Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On the Surface, a good idea from Microsoft

Microsoft has announced a new tablet, the Surface. It's a powerful 10" tablet that will run Windows RT - a combination of Windows 8 and Office, recompiled to run on the ARM CPU, a processor used in most tablets.

What makes it interesting right now is that Microsoft has given it dual surface input. The usual touchscreen has been augmented by a touch sensitive panel in the lid, which unlike glass has a certain amount of tactile feedback. The panel can be used as a keyboard, amongst other things.

A lot of commentary has focussed on why Microsoft would want to produce its own tablet. My thought is that this type of innovation is exactly why. Until I bought a case with a keyboard for my Lenovo K1, for example, I hated using my tablet, and considered it a toy. Right now, it's still a toy, but solely because the software available isn't terribly good.

Without Microsoft actually coming out and saying "This is how we think a tablet should work", the reality is that Windows RT would be pre-installed on a lot of iPad type devices. Users would hate it - the touted copy of Office feature would be horrible to use on a touchscreen, and the "tablet side" of RT wouldn't be enough to sell the system against something like the iPad or a generic ICS Android device.

I haven't used the Surface, but I look forward to trying it out. If Surface is designed properly, and if Microsoft can get the marketing right, they may well have the world's first compelling tablet.

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