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Microsoft Surface RT – Finding a Good Balance

I constantly work with multiple notebooks, tablets and desktops. Since the first introduction of the pen-based convertible tablets over 10 years ago, I have been a convert.

As a result, I was really intrigued in June, when Microsoft announced the Surface. At the time, it seemed to have everything I like about the iPad and a tablet combined into one, simple, elegant package. To top it off, a built-in keyboard and kickstand.

Immediately when the “pre-order” button went live on the Microsoft site, I placed an order for my new Surface RT. I went into the purchase knowing all of the documented limitations of the RT platform, but the form-factor, Windows 8 and Office apps overcame those negatives.

I received my Surface on the announced day – about 2 weeks ago. Since, I have completely moved from my iPad and have started using it as my primary “task oriented” workstation. When I say “Task Oriented”, I mean the usual, emails, attachments, document creation/editing and presentation development. Of course, I can’t run my stable of virtual machines for demonstration and development. More on that later.

The first thing that I will say about my experience so far…WOW. I don’t have any significant issues with the Windows 8 RT platform so far. Speed, responsiveness and overall performance are all suitable for daily work tasks.

I’m still getting used to the Mail application, and I do miss Outlook. But the built-in mail application suffices and is only occasionally a small inconvenience. A big miss is the inability to support opening PST files – so archiving email in Outlook and expecting to open it in the Mail app was an incorrect assumption. Hopefully Microsoft will improve the Mail integration capabilities with Outlook.

Some key apps that I have been using consistently that may help many of you:

Remote Desktop – this app does exactly what you expect. I can remote into all of my development machines directly from the Surface

  • Kindle/Nook – access your books and references quickly and easily
  • MetroTwit – nice Twitter app that provides the full “metro” experience
  • Toolbox – interesting multi-window tool app
  • Telerik Tasks – great task and todo app that integrates with exchange/outlook
  • Bento – news reader app like flipboard

I’ve read a number of reviews by people that I respect and they have generally positive things to say about the Surface.

Here are some pointers that may affect your decision about jumping into the Surface:

  • Display – I’m totally sold on the display. No it isn’t “Retina” but I’m not 20-something and don’t need pages to “jump” off the screen
  • Expandability – the card slot and USB give me everything I need. With integrated SkyDrive, all the better
  • Touch vs Type cover – this is personal taste, but the touch cover works better for me. And I touch-type at 85 wpm.
  • Gestures and Swiping – once you get accustomed to it, they become natural and the Win7 Start menu seems strange

Hopefully, my brief impressions and review will provide you insight. Welcome to the world of Windows 8 and Surface…Don’t look back!