One of the interesting things about the articles I’ve read critiquing the Surface, specifically the Surface RT, is this idea that “Who cares if the Surface is versatile and includes office, nobody uses a tablet to write documents or create and manage files. They’re meant for consumption, not production. Tablets don’t replace laptops. Tablets are companions to your existing computer.”
Some of that reaction has to do with the price of the Surface. It’s not on par with the kindles or the iPad mini (all things considered, it is on par with the regular size iPad). And if you really do want a tablet solely for consumption, as in you won’t type anything longer than a paragraph long e- mail and just need basic web browsing, e reading, and light games, then yeah it’s a bit overpriced. But if you want more, then I think this (or another tablet running Windows RT, or Windows 8 if you want to be able to install any kind of Windows compatible program) is a great buy. My experience with mobile devices is that when you fall in love with them, you want to do everything on them, and it’s disappointing to find limitations, like not being able to easily put any file I want on the device, which is what you typically get with the lower priced (and sometimes the higher priced) “consumption” or entertainment mobile devices.
But here’s what I would say to that “tablets are consumption companions to a regular computer, not a standalone productive device” idea.
1) No one uses tablets that way because there hasn’t been one that can both consume and produce at a reasonable price – until now.
Let’s not forget that when news of the iPad first came out, lots of people thought that it was nothing more than an oversized iPhone that couldn’t make phone calls. Let’s not say “no one does that” when there’s really been no viable way for them to do it.
2) I think there are a lot of people who do benefit from these part tablet part laptop computers. And they’re not the ones writing tech reviews for major news outlets.
People writing these reviews get every new release shipped to their door to try for a week and give a review. Not discounting their words completely, but it’s different to get a device for a short amount of time as opposed to a consumer whose habits often change based on what a device can do for them over time.
Plus tech critics are technofiles. They have no problem having multiple devices for different days, tasks or even moods.
Oh yeah, and as for people who do want both types of technology in one device… hello, I’m one of them. Nice to meet you. Are people like me the most typical consumer, maybe not, but we’re out there. We travel for a week and don’t want to take our laptop with us, but are afraid not to because what if we need to send out a resume or our boss sends us some work we weren’t expecting? We don’t have regular high speed internet access so when we head over to the nearest Starbucks to do some work we want to grab a handbag with a tablet, not a backpack with a laptop and the cumbersome power cord stuffed inside.
3) No one likes it when a mobile device is completely dependent on another device to run properly.
Does anyone like to sync their iPad? No. It’s annoying. Why can’t it just run on it’s own? It’s powerful enough. When I bought the Surface I set it up right there in the store, no need for any other device. You literally (non-ironic use of that adverb) can’t set up an iPad (unless this has changed since the first gen., and I don’t think it has) without a mac or a PC and the latest version of iTunes.????? Why?
4) That being said, my Surface hasn’t replaced my need for a laptop, at least not yet.
I covered a lot of this in part 2 of this series, but I don’t mean to make it sound like this is a laptop killer. It could be (particularly the Surface Pro or another tablet with Windows 8 as opposed to Windows RT) for some people. But it’s not for me. The biggest issue for me is storage space. I keep a lot of photos and videos on my PC. Do you avoid keeping lots of files (photos and videos especially) on your computer? Then this might not be a problem for you. If you do have lots of files, would you be willing to keep most of them on an external device like a hard drive? (my answer, not really) or in some sort of cloud service (my answer, I can’t right now, but probably one day) like SkyDrive, Facebook, or Flickr? Then, yeah, maybe a Windows 8 or RT tablet could replace your laptop. Would you mind doing certain things via external accessories? (e.g., using an external cd or dvd drive, my answer is no) with your tablet? Do you even use cd’s and dvds (my answer is yes)? If you don’t use discs or if you don’t mind using various accessories when necessary then yep, maybe it kills your need for a laptop.
If you’re like me, and it doesn’t, Maybe your tablet will become the only thing you travel with. Or maybe you’ll be a total freak like me and just carry it with you everywhere on the off chance you’ll be out and need to work on something real quick. Either way, it’s a lot easier than lugging around a laptop. And maybe things will change and storage sizes will get bigger or storage needs will get smaller, and then devices like these will become the ubiquitous laptop. Who knows. For now I still need my laptop. But I’m not planning on getting a new one any time soon.
Wow, you made it to the end! No more lengthy reviews from me but I am planning on writing about some of my favorite Windows 8 and Windows RT apps in the coming weeks, I hope I find some things you didn’t know about.
What do you think? Could a tablet replace your laptop?