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back to article Review: Living with Microsoft's new Surface Pro

While the Surface RT was aimed at Apple's iDevices, its posh Pro cousin is Microsoft's Windows 8 showcase in the PC space, and on midnight on February 9 the first units will go on sale. But we got one early, lived with it for a week, and have, ahem, surfaced to tell of our experience. Microsoft is adamant that the Surface Pro is …

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Anonymous Coward

@successcase

Well said.

Just to add MS tried to make a device to fit their OS rather than building the two together and the sticking plasters over Windows shows up.

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Tepid

@successcase:

Well said.

Let's be brutally honest: anyone that has lived or studied the last 15-20 years of IT history, must admit to the Surface as being a laughable device.

This is simply a warmer-over $2000 Tablet PC with Windows from 2000 that has now been upgraded with the laziest design sense to a....$1000 Surface with Windows for 2013.

Whatever or however you feel about Steve Jobs & Apple, the iPad has, simply and irrevocably, changed the world.

Let's try a counter-factual: the iPhone & iPad were never invented by Apple. Would Microsoft have released this Surface POS now?

One step further: let's grant that MS actually does care about R&D and innovation, and they actually did release this in 2010 (again, with no iPad). Would the world give a rat's ass about the Surface as "a game changer"...? No. They would've sold 5,000 Surfaces, as many as Tablet PCs were sold in 10 years, and we'd be stuck still buying ugly, lame netbooks that were slow and crashed every week (and/or that sucked hours per week of my life to do personal and family and colleagues' tech support).

And while there is a Cupertino bubble, the Redmond bubble is a much different place with really shortsighted outcomes and unoriginal results.

The confusion stems from Apple not fearing to cannibalize OSX, while Microsoft can't see beyond protecting their Windows & Office monopolies. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, in 1999, could have been allowed to beak up Microsoft (like Standard Oil or AT&T) into separate Windows & Productivity entities, and we would have Office, identically, on 10 platforms now and who knows what else.

There. I said it.

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Anonymous Coward

" this device is at the very root of it's conception a response to the iPad."

Strange comment from someone that knows their IT history. "Surface," is an evolution of stuff Microsoft have been doing since the good old days when Apple was moribund and Steve Jobs seemed to have run out of healthy hosts. The iPad may have made it more relevant (or thrown its irrelevance into sharp relief depending on your perspective), but it's naive at best to suggest that it prompted its existence.

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Re: Tepid

"This is simply a warmer-over $2000 Tablet PC with Windows from 2000 that has now been upgraded with the laziest design sense to a....$1000 Surface with Windows for 2013."

With 10x the processing speed, more RAM, dramatically faster and more durable storage, way better battery life, higher quality and resolution screen and a redesigned interface. Yeah, terrible progress that...

The ipad essentially hasn't changed significantly since it was introduced, CPU and screen tweaks, the interface and form factor is pretty much the same etc yet that doesn't seem to be a terribly unsuccessful product!

"Whatever or however you feel about Steve Jobs & Apple, the iPad has, simply and irrevocably, changed the world."

Has it cured cancer? ensured world peace? ended poverty? Gimme a f'n break

"The confusion stems from Apple not fearing to cannibalize OSX"

Hard to be worried about a single digit market share (and I'm typing this on a Macbook Pro)

"Microsoft can't see beyond protecting their ... Office monopolies."

You mean Apple and others have tried and failed to make an office suite that rivals MS Office's meagre standards.

"separate Windows & Productivity entities, and we would have Office, identically, on 10 platforms now and who knows what else."

What garbage. In fact that would be a world where office would only be made for windows, with maybe cut down versions for ipad and Android - MS lose money on Office for OSX, they are only making it because of a legal/licensing settlement - they would lose more making a linux version, and WINE et al have eliminated the need for it in any case.

BTW - what are the other 5 platforms you think MS is holding back from to protect windows??

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Silver badge

" but it's naive at best to suggest that it prompted its existence."

So are you suggesting Microsoft would have designed the Surface without the iPad. That they would have implemented a tablet on an Arm chip, that they would have bifurcated the navigation paradigm of Windows as they did, that the iPad didn't push them into entering the hardware business, attempting their own marriage of hardware and software, or panic them into radically overhauling their business model. I guess would have attempted their own retail strategy too, with no cash tills Zen like layout and their staff would have been wearing blue polo tops. And iPad inspired iOS didn't push them into making phones without a keyboard (and Ballmer laughing at the keyboard-less iPhone was just a ghost). Sure they would have rushed out an OS where the fundamental design and navigation paradigm is so much at odds with their cash-cow office suite. They would have done that anyway. The magnetic snap on cover, that was just waiting in the wings too.

