November 1, 2012
Traditional laptops may have reached an evolutionary dead-end (or, more charitably, a plateau), but it is an amazing time for things that … aren't quite traditional laptops.
The Nexus 7 is excellent, the Nexus 10 looks fantastic, I can't wait to get my hands on the twice-as-fast iPad 4, the new Chromebooks are finally decent and priced right, and then there's the Microsoft Surface RT. In short, it is a fantastic time to be a computer nerd.
I love computers, always have, always will. My strategy with new computing devices is simple: I buy 'em all, then try living with them. The devices that fall away from me over time – the ones that gather dust, or that I forget about – are the ones I eventually get rid of. So long, Kindle Fire! I knew that the Nexus 7 was really working for me when I gave mine to my father as a spontaneous gift while he was visiting, then missed it sorely when waiting for the replacement to arrive.
As I use these devices, I've grown more and more sold on the idea that touch is going to dominate the next era of computing. This reductionism is inevitable and part of the natural evolution of computers. Remove the mouse. Remove the keyboard. Remove the monitor. Reducing a computer to its absolute minumum leads us inexorably, inevitably to the tablet (or, if a bit smaller, the phone). All you're left with is a flat, featureless slate that invites you to touch it. Welcome to the future, here's your … rectangle.
I've stopped thinking of touch as some exotic, add-in technology contained in specialized devices. I belatedly realized that I love to touch computers. And why not? We constantly point and gesture at everything in our lives, including our screens. It's completely natural to want to interact with computers by touching them. That's why the more unfortunate among us have displays covered in filthy fingerprints.
Although I love my touch devices, one thing I've noticed is that they are a major disincentive to writing actual paragraphs. On screen keyboards get the job done, but if I have to scrawl more than a Twitter length reply to someone on a tablet or phone, it's so much effort that I just avoid doing it altogether, postponing indefinitely until I can be in front of a keyboard. By the time that happens I've probably forgotten what I wanted to say in the first place, or that I even needed to reply at all. Multiply that by millions or billions, and you have a whole generation technologically locked into a backwater of minimal communication. Yelp, for example, does not allow posting reviews from their mobile app because when they did, all they got was LOL OMG raspberry poop Emoji.
It's not good. In fact, it's a little scary. I realize that there are plenty of ways of creating content that don't involve writing, but writing is pretty damn fundamental to communication and civilization as we know it. Anything that adds a significant barrier to the act of placing words on a page is kind of dangerous – and a major regression from the world where every computer had a keyboard in front of it, inviting people to write and communicate with each other. So the idea that billions of people in the future will be staring at touchscreen computers, Instagramming and fingerpainting their thoughts to each other, leaves me with deeply mixed feelings. As Joey Hess said:
If it doesn't have a keyboard, I feel that my thoughts are being forced out through a straw.
When I pre-ordered the Microsoft Surface RT, I wasn't expecting much. This is a version one device from a company that has never built a computer before, running a brand new and controversial operating system. On paper, it doesn't seem like a significant change from all the other tablets on the market, and its primary differentiating feature – the touch keyboard – can be viewed as merely flipping a regular laptop over, so the "fat" side is on the display rather than the keyboard.
Surface is just like the first iPad in that it has all the flaws and rough edges you'd expect in a version one device. But it is also like the first iPad in that there is undeniably the core of something revelatory and transformative here – a vision of the future of computing that doesn't sacrifice either keyboard or touch.
Reviewers think Surface is intended to be a tablet killer, but it isn't. It's a laptop killer. After living with the Surface RT for a few days now, I'm convinced that this form factor is the replacement and way forward for the stagnant laptop. I can't even remember the last time I was this excited about a computer. The more I use it, the more I think that touch plus keyboard is the future of all laptops.
How wonderful it is to flip open the Surface and quickly type a 4 paragraph email response when I need to. How wonderful it is to browse the web and touch whatever I want to. And switching between the two modes of interaction – sometimes typing, sometimes touching – is completely natural. Remember when I talked about two-fisted computing, referring to the mouse and keyboard working in harmony? With Surface, I found that also applies to touch. In spades.
