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Romier S

Microsoft Surface Tablet

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For that kind of money, you could just get an 11" MacBook Air.

 

When the Air comes with a detachable keyboard, touchscreen, and pressure sensitive stylus, I'm in.

 

Hoping one of these fits in my budget.

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When the Air comes with a detachable keyboard, touchscreen, and pressure sensitive stylus, I'm in.

 

Hoping one of these fits in my budget.

 

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It's a nice looking device, and quite bold for MS. But then, they need to be bold in a market that is exploding and they have no presence in.

 

However, I think 16:9 is a bad idea, especially if they expect to differentiate this as an MS Office tablet. 16:9 is a movie ratio, not a document ratio. Imagine reading at a letter-formatted document with this held vertically. But hey, it's perfect for legal size.

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Yeah, this sounds like a really interesting progression for laptops. I could imagine this serving the needs of both a laptop and tablet without a significant compromise on either side. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this is what Apple was going to do a few years from now and Microsoft may have jumped out ahead of them in this regard.

 

I'm finding that businesses are obsessed with the iPad, not because iOS is desirable for business use, rather because the form-factor is sexy, slick, and trendy and useful for sales appearances. But an iPad generally is lacking in any practical functionality for business where I have observed it being used. One of these devices though could provide the slick/sexy requirement and have the needed business functionality as well. Microsoft needs to hurry up, but I think they have a real "in" here they could capitalize on.

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Yeah, the one thing that bugs me and that I wish Microsoft had done is be a bit more Apple like with the announcement. The functionality available with both versions is still a bit up in the air as is the pricing which is bothersome. A good deal of unanswered questions and one thing I like that Apple does is that when they announce a product - it's complete. You can preorder the thing an hour after the conference is done. You know the price, the features and everything that you're getting. I think Microsoft missed an opportunity to be a bit more Apple like in that regard with the Surface. Imagine if preorders would have went up for the thing shortly after the show and the device was feature complete. I would be it would be selling in a major way right now.

 

As is, I hope MS doesn't dick us around for months to get more info on the thing. Google is revealing their self-branded tablet next week I think and MS needs to build on the buzz they've generated.

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I agree with Romier. But playing el abogado del diablo, the consumer buzz that they are wasting is offset by perhaps the developer buzz that they are gaining. There are a lot of .net developers out there. I am one of them. And this presentation got me thinking "Shit, this platform might be the future, I need to look into this." Developers Developers Developers as they say.

 

Surely if they released the thing next week they'd be in a much worse position application development wise. I imagine as a result of this hype, the adobe people, dropbox people, Rovio people, weather channel people, and even google must be thinking "Crap, should we be getting our act together for the Windows 8/Surface product launch this fall?"

 

That is important and I bet is part of their strategy. You're just not thinking fourth-dimensionally.

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Oh I agree Keith, but I'm saying that those development ducks should have been in a bit more in a row. The Surface shouldn't have been as much of a surprise as it was. I liken it to console development - you don't go to market with a shitty launch lineup and no games (Well, Nintendo with the 3DS and we saw how that worked out) and while I don't believe Microsoft is doing that - I would have liked to seen more push to get this thing out as quickly as possible with developer already having been buzzed about it.

 

Even if development wasn't as mature as they would have liked, nothing pushes developers and application creators like adoption rate. It's hard to ignore a device like the Surface if they have some real sales behind it and momentum with people buying the thing afterall. I just think it's something that Apple has done and continues to do very well and it's partially why they enjoy the success that they do.

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I must say I was pretty impressed by this. They're doing one of the things that Android tablets rarely do - include a full USB port (I love the fullsize USB on my Thrive). Plus the pen/digitizer which is super useful to me.

 

I'm very interested in the Pro tablet. Could finally replace my old 12" touchscreen convertible laptop. Honestly, having a stylus is awesome for taking notes in class on powerpoint slides/pdfs/etc. The battery life on my old AMD Turion convertible though was like 3-4 hours though (never enough for class) and it wasn't exactly light/portable.

 

I wonder when the first x86 emulator for ARM pops up on the marketplace? DOSBox for WinRT? Touchscreen support in old games is crap right now, but I'm sure someone with more time than I have could crack the input problem.