Of course defining the motives of men is always a matter of perspective, and there are no facts here. But really, your perspective is so radically different to mine, I find it simply staggering.

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"Liquid Metal"

I'm sorry but I just can't read that without hearing it in a Austrian accent...

"It can't form complex machines ... but it can form form solid metal shapes"

"Like what?"

"Knives and stabbing weapons"

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Joke

Re: "Liquid Metal"

Agreed. And I bet it would start malfunctioning if you hit it with a few RPG's too.

Now if it was made by Nokia....

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Terminator

Re: "Liquid Metal"

I read "Australian accent" and had a brief headful of imaginary Crocodile Dundee / Terminator 2 crossover.

It wasn't bad, actually...

"Hasta la vista, mate!"

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Joke

Re: "Liquid Metal"

I read it that way too, which either makes you really weird, or cool - depending on which I am of course.

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LDS
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Thumb Up

Guess I'll got one - it looks great to be used together my camera.

Being able to run Windows software and with decent USB support I guess it's a good device to connect to my Canon EOS 5 camera, both for remote control using EOS Utility and a 5m USB cable, and to check images directly from the cards, thanks to the good screen. It looks easier to carry around than any other Ultrabook in a photo bag, the pen makes the mouse not needed even when some precision is needed, and you can get rid of the keyboard when you don't need it. The fact it can run Lightroom or Photoshop is a surely plus. Only battery life could have been better.... but I guess I'll give it a try.

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Thumb Up

Re: Guess I'll got one - it looks great to be used together my camera.

Suspect the down-voters have not interest in DSLR's - it'll be a winner in that market. The USB port in unbelievably useful, I couldn't survive without one. If you're looking for direct comparisons, check the Sony gear which has a very similar spec and price point. Don't compare it with an iPad, they are merely toys that are uber restrictive.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Guess I'll got one - it looks great to be used together my camera.

No, I suspect the downvoters have no interest in anything positive about MS, and can't deal with anything that contradicts their worldview, so must downvote, downvote, downvote...

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Re: Guess I'll got one - it looks great to be used together my camera.

I would have thought that DSLR owners would find an iPad the better companion device- its higher resolution 4:3 screen is closer to the 3:2 ratio that most DSLRs use, and there are already iOS DSLR remote-control options available.

With the low cost of SD cards these days, dumping a series of pictures onto a portable HDD isn't as handy as once it was.

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Re: Guess I'll got one - it looks great to be used together my camera.

I was also thinking the same thing - also great for processing photos out of the house (i.e. on location or holiday).

@ Dave126 - iPad is useless for DSLR owners due to lttle in the way of options, a reliance mainly on expensive additional cables or wireless adapters (unless you have the latest generation of high end professional cameras - assuming you have access to a wirelss network for connectivity - I still seem to find hotels with either no conenctivity, Internet only in the foyer/louge/bar area, or cable conenction in the room) and no high end photo processing options. With a Surface Pro tablet (or a PC or MAC laptop) you can have full camera control (again missing from the tablet toy apps) and decent processing software.

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Re: Guess I'll got one - it looks great to be used together my camera.

@Dapprman"a reliance mainly on expensive additional cables or wireless adapters"

You think someone holding a £1000 camera body with a £2000 lens gives a stuff about £15 for a cable? DSLR photographers don't even consider Photoshop to be expensive so a cable is not an issue at all. The screen resolution might be though, and here the iPad wins over the Surface.

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LDS
Silver badge

Re: Guess I'll got one - it looks great to be used together my camera.

The iPad can't run Canon original software - sure, there are some apps that try to duplicate them but I'd prefer to use the original software which can access all the camera features as designed without any need to reverse engineer the protocol and try to duplicate it.

Nor the iPad can run the full Lightroom or Photoshop - or any other software designed for Windows (or Mac). Nor the iPad has a real digitizer. An USB 3.0 port will allow to access the raw images on the CF much faster than downloading them from the camera (which unluckily has only USB 2.0 support), without the need of ad-hoc cables. The only advantage would be the Retina display, but a 1920 x 1080 is not that bad after all.

Right now I'm using a laptop, something like the Surface Pro can be a lighter alternative which you can hold with one hand.

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LDS
Silver badge

Re: Guess I'll got one - it looks great to be used together my camera.

