Preparing for a Next Generation Workflow: Pre-ordering Microsoft's Surface Pro 2

Bill Loguidice's picture

Surface Pro 2Surface Pro 2As an unapologetic technophile, I naturally crave the latest and greatest technology. However, somewhat stifling those cravings are the reality of the high costs of new technology, available space, and the needs of my present workflow. In other words, even though I spend a disproportionate amount of my money on technology, my purchases must still be carefully considered for a variety of reasons.

While I have a demanding day job as a Technical Writer, I'm also a professional author and journalist, which requires a certain amount of portability if I don't wish to be chained to a desk for 12 - 16 hours a day. This portability is particularly important to me as I always try to make a point of balancing my working life with my personal (especially family) life.

My latest technology configuration for tackling the reality of my situation has been working out fairly well for me. My smartphone is a Galaxy Note II with extended battery (a must!), my tablet is an iPad 2 (with an extra Logitech keyboard cover just in case), and my laptop is an Asus Windows 8 touchscreen Ultrabook. While I like to write on my desktop, which is a beefy gaming-centric computer with dual 27" LCD monitors, I sometimes have no choice but to write anywhere and anyway I can, hence the Ultrabook.

In the past, I've attempted to use both my iPad 2 and an Asus Android tablet (with keyboard dock; now my oldest daughter's) to take on my secondary writing duties, but, even with relatively excellent Office-like apps, there's simply no substitute for a real version of Microsoft Office and similar desktop apps. This is particularly important with the books I write, where templates and formatting specifically need to be in an unaltered Microsoft Office format at the publishers' request. That's where the Ultrabook comes in, which replaced a nice 17" gaming laptop (still in service for that function) that simply wasn't portable enough (it's more a desktop replacement). The Ultrabook gets me an easy 6 hours+ on its battery and is a joy to carry around thanks to its remarkable thinness.

Type Cover 2 (cyan)Type Cover 2 (cyan)With all that said, being the technophile that I am and always looking for ways to improve my workflow, I decided to simplify what I carry around with me, meaning paring the separate tablet and Ultrabook down to a single device. When Microsoft first released the Surface Pro last year, I was intrigued, but there were a few glaring issues, including limited battery life (4 hours+) and the limitations of a non-traditional laptop form factor when docked to its keyboard. As for that keyboard, it wasn't backlit either, something that my aging eyes have come to insist upon. As a result, the best choice for me was to go with the traditional Asus Ultrabook.

I've also been wanting to replace my aging iPad 2, but wanted to wait for the iPad 5. To be clear, I still love the iPad 2 and there's certainly nothing particularly wrong with it, save for the lack of Retina display that would make reading the fine detail in the PDF books and magazines I like to consume and reference that much easier (basically, no need to zoom). Despite this, I was considering possibly switching to the new Nexus 7, which my wife enjoys (she gave her iPad 2 to our youngest daughter), but the smaller screen size - even at a very high resolution - doesn't suit my needs. I didn't want to be caught between upgrades, hence my decision to wait for the iPad 5 rather than get a 4. However, with Microsoft's announcement of the Surface Pro 2, I think what I would have spent getting an iPad 5 would be put to better use replacing both my iPad 2 and Ultrabook in daily use.

With the Surface Pro 2, Microsoft basically matches what I get out of my Ultrabook, just with slightly better battery life, a real pressure sensitive pen (I can't tell you how many styluses I bought for my iPad 2, never being quite satisfied with the results), and an ability to use the device like a real tablet when the mood to read a Kindle book or magazine - or watch a Netflix movie - strikes. While the app market is inferior to what you find on the iPad and even Android tablets, the core apps are indeed there, and I always have the desktop environment - and its immense range of software - to fall back on.

I will still keep the iPad 2 for all the great games and legacy usage that I can't replicate on my Surface Pro 2, but I won't be carrying it with me. Most likely it will sit at my bedside in a charging dock for quick access to reading material or when I want to use it with some of the legacy devices (iCade, piano keyboard, etc.) designed for its older type of dock connector. In fact, the change in dock connector with Apple's recent devices is yet another factor in my hesitation to upgrade my existing iPad.

I don't know what the fate of the Ultrabook will be. Possibly a sale, possibly repurposed. As for that 17" gaming laptop, all signs seem to indicate that the Surface Pro 2 will offer far better gaming performance than my Ultrabook and even rival the gaming laptop in many cases. This should be particularly true since it will only be used occasionally for gaming when the mood strikes, not as a dedicated gaming device. Again, the more functions a single device can serve up competently, the more redundant devices can be eliminated. That's a good thing and a certainly look forward to carrying a smaller technobag of goodies.

Will the Surface Pro 2 with Type Cover 2 be that dream device I take with me along with my Galaxy Note II smartphone to serve my portable writing/productivity, reading, drawing, and gaming needs? I think it just might be. I'll let you know after I receive it at the end of October in a follow-up blog post.

Comments

Mark Vergeer
Mark Vergeer's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Accidental classic Start Menu in Windows 8.1 Surface2 video

Cool, I am very curious after your experiences! What is your opinion on the lack of Start Menu ala more classical Windows?

In a video showing off the latest incarnations of the new Surface tablets Micrsoft accidentally shows something that resembles the old start menu - take a look at the photo. It seems that Microsoft themselves actually have to go out of their way to take it out of the system!

I am no fan of the Metro UI on non-touch computers and I use third party software that gives me back a facsimile of the original start menu in Windows 8 on my desktop but the 'mistake' in this video is just hilarious...

It is not about customers resisting change - I am an early adopter of most technologies much like my granddad was too - he was one of the first people to own a TV on his time - but this is about ergonomics and for a 'power user' the Metro interface is clunky and slow.

The whole thing is very reminiscent of DOSShel on MS DOS 6.22 where only part of an alternative GUI is implemented on top of an existing OS and it's neither fish nor flesh.

It's like Windows 8 and 8.1 are half finished... 8.1 is not going to solve a lot of the issues people have and I am betting that in companies an OS with a more traditional GUI do maintain production. Companies running an older version of Windows is what you see all around you. Or even switching to OS X or Linux. Microsoft may shoot themselves in the foot by maintaining the Metro GUI is good for all places - it ain't. It is good on a tablet or phone but on a productive PC it just isn't...

Accidental original Start menu on Windows 8.1 Surface 2Accidental original Start menu on Windows 8.1 Surface 2

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Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
A couple of $5 apps from

A couple of $5 apps from Stardock make Windows 8 as good as Windows 7 for me on the Desktop with my present Ultrabook, so it's not really an issue. I welcome the additional improvements Windows 8.1 will bring.

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Nathaniel Tolbert
Nathaniel Tolbert's picture
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Joined: 11/06/2010
that picture -

That picture very much looks like Windows 7 rather than Windows 8. It has Aero enabled, which isn't available without some tweaks in Windows 8 by default. Have they announced that they're bringing that back in 8.1? I'm curious about the dock right above the task bar though as it begs the question, if you create a dock for programs what's the use of being able to pin to the task bar?

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