 

I've got ScummVM up and running on Android tablets here at the house - the wife was playing Maniac Mansion pretty decently on my tablet.

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I kinda want the RT one to use as a wifi music player and a couch web browser.

 

I'm a bit worried that spotify won't make an app for it, or the one they make will suck big time...

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In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this is what Apple was going to do a few years from now and Microsoft may have jumped out ahead of them in this regard.

 

I seriously doubt it. All signs point to Apple developing OS X and iOS concurrently, not merging the two together. I think Apple, unlike Microsoft, realizes that tablet computing is a different beast than a traditional desktop OS. Using a mouse and keyboard on an interface designed for touch screens is not a satisfying experience. The same goes for using a touch screen on a traditional desktop OS.

 

When the Air comes with a detachable keyboard, touchscreen, and pressure sensitive stylus, I'm in.

 

In other words, I'll buy it when it's no longer anything like a MacBook Air.

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Using a mouse and keyboard on an interface designed for touch screens is not a satisfying experience.

 

Until you want to type something or make fine movements (Excel, photo editing) where a mouse is handy.

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Until you want to type something or make fine movements (Excel, photo editing) where a mouse is handy.

Indeed. I love my iPad and it fits a ton of needs but if I have to do any serious typing on it, saying its less than intuitive is an understatement. I use the voice to text on the new iPad more than I thought I ever would because it lets me circumvent the need to use the onscreen keyboard more often than not. I've thought of investing in a keyboard attachment because of it.

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Until you want to type something or make fine movements (Excel, photo editing) where a mouse is handy.

 

I agree with what you're saying, especially in regard to typing, but OTOH if you are using Excel on a tablet, it had better have great touch controls. Same goes for editing photos. Any tablet app should have a UI designed around touch. Snapseed on the iPad is a good example. If a tablet app requires a mouse to get the best experience then why not just use a laptop (with more power and battery life)?

 

This is one place where MS could run into trouble. If you give developers all the input controls of a laptop, then they probably won't bother making touch UIs (or very good ones, at least). And so you'll end up with a tablet full of laptop apps. It's the Law of Unintended Consequences. It's the same logic that I think explains why Android has precious few tablet-specific apps, because Google went out of their way to make phone apps look perfect on tablets, you remove the incentive to develop tablet specific UIs...and so the advantages a tablet brings are not realized.

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OTOH if you are using Excel on a tablet, it had better have great touch controls. Same goes for editing photos. Any tablet app should have a UI designed around touch. Snapseed on the iPad is a good example. If a tablet app requires a mouse to get the best experience then why not just use a laptop (with more power and battery life)?

 

I have tried several spreadsheet apps on Android and iOS and they all make simple Excel functions frustrating. Functions like filtering cells, selecting multiple cells or even scrolling large spreadsheets require something more precise than a touchscreen. Many functions require a keyboard+mouse combo that simply can't be replicated with a touchscreen alone.

 

Snapseed is a great app but it's a very simple tool versus Lightroom or Photoshop. Even if a future tablet had the horsepower to run Lightroom or Photoshop it would still lag behind its brother running on a full PC simply because of the input interface. There are functions in Lightroom that simply require the precise control of a keyboard+mouse.

 

We are advancing toward a point when tablets will be as powerful as dedicated PC's. That's going to happen. Somewhere between now and then an advancement in interface is going to need to occur to at least match the keyboard+mouse advantage. My guess is that advancement will be adding keyboard+mouse support to all tablets. :)

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I have tried several spreadsheet apps on Android and iOS and they all make simple Excel functions frustrating. Functions like filtering cells, selecting multiple cells or even scrolling large spreadsheets require something more precise than a touchscreen. Many functions require a keyboard+mouse combo that simply can't be replicated with a touchscreen alone.

 

I'm not sure it's quite fair to compare UI paradigms that are decades old with tablets that are barely years old (outside of tech demos). I do get what you're saying, but even in the few years since the iPad came out, I'm still seeing new ideas emerging...many failing, but like any evolutionary process, good ideas get replicated and can co-evolve with other good ideas.

 

Snapseed is a great app but it's a very simple tool versus Lightroom or Photoshop. Even if a future tablet had the horsepower to run Lightroom or Photoshop it would still lag behind its brother running on a full PC simply because of the input interface. There are functions in Lightroom that simply require the precise control of a keyboard+mouse.