I have a suspect the downvoters are those funny people who use their iPads as cameras... and probably don't like to face the fact that no matter how good iPad can be, they are not the "definitive" device and there are tasks they are not good at, and where other devices can work better. My example was not a mainstream use, but it's a task where a device running x86 Windows, digitizer and full USB support can deliver more than devices designed to be less flexible, although smaller and with a longer battery life. Every device - including iPad - is a compromise - one has to choose the compromise that fits better his needs.

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LDS
Silver badge

Re: Guess I'll got one - it looks great to be used together my camera.

I'd suggest the downvoter to look first at what you could do with EOS Utility and what you can do what the available iPad apps. There's no match. As long as Canon does not release an iPad or Android version of EOS Utility, whatever can run it natively on the field in a highly portable format is very welcome. And if it can also run the professional imaging software you're used to the better, sorry if iPad can't, but that's life...

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Anonymous Coward

accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass

but not gps. Well fucking done.

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Bronze badge
Joke

Uncertaintly Principle

At least you'll be able to know exactly how fast you're going.

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Re: accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass

perhaps it's dead hot at dead reckoning......

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Anonymous Coward

Re: accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass

WTF would you need gps for in a tablet? Are you going to superglue it to your steering wheel as a Sat Nav?

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Linux

$64,000 Question

What's it like with Ubuntu/Unity?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: $64,000 Question

Does it suck as much as on a Dell?

https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/xserver-xorg-input-synaptics/+bug/1092623

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I am seriously struggling to understand why I would pay over $1000 dollars for something that has LESS capability than a laptop for double the price. The fact that a 64GB model only gives you 20GB of useable space is a complete con. I have an Asus Transformer TF300 32GB and that gives me 27GB of usable space, so all it proves is that Windows is FAR less efficient as an OS than Android. I paid £379 for my Asus Transformer and it has completely replaced my laptop. Considering that you are now getting laptops coming out with touch screens (and detachable ones at that) MS is going to have to halve the price tag to get Surface to sell. The distinction between laptops and tablets is getting smaller day by day, and the price tags will have to adjust to that environment.

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Windows (and Desktop Linux or OS X) does far more than Android so your comparison proves nothing about the efficiency of the OS. Most of us here, I expect, need a lot more from a notebook than the TF300 delivers, but a great device if it meets your needs.

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Qwarty, it does meet my needs. I am an IT professional and can see some aspects that it lacks, such as running enterprise solutions such as SQL databases, exchange servers and the like, but for everything else, Android does the job perfectly whether it is writing office documents or email, I no longer need a PC at all, my PC has been gathering dust for over 4 months now and I have not once needed to go back to it, which pretty much covers 95% of all PC users and what they generally use their PCs for. And if for any reason someone does need a Windows machine, they can pick up a laptop (or desktop) for half the price of a surface device, which brings me back to my original point, what is a Surface device for at that price tag?

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Silver badge

Apple, it's your move

Even though I don't expect MS to sell many of these - the problems of using the keyboard while sitting will be a significant problem for many prospective buyers - it will raise expectations by continuing to blur the difference between tablets and laptops/notebooks.

Many of us have been expecting to release an I-Pad Pro for a while which would be an I-Pad running Mac OS. Extremely good sales of both I-Pads and MacBook Airs have meant that they haven't needed to yet. Whether this has been for fear that ARMs don't have enough oomph, the problems of fat binaries/translation for existing apps, or Intel chippery needing too much power. Those problems are all likely to be resolved this year: the new ARMs are getting beefier all the time; OpenCL is encouraging use of the ubiquitous GPUs for calculations; and Intel and Apple have successfully demoed just how efficient x86 can be made to run. Much as I'd love to see all ARM-based hardware in this area I imagine that the inertia of getting software companies to recompile for ARM or adding a new version of Rosetta favour Apple continuing with their current strategy until they have enough "killer" I-Pad apps to warrant an I-Pad based notebook.

All things considered it's a bold move from Microsoft which I think will continue to ginger the market which should be good for customers.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Apple, it's your move

I-can't stand the mispelling of iPad

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Silver badge

Re: Apple, it's your move

They could easily add touch screen sensors to the Air, but Microsoft have spent the last 10 years proving that desktop operating systems don't match well with touch hardware. The computer buying public agrees with that.

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Windows

Re: Apple, it's your move

Why would Apple want to create a mongrel Surface lookalike? Something that's neither a fully portable device for lightweight content consumption (think planes, trains & automobiles); too heavy for holding book-style; too short a battery life; expensive compared with the tablet competition (iPad & Android); nor is it a fully-functional laptop like any laptop (cough and the thing will fall to pieces off your lap); nor is it a desktop-style replacement....

