Microsoft Surface Tablet In The Office

Microsoft have just announced the “Surface Tablet”. Many companies have been trying to get their tablets into the workplace and used for office work, and while this has been successful in some areas – noteably the media and technology sectors – most sectors remain impenetrable.

This could all be about to change with the release of the Microsoft Surface tablet, initial version due out in October.

What use is a Surface tablet at work?

If your tablet becomes (almost) as powerful as your desktop PC, then the uses for tablets at work become many. With the Microsoft Surface tablet, you’ve effectively got a laptop from which you can rip off the screen and take to meetings.

Imagine the future where your calendar app alerts you it’s time for your meeting and everyone stands up and rips the screen from their keyboard and takes their entire computer into the meeting with them. Amazing opportunities for improving teamwork, collaboration and communication ensue, although some apps are going to need to be invented to cover these concepts.

Improved Collaboration And Communication Using Surface Tablet

Anyone can connect to the projector in the meeting room with wifi from their tablet to explain what they’re talking about. Everyone rips off their screen from their keyboard as they go to the meeting and can join in at any point by taking control of the projector. Contributions increase from the entire team as a result and with data, ideas and messages becoming more visual, communication will improve too.

People will be able to walk to their colleagues desk carrying their screen and show them what they’re talking about. This eliminates so many current communication barriers it’s quite mind-boggling.

Microsoft Surface Tablet

Microsoft Surface Tablet

Less Wasted Time in Meetings

Imagine an app on your Surface tablet that lets you instantly open up video chat with anyone on your local network. There are many meetings that go ahead today in offices around the world where some of the people in the meeting are only really needed for 2 or 3 minutes of expert advice in that particular meeting. Instead of coming to the meeting, they can be alerted to be available while the meeting is going ahead, then at the relevant point the people in the meeting bring up video chat with the expert on their local network and ask his advice about the particular points.

This would free up considerable time, never mind improving morale for these specialist experts, who by their nature have excessive pressure on their time.

Rippable Screen - Tear it off the keyboard

Rippable Screen - Tear it off the keyboard

Surface Tablets Are Cheaper

The total cost of ownership is going to be lower than desktop PCs. Firstly, the actual price is going to be cheap – rumours abound about the Microsoft Surface tablet, but probably it’s going to arrive in the region of $650 or £450. Secondly, maintenance and support is going to be low.

These are going to be similar devices to those used at home and a LOT of the pain points of using point and click based environments are going to be gone. Lastly, they’re going to last for at least 3 years with OS updates directly to the tablet and app updates coming directly from the cloud.

Security of the Surface Tablet

Security is a serious concern – what happens if, as is far likelier with a tablet than even a laptop, someone misplaces their tablet? You’ll need to ensure you have some decent security on the tablets that doesn’t interfere with usability.

Fingerprint recognition + facial recognition would probably do the job here – it’s too early to say if these will come with Surface but Apps will be developed for this. CNN recently wrote an article about Microsoft Surface security, but the summary seems to be that they will be at least as secure as existing desktops.

Speed of adoption of Microsoft Surface tablets in the workplace

Tablet adoption in the workplace is being speeded up significantly by the continual push and refresh of smart phones as mobile phone contracts end and people get new phones. Everyone is now used to the touch screen interfaces and in-fact, expect them. Anyone who has used a Kindle (the non-touch variety) can attest to prodding the screen the first few times until they got the hang of using it ‘old school style’.

Many tablets have arrived on the scene rushed – every company wanted to jump on the Apple iPad bandwagon. There are literally too many failures to mention but you can view a brief history of failed tables here if you wish.

Now the iPad is in its 3rd iteration, soon to be 4th, Amazon have successfully cornered a small piece of the home market with their Kindle Fire product, Samsung have won their UK patent battle with Apple but are still fighting it in the US for their tab, Google have just released their very own Nexus 7 and now Microsoft are finally on the scene.

The first crucial aspect for Microsoft Surface adoption seem to be that the Microsoft Surface will have Windows 8 Metro interface on the first version released, but full Metro + Windows 8 on the second version – i.e. you will be able to run desktop applications on your tablet. The second crucial aspect is the keyboard and the cool magnetic attachment – just rip off your screen or float it near the keyboard for reattachment. The third crucial aspect is the USB drive and the final crucial aspect is that it looks beautiful and is available in any colour.

Choose your Microsoft Surface Colour

Choose your Microsoft Surface Colour

Previous Microsoft Attempts at Tablets

This is not Microsoft’s first attempt at creating a tablet – anyone remember the Courier?

But if you’ve watched the video of the Microsoft Surface from above, then like me you may be thinking they’re finally onto a winner.

When is it out, How Fast Will It Be?

The first release of the Microsoft Surface is going to be in October, and soon after a slightly thicker version will be released with a powerful Intel chip inside. That means the first version may not be for everyone at work although we can presume it’s going to be as fast as the iPad 4 and the Intel based version will be fast on its heels.

Version 1 of the Microsoft Surface is going to be released in October, is based on the ARM chip and will only have the Metro interface – this is the new front-end for Windows 8, but as I understand it, Windows 8 will not be accessible so users will be reliant on apps.

Version 2 (Surface Pro) will be released soon after, will be slightly thicker and will have an Intel chip and full Windows 8 access allowing users to use any traditional Windows apps they like on their tablet.

Other Tablets You Can Use At Work

The best of the tablets at the moment is without doubt the iPad but it’s not so useful for the workplace. There’s no USB port, no keyboard and no familiar Office suite for the hordes of Office users. Google have just released the Nexus 7 and this might find some usage but at work, the addition of the keyboard and traditional Office applications, as is going to be the case with the second release of the Surface tablet, is crucial.

The Future of the Microsoft Surface Tablets at Work

Microsoft Surface Tablets are coming to the workplace – there is no doubt about it. It’s too early to say if Microsoft Surface is going to be the biggest winner in the area, but with their background in office support and familiar workplace applications, combined with how great this tablet looks my money is on this one succeeding. Context-sensitive workplace apps will come out soon enough – imagine the app which automatically switches over to presentation view just because you have walked into the meeting room, or that switches to explanation mode when you walk over to your colleagues desk, hiding personal emails but bringing useful collaboration and communication tools to the fore?

Tablets have arrived at home, they are soon arriving at work and shortly after the context-sensitive apps will arrive but what else does the future hold in store for tablets at work and do you agree or disagree that it looks like Microsoft have finally developed a winner with the Surface?