Tablets, tablets

So G and I have been trying to figure out a computing solution for a family member whose computer has come to a slow, sad death. We have batted around the idea of a tablet and have been researching if that could be enough with no other machine. The only thing it needs to do besides email and browsing the web is the ability to store photos and load them from the SD card. We both thought the iPad would be a great solution, but as we researched things the problem is how to back up and be able to sort through photos in iOS. Honestly, Apple isn’t making this easy and as G said last night, the technology of the iPad is so great and the hardware is so wonderful, but there are a just a few things you can’t do that make it harder to have as a standalone machine.

Well, yesterday we drove out to the suburbs to take a look at the Surface and see if that may be the solution to the problem we are trying to solve. G loves the fact that with the Surface you can see into the file system, always get back to the standard, familiar desktop of Windows and therefore you get more control over files and being able to move them around. The biggest let down about our visit is that the cover/keyboard was terrible. I hit several keys several times and nothing happened, so typing would not be fast and easy unless you got the more robust, harder keyboard. In addition to this, the staff at the store were unable to answer a lot of G’s questions. I realize that we are the minority of the public who knows a bit more and develops for a living so the questions may be more unusual, but seriously, no one can answer them? They weren’t hard questions - the main one being if there is an automated back up utility that can be set up to back up to a network drive.

I will say the design of the OS for the Surface, when you are in the tile mode, is really interesting and fairly easy to use. I liked it and think that a shake up of how we look at touch interfaces needs to happen, there needs to be another paradigm and I think Metro is giving us that. Hopefully it will push designs for touch interfaces farther and hopefully it could push Apple into something more interesting with iOS. That being said, the touch interface of the Surface seemed a lot less responsive than my iPad. I had to hit things several times to get them to respond on the screen, which made a keyboard with a touchpad even more appealing.

Finally as we got home I was looking through my twitter stream and came upon this from Brian Fling:

The Surface is an amazing ultra thin PC, but a lousy tablet. I think it is just miscategorized.

In my brief interaction with the Surface, I think Brian has hit the nail on the head. I also think for the enterprise user who is enmeshed in the Microsoft world; using Outlook, Office, possibly remote desktop, the Surface is probably a great machine.

So, what are we recommending to our family member? We still aren’t sure. The lack of being able to move photos around and having a harder time printing things off, make the iPad a bit less appealing. But the Surface didn’t impress us enough either with its ease of use, so we aren’t sure that will be better than a small laptop. Right now the iPad is winning based on the ease of use and the automated back up to iCloud even with the two negatives listed above, but our family member will make the ultimate decision.