For the sake of ‘Mobile’ I hope Microsoft Windows 8 and the Surface Tablet fall short

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For the last few weeks, I have been reading and watching everything I can find on Microsoft’s Surface Tablet and Windows 8.

My biggest fear is that with the upcoming launch of Windows 8 and the Surface Tablet, Microsoft is trying to UNDO everything we have accomplished in Mobile since the mobile revolution began back in 2007.

Everything that is beautiful, pure and simple about mobile and touch computing, Microsoft is attempting to sabotage in the name of keeping their waning Windows PC business alive.

Microsoft Office Apps is exactly what we don’t need in Mobile

One of Microsoft’s selling points in Windows 8 and their Surface Tablet, is that we will be able to run the exact same Productivity apps we know and (love or hate) from the old PC era.

I say that’s exactly what we don’t need today!

Right now what we need is to embrace change and ‘reimagine‘ everything we have done for the last 20 years in computers. Only by doing so will we be able to take full advantage of this blank canvas that mobile presents us and innovate forward.

Surely we are only a few weeks away from someone tweeting a screen grab of the dreaded blue screen of death right from their Surface Tablet.

USB Ports on Tablets, really?

Our goal right now should be to do everything in our power to wean people off old PC habits, and putting USB ports on Tablets is exactly the opposite of that. Are we really going to plug mice into a Tablet, when Tablets are supposed to remove any interference between us and our mobile experience? Don’t do it.

A better usb webcam? A better usb microphone perhaps? A memory stick instead of embracing the cloud? For the sake of the future of mobile, don’t do it!

In closing I will say that I don’t wish any company bad, goodness knows we need jobs in this country and around the world, and while I’m also pretty sure that Microsoft will sell quite a few PCs with the new Windows 8 OS, and also more than a handful of Surface Tablets, I just hope it doesn’t become a serious roadblock for the amazing progress we have made in mobile thus far.

What are your thought about the upcoming Windows 8 and Surface Tablet?

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  • I’ll start by saying, respectively, you know much, much more about Surface than I do. I’ve read a few articles but not nearly as much as you share on Twitter.

    My thoughts on Windows 8 are mixed. It’s a dramatic change (for desktop users at least. Windows phone users won’t notice a thing). My fear is that it will be too uncomfortable of a change for people. We’re so used to the way iOS and Android works. But this is also the beauty of Windows 8. I commend Microsoft for working on something entirely different for people to use. I’m sure you’re aware of the patent wars that mobile technology has created. Every time I turn around Apple is suing somebody for stealing their ideas (and others suing Apple). Windows 8 won’t have that problem…its just different, it’s an entirely different product. That being said, I disagree with your fear that they’re trying to UNDO everything that’s been done – it’s just a different product, one we’re not used to yet.

    I will agree with you with the funny (out of date) choice to put USB on the tablet. It seems we’re further ahead than that these days. Especially if Microsoft wants you to use their cloud services for documents. What’s the point? But Surface isn’t just a tablet. It can be flipped into a laptop. Microsoft has a long history of letting the consumer choose how to use their product. Keeping USB lets traditional windows users use the tools they already own instead of having to buy more products to be able to use their new product. Think of the firestorm Apple created just because they upgraded to lightning port.

    I also want to add that I’m disappointed it’s taken Microsoft so long to jump on the Mobile train. Although they’ve been innovating in the “touchscreen” arena for a very long time.

    Those are my thoughts. Sorry for the book I wrote 🙂

    • rjacquez

      Hi Steve, thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I’m with you on all the silly Tech law suits happening and think companies should stop it and spend this time innovating instead. I also agree that it’s likely Microsoft won’t have this problem with Windows 8 and the Surface. I also have a lot of respect for Microsoft for having the conviction to take a chance and build something completely different. It’s clear that Microsoft had to do something to stay relevant in a world dominated by iPads and Android devices and only time will tell if their gamble pays off, or not. There are essentially two visions on mobile out there, Microsoft’s PC-plus take which extends the old PC paradigm onto these hybrid devices and Apple’s Post-PC idea where we leave the old ways of doing things behind us and reinvent the future and my money is on the latter.

  • So, we don’t need productivity in mobile? People don’t want tools that, say, brings the full power of Microsoft Office to a device that can work anywhere you want and in any way you want?

    I just can’t get my mind around your argument. The world that you are wanting for mobile is just so, so far from what I want. I LIKE the productivity of a PC, but I don’t want to have a laptop and tablet. That’s just too much stuff for me to carry. Whether it’s an ultrabook or an air, it’s not for me. And having remote-access to some PC acting as a server? Talk about stepping backwards. The “future” you’re proclaiming makes my heart ache. It’s a world where the iPad is a toy, not a device. I like the steps towards productivity that third parties have brought to the iPad (despite Apple’s general lack of encouragement). They may pay lip service to the idea that an iPad is a productivity device, but they don’t want to cannibalize sales of Macbooks.