This isn't a review, per se, but let me get into a few specifics:
- Yes, it is ridiculous that the keyboard cover is not included in the base Surface, as the near-perfect integration of keyboard with touch is the whole story here. Don't even consider buying a Surface without the touch keyboard cover. Within an hour or so I was hitting 80% of my regular typing speed on it, and it's firm enough to be used on a lap without too much loss of accuracy. Astonishingly, the tiny fabric touchpad is quite good, better than the ones I've used on many laptops. Which probably says more about the sad state of the PC ecosystem than it does about Surface, but still.
- Yeah, yeah, it doesn't run x86 apps. So your beloved copy of Windows Landscape Designer 1998 won't run on Surface RT. You'll need to wait a few months for Surface Pro to do that, but you'll pay the Intel Premium™ in price, battery life, and size. Rumor has it that Intel will get their act together with Haswell, and finally be competitive with ARM in price, performance, and power consumption, but I'll believe that when I see it.
- The hardware design is beyond reproach; I'd even argue it's better than Apple quality hardware design. Unless you're required by God to hate all things touched by Microsoft, There's no way you could handle a Surface and not think that this is a genuinely well made thing.
- The default Surface mail application is an embarrassment and everyone associated with it should be fired. Android and iOS both have decent default mail apps, as well they should, because email is bedrock. Not having this right really hurts. If Microsoft doesn't get their A Team "hey dummies, all you have to do is just copy Sparrow already" team on that soon, they'll be sorry.
- Many of the native applications currently available run poorly on Surface RT due to lack of optimization and testing for the ARM platform versus x86. Probably not terribly different from the iPad 1 on launch day, but it remains to be seen how quickly that will get resolved.
- The web browser is stellar and a model of how the Internet should work on a tablet. You are almost always in fullscreen mode, swiping around with nothing but content on your screen, the way it should be. However, back button performance is bizarrely slow, and the way IE10 handles web hovers is poor, much worse than Mobile Safari and Chrome. Try upvoting a comment on Stack Overflow to see what I mean.
Notice how the 2010 iPad 1 is already obsolete? Expect the same thing with the Surface RT. It's a fascinating glimpse into the future, but it'll be totally utterly obsolete in 2 years. Do not buy this device expecting longevity. Buy it because you want to see tomorrow today.
The received wisdom about touchscreen interaction with computers was that it didn't work. That you'd get "gorilla arm". That's why we had to have special tablet devices. But Surface proves that's not true; typing and touching are spectacularly compatible, at least for laptops. And I'm beginning to wonder about my desktop a little, because lately I'm starting to I think I wanna touch that, too.
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Posted by Jeff Atwood
I've had a full HD touch screen for about a year now at home. I keep catching myself trying to touch links on my office pc because I'm so used to touch on my desktop from home.
And it's way more intuitive than with a mouse.
I did find that this only works well with consuming content rather than creating it. But I guess the track-pad has the same issue, so no surprise there.
About 2002 I was developing a touch enabled application. The touch screen mimicked a mouse left click or left click and drag if I remembered correctly. However every time I got back to my dev machine after testing the touch interface I touched the screen instead of using the mouse and mouse button. Ever since I wanted to obtain a touch screen for my normal desktop and now also laptop.
Touch interaction is so natural. Notebooks should've had it Years ago.
So... all you really want is a cloth cover keyboard for an iPad Mini?
Your comment about the Mail client, I felt exactly the same when I fired it up on Windows 8 PRO (desktop) this weekend, it is so bad I don't want to use it.
I'm surprised to hear the Surface keyboard is this good, I was not sure about it.
Anyway... I'll not buy any Windows RT products. I prefer to pay more but to have a very good tablet AND desktop experience.
"...a vision of the future of computing that doesn't sacrifice either keyboard or touch"
The Asus Transformer family is the progenitor of that vision. This is just another aspect of that vision; one that runs Windows.
I love having two (three if I plug in a USB mouse, four if I also use Bluetooth) ways of navigating around the screen.
I have a Toshiba Thrive Android tablet (10"). It has a full USB port so keyboards work as well as mice. Of course there's always bluetooth keyboards, so the "surface" is at best evolutionary. Logitech has had iPad and Android bluetooth cover-keyboards for a while.
