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Hands on with the Microsoft Surface 2...

With Microsoft’s recent release of the Surface 2, they have thrown down the gauntlet to Apple and Google. Does the Surface 2 knock the king of tablets off its perch?

I was one of the few owners of the Microsoft Zune, remember that? Yes it was horrific, I actually don’t know what I did with it, but good riddance! Microsoft have never been that good at making their own devices that run their own OS, but with the Surface 2 and Windows RT, they’ve pulled out all the stops for it not to be another Zune.

The Surface 2 runs Windows 8.1 RT rather than the full version, so users are only able to install applications from the Windows Store. The Windows Store does have a multitude of apps in it, but nowhere near the catalogue available on iOS or Android.

I wonder if this is due to the requirement for Visual Studio 2012 to develop for Windows 8, I haven’t seen any development tutorials unlike those for iOS or Android. But Microsoft have an ace up their sleeve. Project Siena allows businesses to create applications without development! Yes, your staff can create their own applications specific to your business.

The Surface 2 is beautiful for video with its 1080p 16:9 screen, although it does fail my number one media device test, whether you can install XBMC (the answer is no). However, much more than Android or iOS, the Surface 2 is a productivity device that could see it making a big splash into the enterprise environment.

Cost wise, the Surface 2 costs about the same level as an iPad but has more storage and has Office 2013 RT installed. Sounds ideal for enterprise? There is a but.

Office 2013 RT is actually Office 2013 Home & Student RT, so you can’t use it for any commercial purposes, strange I know when their opposition allows you to use their office apps for any purpose.

I wonder if this policy will change as users will undoubtedly flaunt this policy.

As businesses move more and more towards a ’start-up’ culture, the Surface 2 has the capability to replace your existing desktop machines. What would you rather have, staff behind desks, or getting them collaborating with the flexibility and mobility Surface and Windows RT offer?

The Surface 2 is limited, but that’s its design. If you’re a power user then you’d definitely need to have the Surface Pro 2 with its capabilities to run the full Windows 8 OS with desktop apps.

Microsoft have released a range of accessories, ranging from their Touch Cover 2, an ultra thin fabric keyboard / cover with keyboard backlighting and Type Cover 2 which is a mechanical keyboard to the Arc Touch mouse offering control of a surface from 30 feet away. But they’ve added the capability for thousands of devices to work with the Surface 2 which means adding printers, displays or keyboards is simple.

I’ve been using the Surface 2 with bluetooth keyboards, headphones, even the new Plantronics multi device headset and it works seamlessly. You can’t expect every device to work, but I’m amazed at the number that do. With the Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro, you also get 1 year of Skype free voice calls to landlines (in 60 countries!) and 200GB of OneDrive space. If you’re a business owner, that could be a lot of savings!

There are still improvements required, but these will come with more development of the software and an increase in the number of applications. With the majority of information being stored on the network (and lets be honest, it should all be!), the Surface 2 has the capability of being a powerful business tool. With many businesses already having Windows 8 phones, the transition would be relatively painless.

Microsoft have been extremely smart with their release of the Surface, they have been adding more and more capability into their devices, whilst not aggressively pushing it to businesses. With Windows XP support coming to an end within 2 months, Microsoft recently celebrating 200 million installs of Windows 8 and with Windows 9 coming soon, Satya will have a lot on his plate.

Microsoft have stated they want to bring the start-up feeling back to their business, is it time you brought the same energy to yours? With the Surface 2 and Windows RT, you might just do that.

Go on, I dare you.

TL;DR: Plenty of potential and actually integrates into the enterprise environment better than an iPad

Score: 4 / 5