In short, it's a bit of a mess.

Apple needn't -- and certainly won't -- do anything. This mongrel Surface won't be around for long.

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Bronze badge

Re: Apple, it's your move

@Charlie Clark, why would Apple do anything? They designed the MacBook Air as a small and light computer. They designed the iPad as a tablet. Each of these do different jobs and it's only geeks that can't tell the difference. The lack of 3G in the Surface is a dead giveaway, a mobile device needs mobile connectivity and Apple designed that in. A mobile device needs location based services, so GPS is necessary. The ability to run Word on a train is secondary, as is virtualisation support and other geeky use cases. If adding any of these compromises the use of the tablet for it's function as a tablet then it should not be done. The reason sales figures are lower for Microsoft is simply that it's only geeks that want what they offer. For everyone else, the battery lasting several days is higher on the list, along with an easy to use app store with apps which have been quality checked, or an easy to use way to buy content on the move. We already have computers to do the hard stuff, and eventually they will get smaller - the surface is a step towards that end, as was the MBA but don't try to fudge together tablets and computers just because they have a similar form factor. The reason NetBooks failed was because the screens got bigger, memory was added and prices went up while battery life went down. We'd all like the device at the end of this particular rainbow but current technology cannot offer that. Yet.

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Re: Apple, it's your move

And I can't stand companies trying to force unconventional spellings (of their brands) into copy: proper names including brands are capitalised in English.

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Re: Apple, it's your move

@Lusty

Why would Apple do anything?

I obviously expressed myself poorly. I agree that at the moment they have no need to do so. Apple can continue to "do nothing" (in reality continuing to update and expand their product lines) and still earn more cash than you and I can comfortably imagine.

However, innovation is about doing things when they don't appear necessary or obvious. Devices like the Transformer Prime are pointing the way and if Android gets proper mouse support then I can see people like myself abandoning notebooks for convertibles in droves: an extremely lightweight and portable device that is usable on the move with a sensible docking station solution.

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Re: Apple, it's your move

"However, innovation is about doing things when they don't appear necessary or obvious."

Like the MacBook Air being considerably smaller than anything at the time, leading to the Ultrabook? the original iPhone changing phones completely?, The iPad single handedly creating the market that led to the Transformer Prime which basically copied it but added a keyboard? Like the Retina display causing the whole industry to rethink "HD"? Apple have done their fair share of innovation. Adding every feature a geek can think of (I'm looking at you NFC!) is not innovation, it's what happens where there is a lack of innovation. True, Apple may be out of ideas, but if they are then frankly the Android people are screwed first because at least Apple have the cash to survive 10 years without a good product. When HTC, Samsung and the rest have nothing to copy then we'll see if innovation continues.

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Anonymous Coward

Very unfortunate

Microsoft invested billions and it was a "noble" attempt, again, to create something fantastic in the tablet space. But, alas, it is on its way to failing. The battery life is too short, it looks ridiculous with the kickstand on someone's "lap", the screen is too small for real work in the majority of use cases and it is too expensive compared to other devices in the laptop category. Oh, and it alienated critical partners. Microsoft had to know all this going in. Someone at Microsoft had to put this thing on their legs like a laptop, or try to change the screen angle when using it as a desktop, or watch the battery run down too soon when using it as a tablet and wonder why they were doing it at all. Early usability reports had to be negative in many, many areas, but they proceeded anyway. It's not really a laptop, nor a desktop, nor a tablet and they can throw all the marketing money they want at it, but that won't make it usable. Billions spent, and for what, really? What has Microsoft done with Surface that partners could not have done better? Truly epic fail.

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Facepalm

Re: Very unfortunate

Oh, hello there Eadon.

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Re: Very unfortunate

That kickstand implementation is just daft- a super portable device that isn't as easy to use on your lap as a conventional netbook/laptop?

MS could remedy this issue by bringing out a folding keyboard/case variant that does a better job of holding the screen at an angle. They could even bring out a keyboard/case that holds the tablet 6" above the back of the keyboard, so that the typing position is better for the user's posture. The difficulty is that unlike a conventional laptop, the Surface is top-heavy.

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Silver badge

Re: Very unfortunate

People made similar arguments about MS getting in to the console market. The Surface is their foot in the door.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Very unfortunate

Actually it looks great - you obviously havnt seen one.

The battery outlasts other similar tablets from Dell. The screen is also larger than most other tablets. Early reviews of the Pro has been overwhelmingly positive.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Very unfortunate

"Actually it looks great - you obviously havnt seen one."

Evening RICHTO !

