Microsoft Surface: A Tablet That Means Business?

By | Jun 22, 2012

Microsoft Surface, the company's long-awaited tablet device, has been unveiled. (The name formerly applied to a touch-top table, now renamed Microsoft PixelSense.) And while the new Surface is a distinctly high-end device, it is not Microsoft's version of the iPad. Instead it is the tablet version of a Windows computer, designed for business use.

This should not come as a surprise. Microsoft has always been business-centric. But it is interesting to see that the company has stuck to its guns. It has not been drawn into a (probably futile) effort to replicate the iPad's consumer-centric glamour.

Instead, Microsoft is seeking to provide business with a tablet device that IT professionals and managers can understand and relate to. And the Redmond giant is surely hoping that by doing so, it will transform the terms of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) debate. If successful, this transformation could reinforce the position of Microsoft and Windows for years to come.

Business Stylish

Microsoft Surface does not skimp on consumer-oriented stylish features. After all, it is targeted at individual high-end users, not company purchasing departments. Much is made of its VaporMG surface; we are not to mistake it for a gray plastic device. And as a specs comparison by Brooke Crothers at CNET shows, it is a millimeter thinner than an iPad. In the age of stylish computers, this evidently matters.

Surface also has a larger display than the iPad--10.6 inches versus 9.7 inches. And here we begin to move from show to substance, because the larger screen actually matters, providing more working room for complex data displays or a host of other applications.

But as Josh Lowensohn notes, also at CNET, the real tell is the internal specs. Surface will come in two variations, a more consumer-oriented version running Windows RT, but also a version running Windows 8 Pro. This is unambiguously a business-oriented device, meant to be a full substitute for a high-end notebook.

Fitting Into IT?

Only time and user experience will tell if Surface can live up to its positioning. In particular, will the flip-down cover that becomes a keyboard really be suitable for keyboard-intensive work?

But the idea of Surface has the key features that IT managers at midsize firms would look for in a tablet device. It aims to be a viable alternative to a notebook. Above all it runs a robust, business version of Windows.

This means that IT departments won't have to jump through mobile OS hoops, and all of their related security issues, in order to adopt it. Surface has the potential, at least, to fit seamlessly into a familiar Windows-centric IT environment.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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