    I don’t personally see the problem of a hybrid device. The hardware (and pricing) may not be there yet to make this a full reality, but I would love to have a single device that I own that is my PC. I can use it as a tablet, or I can plug it in and access it to drive my system. The cloud is not the answer to this. It’s not about centralized files or settings. It’s about a single device. It’s about not having multiple hardware. It’s about not having a laptop and a tablet and smart phone and an ereader… I have two devices. I have a phone and I have a PC. Heck, if devices like the Padfone took off and there was a real OS to match it (say, for example, that Google put the Chromebook aside and decided to fully port Android to the desktop), I’d go for that. I never bought the dock for my Atrix 2, but I liked the idea.

    • rjacquez

      Hi Kyle, many thanks for your comment and you definitely make good arguments, I especially like your opening question “So, we don’t need productivity in mobile?”

      My take on your question is that Yes, we need productivity in mobile, well beyond simply consuming content. However I don’t think Microsoft Office apps will be the future of productivity on mobile. I happen to think that the mobile revolution is ‘redefining’ what we view as productivity today and in the end virtually every task we do today will be simplified and easily accomplished by simpler and more creative mobile apps and thus the reason why I don’t think Office Apps will be relevant in the near future.

  • With Redmond’s leadership and bureaucracy firmly entrenched, I think you have little to fear about Microsoft taking over the world. Again. But then again, the enterprise IT boffins could incorporate new-gen MS technology to win back control of mobile and relegate it to the back burner. But even if the new stuff is a success, only a few of us (and we know who they are) want to go back to 1997. The culture war that’s been going on since around then is whether to invest tech resources in management tools (MS) or personal communication (Apple).

    This doesn’t have to be a zero sum game. In fact, it can’t be. The genie is out of the bottle and it seems to be enriching many people’s lives. Making them more productive, too. What frightens me most about Microsoft’s new tablet is not its USB port, but the prospect of writing a 5,000 word report on its toy keyboard.

    • Peter Grainge

      The USB port opened up what we could do with PCs. Suddenly we didn’t have to unplug one device so that we could use another. Were there external hard disks before the days of USB? I keep a mass of stuff on one and I don’t want to have to sync a whole lot of stuff to the cloud (and pay for it) rather than just remove the disk and go off to another location. If that location doesn’t have good broadband I would be stuffed.
      What happens when the servers where my stuff could be stored go down and I need that file NOW? What happens when the host company goes bust? Nobody thought Leaman would but big companies do go bust.
      There are just so many other occasions when plugging my USB device into someone else’s PC or device can be much simpler.
      As to Windows 8, from what I read Microsoft are also taking the view is mobile THE future and rather overlooking that it is only part of it. Some roles in offices can be handled via mobile devices but there are a significant number that cannot. I see a continuing need for PCs in significant numbers. The falling numbers we have seen are users whose needs are met by mobile devices and who were only using PCs because that is all there was. There will, as I said, remain a significant core who still need the PC as part of their armory.

      • rjacquez

        Hi Peter, thanks for chiming in. You make some good point. With regards to your comments on the need for USB ports mostly because of unreliable connections, I think time will take care of this and we will have steady connections 24/7 anywhere we go in the near future. I partially agree with your assessment of why the sudden decline in PC sales in favor of mobile devices, I think you are right in saying that some of these people realized they weren’t doing much on a PC anyways, but I also think that we are realizing that much of what we thought was heavy-lifting work wasn’t really productivity, and we continue to embrace simplicity. I hope this trend continues as I believe this is the key to Tablets replacing traditional PCs!

    • rjacquez

      Hi John, many thanks for your comment. Much like you I too fear that IT will embrace Windows 8 and the thinking behind the Surface in order to take control back after what has happened with the consumerization of IT and the BYOD movement. The good news is that we have all seen what’s possible with mobile, and hopefully once we have experienced it, we will never want to go back to the old ways.

  • I had the opportunity to play with a Surface tablet a few weeks ago at a conference in Toronto. It was very nice. If you didn’t like the Metro interface, you could switch to the familiar Windows desktop view. I poked around a little bit and it looked, felt and worked great. Looks like a good product. It wasn’t until later that I learned that the tablet can come with a very thin cover that also doubles as a full keyboard. I thought WOW – that’s great as I was carrying around a Logitec blu tooth keyboard that was paired with my Playbook. Having a flat cover/keyboard would be great. I didn’t look for or notice the USB port. Personally I’m OK with having the USB port. It will make transferring documents from the tablet to my workstation a lot easier and faster. It also means that I can back up my files to a USB drive and leave the device at work (or home) and carry the work with me. While I don’t do that all the time but it’s nice to have that option. I personally can’t (won’t) see myself connecting a mouse to a tablet.
    There is a push to look at tablets moving from a consumption device to a creation device. I still do a VAST majority of my creation on a laptop or at home my desktop system. I create very little with my tablets but I can see how people are moving in that direction. I purchased a blu tooth keyboard so I could create some content faster than tapping on a screen. With Microsoft adding a cover/keyboard they are making the transition to a creation device much easier.
    Personally I think it’s good that Microsoft has added these features to their tablet. It’s there for those who want it and those that don’t want the keyboard or access via a USB port, don’t have to use it. No harm – no foul.
    It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when it’s officially released to public. I doubt it will come close to the success of the iPad but how close will it come to some of the Android devices.