The mouse is the bigger thing if you are doing drawing. Touch isn't precise enough, and it can't tell which finger and you don't have a scroll wheel.
But what allowed me to leave my netbook at home was Hacker's keyboard. (and when I learn morse code better, they have several so I won't have to look). I can adjust the key size and various options and voice works fairly well. Because it is a full qwerty with 4th row, with a shift to get all the function keys, I can almost touch type, it is easy for complex passwords, and I can do ssh.
I don't do long documents where I'm doing a lot of editorial changes (I should try the mouse again, select-cut-paste is awful in touch), but it is good for 3-4 paragraphs. Something like the length of this comment. There's also Thumb Keyboard and many others on Android. The iOS soft keyboards are awful and immutable.
I also have the Galaxy Player 5.0 which I use on my motorcycle for GPS maps, weather, and HarleyDroid since I have a mobile hotspot. But that is for media, mainly audio. It fits in my pocket.
I'm looking at the galaxy note 2 - I still have my Nokia n800 and n810 (x2, I have a wimax). The stylus allows for precision, and they have the "second mouse button".
For my desktop I want to see something about the size of my webcam on my monitor that does, in a more finely grained fashion, what the Kinect does...hmmm, ALSO by Microsoft.
That HAS to be in the works. They can't be missing this, can they?
I've had the same experience of a great interface that I wanted to carry over to a different device when I tried to remote click back up my car radio one day after a long weekend with my Tivo.
I can see having the Surface for when I'm wandering around, and then being able to use the same gestures without actually having to reach up to touch the screen (cue Minority Report reference) and having it be seamless.
Please, tell me they're going to get this done soon.
Sounds like you need the LG ET83 Touch, which will be out in a couple of weeks... in South Korea. It's a 23" IPS multitouch monitor. Can there be a better fit?
Whilst the future of mobile computing may revolve around touch-devices it will be a sad day if ultimately desktops and laptops are replaced entirely, touch-devices are expensive and completely proprietry hardware that cannot be upgraded with ease like desktops and laptops.
Touch-devices will never be your one and only device, they are outside of a lot of peoples budget and need replacing by newer and more expensive models each year, whilst I'm happy to use such devices for mobile computing, I don't get excited over the fact that these devices could be the future of computing in general, mobile-computing yes, at least not until hardware stops evolving and raw processing power hits a ceiling, not happening any time soon.
For now these devices are for tech-chasing geeks with more money than sense IMO, playing into large companies hands by essentially subscribing to expensive hardware refreshes each year.
Jeff, I totally agree with you about the keyboard, it's amazing. The only downside is I had to train myself to type with the pads of my fingertips, since striking a hard surface hurts after a short while. If I knew I was going to do a lot of typing on the Surface I would go buy a portable keyboard and plug it into the Surface's full size USB port.
Many of the native applications currently available run poorly on Surface RT due to lack of optimization and testing for the ARM platform versus x86. Probably not terribly different from the iPad 1 on launch day
That’s not how I remember the iPad 1 on launch day. Its hardware is underpowered by today’s standards, but in 2010 it was as responsive as an iPhone.
Why buy one, Microsoft will kill it off in a year or two anyway. It will never get the chance to mature. Not an indictment of the Surface but a comment on how Microsoft develops products.
I really want a WindowsRT device with a stylus as I want to take it to meetings and draw. Unfortunately seems like all Windows tablets with a stylus are Intel ones.
As for legacy apps it doesn't bother me really, WinRT has a remote desktop app which is excellent especially if logging into a Windows 8 machine (then you get remotefx connection). I will just use that for legacy apps.
Has anyone been able to try a RemoteApp file rather than a full remote desktop? Not usr eif it works, but would be great if you could use remote apps on the WinRt desktop.
My youngest child turned one in September. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching him learn how to use the iPad and particularly the discovery that his finger works better than his fist.
Touch is the future, always has been.
And so what if Surface isn't perfect. Microsoft has said over and over that they looked around and nobody else was doing it the way they thought it should be done, so they stepped up and filled the gap. Even if they kill off the product line in a few years, every OEM is now scrambling to make devices that can match the Surface in build quality and functionality. The Surface is a much needed course correction.