 

First of all, to me the elephant-in-the-room of limiting factors for tablets when thinking about photo work is the screen size. Since tablets ARE the screen, that's a limitation that will likely never go away (barring flexible rollup tablets - bring them on!). Second, related to my point above, Photoshop was developed with keyboards and mice as the default input. So of course there will be functions that can't be done any other way. I question how many of the tasks (as opposed to the tools as implemented in PS) actually require a mouse to perform. I suspect it's not as many as PS presents.

 

That said, over the 20 years I've worked in the graphics field, I have known many people who work photoshop with incredible proficiency using only a Wacom tablet (and the occasional keystroke). In principle, the difference between operating PS on a tablet screen vs with a touch tablet is pretty small. There are tasks that require the keyboard, but I highly doubt those are insurmountable challenges to having it work well on a tablet device.

 

In fact, LR is a good example of how non-modal global adjustments, brushed in adjustments, and sliders fulfill 90% of retouching needs. IME, LR is a huge step toward being a tablet-able UI. But again, to me, the screen is far more limiting than the UI.

 

We are advancing toward a point when tablets will be as powerful as dedicated PC's. That's going to happen. Somewhere between now and then an advancement in interface is going to need to occur to at least match the keyboard+mouse advantage. My guess is that advancement will be adding keyboard+mouse support to all tablets. :)

 

Your argument is effectively that tablets have no future. "Tablets" will be netbooks with touchscreens. While I have no doubt that such devices will proliferate, I think a dedicated tablet, without a mouse or hardware keyboard will still have a place and likely have not reached their potential (in terms of human input and UI) yet.

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That said, over the 20 years I've worked in the graphics field, I have known many people who work photoshop with incredible proficiency using only a Wacom tablet (and the occasional keystroke)

 

Sure, but these tablets have a stylus to replicate a mouse and buttons (both on the tablet and the stylus) to replicate a keyboard. While I get your point, it's sort of lost when I skew my perspective toward the Wacom tablet really just being an analog to the same input all desktop/laptop computers already have.

 

I agree 100% with everything else you said. It is a market where evolution is badly needed in the interface. I'm probably just a bit more skeptical about how that happens.

 

Initially there will be a segmented market: "Dumb tablets" for simple 1-directional internet viewing (essentially what we have today in the iPad and Android tablets) and "laptop-replacement tablets" with expanded capabilities that push the need for new UI ideas (but will probably fall back on the keyboard+mouse until someone hits a homerun with something really new).

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Initially there will be a segmented market: "Dumb tablets" for simple 1-directional internet viewing (essentially what we have today in the iPad and Android tablets) and "laptop-replacement tablets" with expanded capabilities that push the need for new UI ideas (but will probably fall back on the keyboard+mouse until someone hits a homerun with something really new).

 

I think this is somewhat inevitable. But I think you have one thing backward. New UI ideas are, IMO, much more likely to come from devices with dedicated touch UIs rather than devices with legacy and touch UIs. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. When a keyboard/mouse is available as a fallback, there's no incentive to innovate. Off the top of my head, this is a threat to the Surface Tablet and it's viability as a platform.

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I've got ScummVM up and running on Android tablets here at the house - the wife was playing Maniac Mansion pretty decently on my tablet

 

Interesting-I wonder if the windows port has touchscreen support. I found a bunch of stuff on android ports of dosbox that have support for touch, but that never seems to make it to windows. Hell, even Telltale ported BTTF to the ipad from Windows, had a game that worked really well with a touchscreen, except for the fact that you needed to hit esc to bring up the menu to save. There was a separate icon on the ipad version. While it would have been really easy to add, touch on windows has been a non-thing for years now. Hopefully more people start taking it seriously-MS has been pretty good at translating touch->mouse where possible, but developers still need to at least design for touch only (or even mouse only) interactions in order for this to work. I'll admit, I haven't added any touch specific stuff to any of the stuff I've worked on yet (other than messing with some of the touch samples in the Win7 SDK, and any of the Metro experiments I've done in Win8 like the Comics reader app), but I've at least tried to not preclude it (scalable controls are your friend).