    • rjacquez

      Hi Phil, thanks for your insight, my friend. You make some good points about the need for a keyboard and I agree with you on that, I happen to own and love my Logitech keyboard cover for my iPad because it works great at enabling me to do more with my Tablet. I also think that perhaps the USB ports are an interesting idea for helping people transition to this new world of mobile but then again, we don’t see many iPad owners complaining about the lack of USB ports, so maybe PC peripherals won’t be in our future, we will see. I think my bigger point is that the future isn’t about specs or USB ports, but about a ‘mindset’ to embrace new opportunities and new ways of doing things and this is why I subscribe to the more drastic approach that Apple has taken with the iPad and the iPhone vs. the ‘comfortable’ approach Microsoft is taking with Windows 8 and the Surface. I love change and don’t mind giving up Adobe Flash, USB ports and everything else that’s needed in order to be part of something truly revolutionary in my lifetime.

  • For me, if the Surface encourages more corporates to roll out tablet devices, with less reliance on other less mobile learning friendly devices – I’m referring to the BlackBerry – so that we have a broader platform with which to play, I say may it be a success!

    • rjacquez

      Hi Tim, thank you for your comment. I think you are right, most IT departments will most likely embrace Windows 8 and the Surface, but this in my mind will keep us stuck in the old for a while at least. What we need in IT and everywhere else isn’t an evolution of the same stuff, we need a massive revolution that takes us to the next level.

  • HenryNNN

    Hi Jacquez,

    Just jumping in cos it has been a long long long time since I saw positive postings on Microsoft products ! Ever since Apple’s wonder ‘toy’ came into the picture, Microsoft PC gets nothing but the ‘bat’ ! But not many will admit, while everyone is having ‘fun’ with Apple’s wonder ‘toy’, the ‘fun stuffs’ were actually created by behind the scenes ‘boring, outdated’ PCs, laptops, Macbooks, …etc. The ‘silent’ heroes ?

    Anyway IMO, what tools there are, it is always good to find the ‘best’ use for it regardless of it’s origin of creation. Only in doing so, will we be able to truly harness it’s goodness. The senseless lawsuit that’s happening too frequently is simply ‘crazy’ …

    Guess, I will stop here 🙂

  • HenryNNN

    Hi Jacquez,

    Just jumping in cos it has been a long long long time since I saw positive postings on Microsoft products ! Ever since Apple’s wonder ‘toy’ came into the picture, Microsoft PC gets nothing but the ‘bat’ ! But not many will admit, while everyone is having ‘fun’ with Apple’s wonder ‘toy’, the ‘fun stuffs’ were actually created by behind the scenes ‘boring, outdated’ PCs, laptops, Macbooks, …etc. The ‘silent’ heroes ?

    Anyway IMO, what tools there are, it is always good to find the ‘best’ use for it regardless of it’s origin of creation. Only in doing so, will we be able to truly harness it’s goodness. The senseless lawsuit that’s happening too frequently is simply ‘crazy’ …

    Guess, I will stop here 🙂 🙂

  • Lucas Ho

    Ok. Let’s look at a simple problem. You have a tablet and a USB. How on earth you gonna transfer data from the USB to the tablet or vice versa ? Yes, everything now is simple and beautiful but they are useless. Owning an IPhone 5, I dont know why I bought this shit at the beginning.

  • RJ…

    You forget the fact that the USB port there is primarily as a means to store data. The USB port can serve as a way to serve to store documents as a backup or files to large to immediately upload/download from the cloud. Perhaps some images? What about peripherals? Oh, I forgot – Apple was nice enough to include a proprietary cord for that.

    As others have mentioned, the Surface is a slick little tablet. To be honest, I’m more of an android devotee and I think those tablets are a tad more polished (see Asus Transformer and Samsung Tab 10.1). But do we really have to allow Apple to have a monopoly on tablets in the mLearning arena? Wouldn’t it be nice to have Surface tablets in the corporate office as I’m sure those businesses might be more inclined to include them due to their familiarity with the Windows workflow, and there would be less of a learning curve for their employees.

    I’m disappointed that many familiar names from Adobe (past and present) find it so easy to run to Apple for products and provide free advertising (laptops in demos). It’s hard to understand when the group from Cupertino has done nothing but stab Adobe in the back (ex: Flash) – the latest being Adobe building hardware (Project Mighty stylus and Napoleon ruler) – exclusively for Apple products.

    If I sound bitter, it’s because I probably am – especially the latest Creative Suite going entirely to the Cloud. This does not save anyone money. They’re not kidding anyone.

    – Former ACE

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