Posted by Kyle Connell
With faint memories of the Zune still in the back of my mind, I reluctantly picked up the new Microsoft Surface RT to give it the old college try. Was this ready for prime time? Could I use it as a replacement for bringing my laptop with me everywhere I go? As a SharePoint Analyst who is often on client sites presenting demos, gathering requirements, or helping in the QA/Deployment process, could this finally be the lightweight alternative we are looking for?
First of all, the hardware is excellent. It feels well built and durable without feeling heavy, which is extremely important for a tablet. The widescreen aspect ratio is great as well, and I think the hardware gives this the ability to be a great mobile option down the road.
The Windows 8 RT platform shines in this interface. With touch as well as a keyboard, the learning curve is not too steep. It takes relatively little time for a user to get accustomed to all the gestures that really makes the system shine. As you are running a ‘full’ (keeping in mind this is RT) version of Windows 8, the ability to run remote desktop sessions and dual monitors is a snap. This is great for running meetings, giving presentations, or simply taking notes when gathering requirements using OneNote. For simple MS Office based tasks while remote/on the road, this is an excellent tool.
Unfortunately, there are a few gaps with the surface for the real IT/SharePoint professional:
- Cannot currently run Outlook – This is a major issue, as this is the application where most enterprise users live. Also, I integrate Outlook with SharePoint using MacroView, which cannot be done on the Surface RT. This saves me a massive amount of time in retrieving and filing key documents which I lose on RT.
- Add to a Domain – I cannot add my Surface RT to my domain, which slows working in SharePoint down tremendously. When attempting to access a any of my internal SharePoint environments, I am requested to login with each new application and SharePoint web application I access. With multiple SharePoint Environments integrated with different applications, this can get tiresome using NTLM authentication.
- VPN – Not being able to setup a secure pipe back into my internal network when on the road essentially means the laptop still needs to come with me everywhere I go.
Fortunately, all these issues are software related. With the release of the Pro in a few months, many of these questions should be answered. However, it will be a matter of price point vs. some of the new ultrabooks on the market if this is a worthy investment.
In it’s current state, I think the Surface RT is a worthy competitor to iPad and Android tablets on the market at the current price point at the consumer level. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft can loosen Apple’s stranglehold on this market. However, to be widely adopted in the enterprise the software upgrades that come with the Pro are a must have. Whether or not the price point that comes in at is feasible for a tablet will be the deciding factor. I will hold off for the final specs and price point of the Surface Pro to make my final decision.
For comprehensive top to bottom review of the Surface RT, I would recommend the following article:
Engadget Microsoft Surface RT Review
Kyle Connell is a SharePoint Solutions Specialist for RKO Business Solutions, focused on Enterprise Content and Records Management. Focused on balancing organizational needs and goals with user adoption and buy in, Kyle has designed and deployed solutions for document and knowledge management across a broad range of organizations.