue assembling stuff or putting labels on things assembled by others, might as well fold up and go home.

So bottom line, do I buy a Surface Pro or not?

I can’t say for you, but I can say what I think for myself. My current Desktop is working fine and the MBP with the Bootcamped Windows 7 scrapes through for my mobile needs (which are few at the moment). So I am not rushing out to get a Pro. I got the RT because I needed Windows RT to test my Windows 8 Store apps and it’s good enough for me at the moment. Here are the (only two) things I’ll wait for in the Surface Pro.

  1. The next generation Intel Haswell processors that kick butts with respect to battery life. If the Pro can run as long (at least upto 85%) as the RT with the next gen processors count me in baby!
  2. Established reliability of the Surface Pro, specifically the Wireless connectivity

Other good to have stuff

  1. Maybe a drop in the Type Keyboard’s price. The touch keyboard with my RT just isn’t working for me.
  2. More memory and hard drive space/bigger hard drive at ‘reasonable’ price increments. $100 per 64 Gb is rather steep!!!

Last Wish

A much leaner Windows OS, but that’s probably a pipe dream!!!

So given all the factors it’s more or less certain my next mobile computer will the nth incarnation of the Surface Pro.