Microsoft Surface “first look” & Windows7 vs. Windows8 thoughts…

Hi all,

As the “Snowquester” event starts in the greater Washington, DC area – we have a bunch of updates to share:

RiteTech recently completed its first project using several brand new Microsoft Surface tablet PCs.  These devices will be used to help collect and correlate survey data for a large client of ours who performs international development consulting (and related activities) on behalf of USAID.  The tablets, not surprisingly, were pre-installed with Windows8.  As a result, I felt it was an appropriate time to share our first impressions – particularly since our team’s experience (and preference) had largely been in favor of other, lower-cost tablet devices – such as iPads or Google Nexus tablets (see prior postings for examples).

I must say that the Windows Surface tablets definitely well exceeded our initial impressions.  Even though I’ve always been skeptical of Windows8 (and still am for non-touch devices – more on this in a moment), the Surface tablets definitely seem to meld the “best of both worlds” in terms of delivering a full Windows experience, while providing a tablet form factor with touch-sensitive features.  For instance, it was very neat being able to use the standard suite of Windows software – including a fully capable Kaseya for remote systems management and maintenance – on a tablet device.

Another big “win” was the new Office365 subscription which our client had also purchased with their Surface tablet PCs from the Microsoft Store.  This featured electronic distribution and download – basically, a single subscription code allowed installation of the product on a total of 5 PCs.  The software downloaded very quickly and was probably one of the most painless, and fast, Microsoft Office installations I’ve seen in some time.  While I’m still missing some of the colors and other visual treats that Office 2010 provided as opposed to Office 2013 [which is one of the reasons I continue to use the older version of Outlook 2010), the Office installation went very, very smoothly.

The only main hiccup was the attempted setup of Skype.  Our client uses Skype heavily, to help its consultants stay in contact with other colleagues and co-workers, literally throughout the world.  Skype did come pre-installed on the Surface Tablets, however it is a different version of Skype which requires (essentially) either requires an integration with the Windows App Store or a “consolidation” between the person’s Skype account and the account used for the Windows App Store (or a similar Microsoft account).  In other words – the “normal” Skype logon which a Skype user on PC (or other devices) will not work with the built-in version of Skype on the Surface Tablet – and attempting to run the built-in version of Skype on the Surface will prod the user to attempt to migrate or consolidate their Skype account with the Windows account or App Store account.  This arrangement is, frankly, quite awkward.  We ended up downloading the “PC” (non-tablet) version of Skype – which we had to do on a non-Tablet device, since any attempts to do so on the Tablet device continued to point us to the Skype for Surface download – then, running that Setup program on the surface tablets.

So far, the Skype behavior was really the only “low note” in the whole experience to date.  While the Surface is definitely not for everyone – particularly due to its cost – we were definitely pleasantly surprised by how well it worked, particularly in a multiple-device deployment scenario.  Windows8 on the Surface worked well – or at least “well enough” – which is to be expected, given that the Surface device supports touch.

And that brings along my mandatory “Windows8 rant”.  While Windows8 is what I would term “tolerable” – if not optimal – on a touch device, I am still adamantly opposed to it (Windows8) on non-touch devices.  In particular, I have very disdainful feelings for it in corporate or business environments, unless it’s on a touch device.  As mentioned in prior blog postings – a very simple “legacy mode” or “Win9x mode” option for the User Interface (UI) to allow users – particularly non-touch device users – to continue to enjoy the traditional Win9x interface, would have been far more advisable.  Instead, I continue to find it difficult to envision how most CIO’s or other IT decisionmakers of large organizations (both commercial and governmental) will rapidly or enthusiastically want to adopt Windows8 in their organizations, when quite honestly, Windows7 works just fine – and often times, better – than Windows8 does in terms of meeting their business or organizational needs or objectives.  The most common word I seem to hear from others regarding Windows8 who attempt to use it on a non-touch device is – “frustrating”.  Truth be told, there are a few people who also claim to love Windows8 (although, they generally also have touch-devices to run it on!) – although, I think it’s potentially problematic when a new OS release solely generates such “strong” or polarizing reactions from its users, ranging from extremely negative (e.g. frustrating, hate it) to the other extreme.  I haven’t seen this level of reluctance or potential disdain since Windows Vista and/or Windows Me, to be honest.

As I’ve mentioned before, I think Microsoft would have done well to take a cue from Apple – who has been very careful in preserving the overall “look and feel” of their Mac OS X Operating System, to ensure that they don’t inject too many radical design or UI changes into it, too quickly.  They have carefully and incrementally added some touch- and iPad/iPhone-device inspired capabilities and features into the core OS X UI, but nothing to the extreme of the change in UI from Windows7 to Windows8.

And, that’s it for now.  For those in the greater Washington, DC area – be safe, and enjoy the “Snow-Quester”.  😉



Posted on March 6, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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