 

much more likely to come from devices with dedicated touch UIs rather than devices with legacy and touch UIs. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. When a keyboard/mouse is available as a fallback, there's no incentive to innovate. Off the top of my head, this is a threat to the Surface Tablet and it's viability as a platform.

 

If you take a look at the metro UI, it's definitely designed around touch, and touch first. The messaging from Microsoft is pretty clear that they're thinking of the mouse as basically a legacy/specialized device at this point. Even inside the SDK, there are no "clicked" events, but you get "tapped" instead. Gestures are first class input methods as well, and I think you can get information for up to 10 simultaneous inputs (I haven't looked in a while), so not only can you hook into standard things like zoom super easily, but you can define your own gestures without too much trouble. Of course, if nobody (including other groups inside MS) take advantage of this, then it's all for nothing, and you just have the core OS features and nothing great to support it. The thing is though, even on day 1, the pro version will still run just about every windows app known to man, including just about your entire steam library. Hell, if they add the hardware to pair a 360 controller into the tablet, you've got an OK portable gaming system for planes, hotels-basically anywhere with a surface for the tablet to stand on. I've done this with my samsung tablet and the USB dongle, but getting rid of that piece hanging off the PC would be even better.

 

laptop-replacement tablets" with expanded capabilities that push the need for new UI ideas (but will probably fall back on the keyboard+mouse until someone hits a homerun with something really new).

 

The catch is that text entry is hard-the keyboard is just too damn good at it. Actaully, that's not necessarily true-people have just gotten really good at training themselves for a system that was designed to keep typewriters from jamming, but nonetheless it's stil the best way we have to enter a whole bunch of information into a device. Voice dictation is a great idea, but the software still isn't prefect (find me a dictation package that can infer punctuation), and besides, people just don't want to use it. Would you really want to dictate an email in a starbucks? In a crowded office? Things like swype are interesting ideas that use the touchscreen to modify the keyboard experience on a touchscreen, and there have been some really funky ideas I've seen with radial keyboards designed around thumb inputs, but those are all really heavily reliant on user training. Even something like handwriting recognition, which works surprisingly well with a stylus in something like OneNote, is a concession to a "legacy" input method, and it's something I really only find useful for diagrams (virtual whiteboard!), and for entering equations (text to math works pretty well too). No doubt that touch-centric input is going to get even more research attention moving forward though, and maybe there is a quantum leap waiting to happen, but so far, nothing has set the world on fire. The biggest change seems to have been the addition of the split thumb-keyboard for holding a tablet from the sides.

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This article at ArsTechnica pretty clearly outlines the risk MS is taking with the Surface. In offering touch AND precision input it may end up being nothing more than an exceptionally thin laptop.

 

The Surface is delivering two messages to the other PC OEMs. There's the obvious message of "you must be at least this thin and well-designed," but there's the other message too: "you'll need a good mouse and keyboard solution." The Touch Covers and Surface's integrated kickstand are all there to tell the OEMs, "don't just ship a straight tablet."

 

If Surface as a platform ends up dictating a keyboard/mouse style input, it's simply an extension of devices that already exist. It's pitting itself against netbooks as well as tablet-only devices like iPad. This may not end up being in its favor.

 

EDIT: Typos, and I even typed on a hardware keyboard ;-)

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It could help it as well. No one has yet figured out how to make the touch interface of tablets work with excel, for example. A mouse solution will fix that. For business users this could be the way to go.

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It will help in the sense that it enables current input methods to work on an even thinner form factor. But for those who now associate "tablet" with a single, self contained slab you can use anywhere, the Surface, by adding things to keep it legacy-friendly risks losing much, IMO

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Kinda think the line between legacy friendly and functional is pretty thin. A smart keyboard cover on a tablet capable of running MS Office is incredibly tempting (the excel substitutes on the other OS's are no substitute). And it should still good be really good at all the other things a tablet normally gets used for without the smart cover.

 

I see something similar almost everyday at school, lots of people now with an iPad and a keyboard. I think MS has just found a more elegant solution till theirs some great leap forward in interface (come on neural jacks).

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Well that was fast-they opened registration for the BUILD conference in Oct this morning at 8 PST, and it was sold out by 11. Glad that I managed to get in, but by that point Windows 8 will be generally available and old news. I'm sure there'll be Surface units to play with there though-looking forward to trying out the touch keyboard.

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