Anyway, thanks for all the great blog posts over the years Jeff. I enjoy your writing and perspective.
While I agree that text input is a major problem with current touch interfaces, do you really think keyboards are the be-all/end-all of text input? Yes, they are fast, but they are also big, difficult to learn, and have poor ergonomics. Writing has existed for ages, but typewriters were only invented around 300 years ago. With current technology, don't you think we can do better than a big array of buttons?
> do you really think keyboards are the be-all/end-all of text input?
I have yet to see something better. Writing with the iPad and a bluetooth keyboard are the most fulfilling experience I've had with a computer so far.
- Handwriting recognition: sucks, because my handwriting is way slower than my typing
- Speech recognition: still makes too many mistakes and fails totally under some conditions (on the train, in the park....)
the natural next step is probably speech recognition, but it isn't there yet.
I've been using an hp touchsmart for years. It's a touchscreen laptop - just like the surface, except the weight is in the keyboard side so it doesn't need a kickstand to hold it up. You're right about the combination of touch and keyboard. It's fantastic. But it isn't a new idea.
@Omnisu - What is a new idea? I've come to the realization that it's pointless to try and sort ideas in "new", "old", "original", "stolen", etc. Every idea out there is just a mix of old ideas. There hasn't been a new idea in the world since the invention of the wheel, and I strongly suspect that they copied that one too.
Instead I think that we should rather focus on classifying ideas in "works" and "don't works" categories, and to hell who came up with it first.
(P.S. I'd love to see an article by Jeff about this)
As other commenters have pointed out, touch and/or keyboard exists on other devices and in some cases have existed for a long time, but the point is that Microsoft has pulled a trick from Apple's playbook:
They've used their influence and position combined with actually doing something very well to make it popular.
The Surface hardware combined with the Win8 Modern UI has shown us that even though these things are first generation, there's a bright future for this style of computing AND Microsoft's muscle has given it a huge boost.
> Writing with the iPad and a bluetooth keyboard are the most fulfilling experience I've had with a computer so far.
That is something I don't understand about Surface: you could attach a keyboard to the iPad from day one. So basically the Surface is inferior in every way. Why would anyone buy one?
The difference I see is that the iPad was never marketed that way.
When I got the iPad2 (my first iPad), I had the same initial wow response as most. But I knew it would mostly wear off soon and it did. My 8 year old daughter was logging more time on it than me (and she was only allowed to use it for 20-60 minutes a day).
Then I bought the Zagg Folio Keyboard/Case for it. It was suddenly as close as you can get to a traditional laptop and once I downloaded various productivity and writing/coding apps, the thing became incredibly more useful to me and I loved taking it places now... knowing that I could actually TYPE and WORK on it.
I have since bought a MacBook Air since my old MBP was becoming problematic. The Air is probably my favorite computer, ever. But I have constantly speculated that Apple's next significant product will be... needs to be.... the MacBook AirTouch. I see absolutely no downside to having the Air screen be a Touch screen and being able to toggle iOS and OSX. In fact, I believe thats what Microsoft has done (2 OS on Surface RT). I can see how having a 2 OS admits to an incomplete vision in a way. A perfectionist might cringe at the idea. But realistically, if UIs are tuned to different usage modes then it is an acceptable approach to dealing with Touch and Non-Touch experiences.
The future will lead to a harmonious single OS core that handles a variety of experiences tuned to certain devices and form factors. Apple and Microsoft and Google are heading in that direction. They have to. The only problem will be in how much new restriction is built into this new era of computers.... Post-PCs or whatever. New walled gardens and app ecosystems that allow these companies to better leverage and monetize what is built for what they build. Pros and cons.
Anyway... I seriously would love to own the MacBook AirTouch ;-)
The first time I ever saw a ClamCase for the iPad I thought the same thing. They mix the best of both worlds. The full keyboard with the ability to touch and interact with the screen.
Actually, you *can* use the pen on a Surface RT, but it doesn't come bundled with one as the Pro does. I also do not know if it has the same sampling resolution.