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FAIL

Re: Very unfortunate

> Early reviews of the Pro has been overwhelmingly positive.

Bollocks.

Macrumors.com have a summary and it's quite scary.

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Thumb Down

MacBook Air

So, for the same price as this and keyboard, and for the same weight too, you could get a MacBook Air. And therefore type properly, use on your lap, and have an OS that doesn't look like Fisher Price. And none of that touchscreen smugde either. Pretty clear which way I'd go, but to each their own of course.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MacBook Air

This has the advantage of multipoint touch - a MacBook air doesn't.

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Bronze badge

Wedge Touch Mouse Surface Edition, SD card, $$$

I looked up the mouse. It's described as "Easily paired with Bluetooth technology", which presumably means that it incorporated Bluetooth technology and is easily paired, i.e. virtually pludgged in to the PC. Of course, any Bluetooth mouse will do, if you find one cheap, but it may not have the touch top surface feature. BlueTrack, on the other hand, seems to me to be named specifically to trick you into thinking that you're buying a Bluetooth device when you're not, if you aren't paying attention. But in this case it actually is Bluetooth (but check to make sure).

This matters, when other wireless pointers operate only with a USB adapter of their own, and you've only got one USB port.

As for SD card expansion, on the one hand it's easily pinched, or lost, and on the other, in my experience, SD card slots and cards quickly suffer wear and become unreliable when inserting or removing. So, if using a card, I'd say leave it in there, and put strong adhesive tape over the slot, so that it isn't nicked. Finally, it may be less reliable storage than an SSD hard disc. So make a backup frequently.

As for the price, the exchange rate seems to be $1 to €1 these days, which means we're getting stung once for that, and once more because the € has gone up in value this month. So this may be one of those cases where the cheapest way to buy the thing is to take an Underground train to Tottenham Court Road and then fly to New York (for instance) to buy it there. Can you get a day return?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wedge Touch Mouse Surface Edition, SD card, $$$

Personally I find the standard MS touch mouse much better, and last I looked it's going for £25, which isn't bad for a device of its kind.

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Silver badge

Re: Wedge Touch Mouse Surface Edition, SD card, $$$

Yeah, it does seem daft that my laptop always has a very small 'nano' dongle plugged in for the mouse (though I have plenty of USB sockets at the moment). It would seem trivial to incorporate it into the machine itself, a la Bluetooth (though I don't think my Bluetooth can kept on when my wireless is turned off for battery saving). If Bluetooth isn't up to the job for mice, I wish Logitech would license their dongles to be built into these machines that have a scarcity of USB sockets.

In fact, do female USB sockets have to be as big as there are? There seem to be plenty of card-reader dongles that seem perfectly happy using only a PCB-thick male plug? Obviously a smaller female plug wouldn't be directly backward-compatible, but an adaptors would be very cheap, and flexible adaptors would avoid the component damage that can result from having rigid objects protruding from a mobile device.

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Thumb Up

Well.....

not taking price into account, from an enterprise perspective,

I've just spent a month with a Dell Latitude 10 , a dual core atom with windows 8 pro, the child in me didn't want to like it, the adult in me finds that I do. damn that adult.... :-)

I have over a hundred ipads in my estate, however there is a lot of looking at stuff and little actual productivity coming out of these people....

So the Latitude ? , immediately and painlessly connected to my wireless, authenticated to the AD domain and I can access all my files immediately without the the ipad's need for additional software and fannying about with webdav on IIS (not pretty btw) to get access to files.

I spent three months working with my ipad to see if I could live with it as a primary, or even secondary device, for me, my principal use case is taking notes and drawing stuff and presentations, mostly to explain technical stuff in fisher price language to people paid twice what I get...

Here's the thing, the handwriting experience on the Dell wins hands down over the ipad, the stylus isn't a rubbery blobby thing required by yhe screen design on the ipad but a hard pointy thing which can recognise my doctor quality scrawling almost flawlessly.

Of course there's comfort in what you know, but for me it's what does the business rather than my consuimer needs.

Loaded office 2003 on it, the apps start quicker than any other device I've seen, with the docking station I could pretty much live with this.... if I had better spectacles :-)

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Bronze badge

Re: Well.....

"I have over a hundred ipads in my estate, however there is a lot of looking at stuff and little actual productivity coming out of these people...."

Just don't forget that you work in IT, so your job probably will be better with an MS based device. Those 100 people don't work in IT and I'd bet you have no clue what they spend their day doing. I'm not saying don't swap, I'm just saying ask the users first because you'd be surprised at the reasons I've heard for needing a tablet are, and almost none of them include Word.

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