It's not a laptop killer because it lacks a hinge. You can't use the keyboard unless you have a table to rest the device on.
"Don't even consider buying a Surface without the touch keyboard cover. Within an hour or so I was hitting 80% of my regular typing speed on it" << #notTrue
You must be out of this planet then. I could hit 80% of my regular speed only with the TYPE cover.
I kept doing typewriting speed tests to see how fast I could get with the touch cover and I could never get past 55% of my speed with a regular keyboard (~90 to 110wpm)
I'm surprised you totally missed the Asus Transformer. This tablet really defined this space that you correctly identify as a really powerful mix of laptop and tablet. The Asus Transformer Infinity does this so much better than the surface though. The build is really great, the keyboard a real keyboard that will blow away that touch one on the surface, AND the keyboard acts as a second battery which doubles your real world battery life. It is an amazing device.
I'm personally going to upgrade from my Transformer tf101 to the Nexus 10 (I'm an Android developer so I want to see where Google is taking the platform), but I will definitely miss the transformer a lot.
Unfortunately Microsoft just doesn't get it. If they are going to compete with the BIG boys with tablets, they Really net to hit everything 99.9%.
It's great that the hardware is so awesome! Having a basically nonexistent email program a very lame word processor is just NOT acceptable. MS you have Outlook and MS Word, and this is THE best you could do!?!?!!
What are you thinking? You think this will blow ALL of the other tablets off the map?!?!???
Where is Bill Gates when you need him? I don't think he would have EVER released a product in this state with what's at stake.
Its been long time since I have heard something good about a microsoft product. I couldn't stop laughing at phrase "Unless you're required by God to hate all things touched by Microsoft".
Someone told me that Windows is just a operating system but MAC is a religion :)
Slowly the world of handheld is reaching smaller life span, it makes me think how the companies would survive competing with all these increasing needs. Businesses are already spending on android/ios and now W8 is going add to the mix. Hope things will merge in a decade or so.
If the world moves to touch computing, what's going to happen to PC gaming? Traditionally, PC gaming has been popular because PCs get used for many other things besides gaming. If most people switch to touch devices for their primary computers, will there still be enough people building gaming rigs for developers to care about that market? I'm sure the big console manufacturers would love nothing more than to move everyone over to consoles, but this would signal the downfall of indie games, certain kinds of first-person shooters, real-time strategy games, simulators, and many other genres. I would be devastated to see this happen. (Cross-posting this from Hacker News.)
I'm not a fan of Microsoft software. Far from it. I find Microsoft software to be generally awful, buggy, bloated stuff.
But I have to say, I have always been a huge fan of Microsoft hardware. It's strange that a company that is best known for being one of the biggest software companies around actually does a very good job with the hardware they sell. I'm genuinely intrigued to see how good the Surface hardware holds up to the competition, but it sounds promising so far.
I'm just curious how long it is until someone gets Android running on it ;)
As a tablet-luddite, I have found tablets a pretty good idea, but never practical enough for exactly this reason of lack of keyboard. Imho, my phone covers enough of my mobile computing needs and a tablet just didn't cover any additional bases, and loses the main appeal of desktop. When I found out the Surface was going to have this little light-weight keyboard, I began to seriously think about breaking my avoidance of the tablet, despite any misgivings I have about the OS. If I don't get one, it'll only be because an Android/iOS competitor gets on the ball quickly with a solid configuration like this, but without the flaws of the OS (unless Microsoft gets their software fixed quickly too, which may or may not happen).
Graffiti and predictive typing isn't bad with a stylus, actually. Feels a lot better than constantly pecking at a solid surface.
The keyboard is why I'm so enthusiastic about my Asus Transformer. I'd wanted a netbook for years: something I could stick in my small bag to write with wherever. I procrastinated long enough that my significant other just showed up one day with the Transformer & said "I think this is what you were looking for." Everything you say about having both touch & typing available, plus the form factor that means I can write on the bus or on my couch, no table required. I carry it with me almost everywhere; the keyboard goes back in the bag if I just want to read a book.
BTW, after a year with the Transformer, I find myself attempting to touch laptop screens to navigate. :\
Having played with Jeff's RT for a few days and being a long time Apple user (who doesn't have an iPad), I can say that I agree that the Keyboard is very nice. I have been an Apple user for a long time and I have used (and still use) Android phones for personal telephony. I have used all versions of Windows (although Windows XP was the last version I used on a daily basis). I have now put together a PC and brought the Windows 8 Pro (39.99$) for gaming.
I agree, the Surface RT is nice, looks interesting and I wish I had those 10 years ago when I developed a tactile system for windows using GDI and GDI+ when C# came out.
Like Jeff said, this is a 1.0 device. But unless Microsoft screws it too bad, it can only get better. This is good for both Apple and Google as well. We really need a 3rd player here.
I understand Jeff's fascination with Surface, but my sentiment is in line with Sqlsvrman's point: Microsoft needed to make no obvious errors during this Surface launch to reliably capture new customers.
They didn't do it.
What's worse, the errors they made are typical Microsoftian blunders, that could've been predicted by many, and (for that reason) avoided by Microsoft if they spent any time in self-reflection.
First, the software's behavior, with the email app's poor design, and with the operating system's slow performance, simply brings to the consumer's mind the question of 'Why?'
Microsoft has had years to focus on this new product. How on earth do they allow the software experience (their wheelhouse for their entire existence) to be so bad?
Then, in the hardware, the decision to make the keyboard an integral part of the Surface experience, and yet to charge extra for it, will simply infuriate potential buyers, who judge it as a nickel-and-dime decision that tries to bait them into considering the Surface a lower-cost purchase than it really is.
Jeff believes that people should consider this purchase as entrée into a future experience, not as an experience for the here-and-now.
I believe that it's too late for Microsoft to be begging for this gimme.
If this was 2007, and they were competing on level ground with Apple and the iPhone, it would've been totally justified. Even if this was 2010, and Microsoft was competing against the first iPad, consumers would've probably granted them the leeway. But in 2012, against an entire product sector which has been thrashing Microsoft black and blue for years, they needed to be near-perfect coming out of the gate, but they've unforgivably failed.
Not that I've ever use a Surface RT, however I really think you need to be comparing the Surface RT against its competitors, the iPad 4 and the new Nexus 7/Nexus 10. Comparing it to what the iPad was 2 years ago is light years in computer terms.
The "future" you're talking about is already here. It's over with Apple and Google.
OMG !! NERDS!! lol, Revenge of the nerds, that was like my all time fav movie!
re: flipped laptop. I used a Compaq TC1000 (and then TC1100) as my primary laptop for more years than the processor could really support (running debian linux) just because the form factor was sooo spot on. Yes it wasn't actually touch (it's a wacom pen) but thact screen/slim keyboard which can fold out of the way (this one did the spin/fold thing, so could fold either way) is definitely a ergonomic sweet spot.
I went to the pop up store in West Ed... yeah, not sure we were using the same keyboard. I tried both. They are awful. I will gladly carry a large mech around with me instead.
I had the keyboard/touch revelation back in 2000 with the Psion netbook (still one of the best keyboards on such a small device). The way it manifested was that I found myself tapping OK buttons on dialogs on windows machines and then sitting there wondering what had gone wrong.
But can you install Linux on it?
Nice article! Can't wait to have a go with a Surface myself!
For the last 25 years it's been taboo to touch my computer screen and heaven forbid touch a co-workers computer screen. It was as evil as pressing your lips against the kitchen glass sliding door. Now, everyone wants to touch the screen. Tablets and ipads are great for consumption - watching movies, playing games, and menial tasks such as social posts etc but they should never be a serious tool for production of anything from code, to media, or content and the reason.. Leachpad is really the best descriptive term. Lastly, you have finger prints all over your screen which is the reason, for the last 25 years, the rule has been "DONT TOUCH THE SCREEN!"
Jeff, since you impulsively buy HW and since you seem to be quite thorough about it. Have you by any chance considered this Logitect Touch device optimised for desktops with Windows 8?
I'd be very interested in hearing what you have to say about it.
My 2 1/2 year old daughter has grown up with touch interfaces. She thinks anything that doesn't have a touch screen is broken. I'm sure she's not alone. For whatever downsides touch screens might have (virtual keyboards are probably always going to be inferior to physical ones) I can't imagine any devices in the near future being successful without incorporating a touch interface.
Great thoughts Jeff, thanks for sharing. From a business perspective it makes sense to position Surface as a laptop replacement. I hadn't thought about until you called Surface RT a laptop killer. Tim Cook once said he'd rather cannibalize Mac sales for iPads, rather than have somebody else do it. Microsoft could be thinking the same thing.
It seems to me a major criteria is emerging. Do you need to manipulate text? So far, selecting text has proven to be difficult in the touch world. Replacing the precision of a mouse pointer with a finger has not gone well. Any thoughts Jeff, on the ease of moving words, sentences and paragraphs around?
We use this keyboard htp://amzn.to/RARwZr to go with my ipad / nexus 7 (whichever one we are carrying). Keyboard case is fantastic. Haven't tried the surface keyboard yet but when its connected, what happens when you've finished your mails etc. and then you want to surf or read a book? Do you pop the keyboard off? With this bluetooth keyboard, I simply switch power off...
> Any thoughts Jeff, on the ease of moving words, sentences and paragraphs around?
iOS does this best, but it's still fiddly as hell to select text with a big giant finger. Android, although quite decent in 4.0 and beyond, is still terrible at text selection. Surface (and Windows 8) is in the middle there.
Even with the best touch text selection in the world, it wouldn't be great, because fingers are just too big for it.
> Is Surface's appeal really that it makes the accessory part of the deal?
There's a difference between a third party bluetooth iPad keyboard accessory with no real connection to the product, and a first party item that was designed in from the very beginning.
You can be damn sure Apple will never, ever, ever, ever, EVER release an official keyboard accessory for the iPad. It's the same unnecessary extremism we've seen from Apple before: the one button mouse, the Mac that shipped without cursor keys to force you to use the mouse to navigate, the single ridiculously overloaded home button on the iOS devices, etc.
> I kept doing typewriting speed tests to see how fast I could get with the touch cover and I could never get past 55% of my speed with a regular keyboard.
I agree in spirit:
Even 55% of full keyboard speed is several orders of magnitude ahead of where you'd be using a full size tablet touchscreen keyboard. For context try repeating those tests with the on-screen touch keyboard. :)
Apple already released a keyboard for the iPad, though it's discontinued now. Not enough people bought it.
In my view all these devices are awesome to browse content. I'd like to see people trying to write code or even blog posts on their iPads. Not gonna happen anytime soon. IMHO laptops are here to stay.
I found this to be a very eye-opening post that dives just a bit deeper than many of the other Microsoft Surface RT blogs I have read. As a current computer science student, it’s interesting to see ideas in the technological community like yours weigh a new product’s impacts on technology and users. At first I was interested to see the struggle companies have had through the plethora of sizes of phones, tablets, and laptops. Yet when you said “reviewers think Surface is intended to be a tablet killer, but it isn't. It's a laptop killer,” I realized that it’s a whole new type of competition. For the past 30+ years, users have revolved around the technology: going TO the desktop to type something, going TO the TV to switch channels. Now technology is revolving around us; our phones and tablets and even our 3G internet/wifi follow us around during the day. As you have said in your other posts, laptops simply don’t offer the lightweight, portable, touch-interactive solution that our tablets do.
Even though the Microsoft Surface may be a glimpse into the future, I would say the tablet needs to improve a lot more before making a lasting impact. I saw that throughout your post, you talked a lot about the hardware of the Surface. I agree that this hardware may very well propel Microsoft into the future, but what are your thoughts about the software itself? Do you believe that Win8 is some sort of “Frankenstein” system that needs to catch up to the hardware? Yes, the Surface may create the ability to have an amazing fusion between touching and typing, but is the software really ready for it? When I used Windows 8 on tablets, I found that it was painstakingly difficult to touch small buttons in corners and menus because they were artifacts of the days of their mouse-based OS. In the same way, I still see the same possible problem with the keyboard. The fact that Microsoft still included their keyboard shows that their OS (as well as many others) may be in a phase of the already but not yet; technology is not advanced enough to transfer our multidimensional words and ideas into bits and binary code. Would you agree that we will continue to need keyboards in the future or side with Apple in that keyboards are unnecessary for tablets?
Jeff, what are your thoughts on the new Samsung Tab - the one with Note capabilities - http://www.samsung.com/us/mobile/galaxy-tab ? Is there a future to writing with a pen on a computer, especially for "medium sized" entries (more than a twitter, using your fingers, but less than a few pages of text, requiring a keyboard) - a typical blog reply, for example...
With some minor exceptions, tablets are consumptive in nature, not productive. To get any real work done, you need a keyboard. Period. Full stop.
Once you equip a tablet with a keyboard, then you've started down the slippery slope towards and clunky, underpowered notebook, only with a very inefficient (for most real, getting work done, apps) mode of input.
Sure, tablets are flashy, but they are media consumption gadgets - an Internet media spigot.
And in a business setting, much of what you'll need to do will require Citrix or some other means of running Windows-based apps on the tablet, which is especially cumbersome and frustrating.
Ultimately, tablets are really awesome to have mostly because the companies who profit from the sales say so. They are radically over-hyped and often end up as expensive paperweights.
Canonical has been wanting to do something like this for a while with smart phones with Ubuntu for Android. I think it would be really interesting if they can make it succeed. It's too bad Mark Shuttleworth and company don't have the same kind of resources Microsoft does.
Keyboard + Mouse + Touch is the trifecta. They each do certain things best, but none does everything good enough for all-round productivity.
So how long before I can expect to replace my dual 28" LCD's with multi-touch panels?
Inexorable reductionism: We will eventually all be using computers implanted in our bodies that integrate with our visual cortex and sensory nervous system. ETA: Within the next 20 years.
Absolutely no reference to Ender's Game in any of these comments? Unbelievable. Well, anyhow, Card called that shit. I'm now hooked to your blog, btw. Great reviews.
Do you find the missing Context/Right-Click key on the keyboard cover problematic? I use it a lot on my lap/desptop but maybe this is a different enough experience that it isn't an issue? I have only tried it in store so far.
I love the written word, and I love the IBM Model M keyboard. I haven't yet tried a tablet, but I have an Android $ell phone and I -hate- it.
My opinion based on few months experience using Windows 8 as an accountant- in the context working with office documents using MS Office 2013, mostly data crunching in excel :
Touch UI looks cool and simpler, but when you start to work with it, all those glitches look redundant. Touch inputs happened for few minutes only (to open program, data, and preparation) but after that you spent hours working with keyboard and mouse.
For eq. how can you make all MS Excel functions become touch based? How to replace F2 to edit a formula? How to choose the table format? Finger touch is too crude to select those tiny icons in Ribbon interface. Ribbon already eats a lot of vertical working space in low res 14" screen (1366X768 - this resolution i believe already common for most enterprise-wide deployment). This is worsened by fact that all screen aspect become vertically narrower these days (moving from 4:3 to 16:10, and now 16:9).
Of course you can always turn off this Ribbon-interface, but it will negates all its ease-usability and purpose (I am quite comfortable with them now, it just need some learning curve). I cannot help thinking MS will change the UI by enlarging those already-cluttered icons, which eventually will eat even more space. This situation is really a mess and unpractical. I think they have to redesign the ribbon and core UI altogether. Thats A LOT of things to do.
For office documents manipulation, especially for MS Excel and Word, using mouse and keyboard are still the king. As long as Microsoft cannot make their Office UI become adaptive to touch based input in such a way that enable us to work faster and more natural compare to mouse-keyboard input, they can forget about notebook and desktop with touch functionality.
The company which could see things right is, ironically, Apple. They first introduce high res screen in notebook (Macbook Pro Retina) and they still holds on 16:10 screen aspect ratio. It make ribbon interface look beautiful and working with large tables become such a joy experience. And they stick with the philosophy that touch interface in notebook and desktop is still not in its prime-time, at least for now. The downside is higher enterprise-wide deployment cost compare to MS in term of hardware and software.