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Microsoft launches ‘Surface’ – would you buy a Windows tablet?

After years of sitting back and watching Apple and Google have all the fun, Microsoft has finally stepped into the fray with its own-branded tablet, known as Surface. But would you put it on your shopping list?

Designed to run the forthcoming Windows 8 platform, Surface will go head-to-head with the iPad, Android tablets, and various third-party tablets also running Windows 8.

The question is… if you’re looking to buy a tablet, would you make it a Windows tablet?

Personally, I’m not yet persuaded. But that’s not to say I’m not persuadable…

Microsoft scratches the Surface with Windows tablet

First things first, Surface probably hasn’t been designed with me in mind anyway. It’s a premium product, which will run Windows 8 Pro, intended for business users. The only price yet mentioned is ‘comparable to ultrabook laptops’; so that means somewhere in the region of £900. No thanks.

Myself, I don’t even like the name ‘Surface’. It smacks of tired in-house brainstorming sessions at Microsoft HQ, with some bright spark saying, ‘Hey, you know how you run your finger over the surface of the screen?’

I don’t even like the initial look of the Surface. It seems just that little bit too sensible, and too hard-edged compared to the sleek shape of the iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab. The ‘kickstand’ to let it stand upright makes it look, a bit unfortunately, like a digital photoframe.

But, I’ll admit, for business users, it will probably prove to be a powerful device, running the kind of high-powered ARM-chipsets that will make the average tech guru salivate and the average casual tablet user shrug nonchalantly.

Windows 8 tablets – reasons to be cheerful

My appetite for a Windows-powered tablet has always been lacking. I tend to associate Windows with the working day, slow start-ups, constant update notifications, crashes, and (shudder) Internet Explorer. And when I think of tablets, I think of speedy start-ups, instant web-browsing, and the quickfire fun of Angry Birds.

But perhaps I’m not giving Microsoft its fair dues. The iPad has changed consumer expectations, and when Windows 8 is released this autumn, it may prove to be an utterly different animal to any of its predecessors. And the open nature of the Windows platform means that there will be plenty of reasons to consider a Windows tablet.

Here’s a quick one – the humble USB port. You won’t find one of those on an iPad, but on a Windows tablet, it could let you plug in an external hard drive to watch your digital movie collection, or leaf through your digital photos. It could mean plugging in a USB stick and viewing an Excel spreadsheet in an instant. Who knows, should you so wish, you could even plug in a USB mouse.

And the open-ended software options? Yes please. You could make a Windows tablet a hybrid device running software from all of the tech giants. On the same tablet you could potentially run Microsoft Office, Google Chrome, Apple iTunes and Adobe Photoshop.

I’m on the fence, I’ll admit it. But I can’t wait to see how well Windows 8 tablets are received when they launch this autumn. And even if I don’t rush out and buy one myself, I’ll happily have a go on someone else’s.

Would you buy a Windows tablet PC?

Yes - I like the look of Windows tablets (34%, 185 Votes)

I'm not interested in buying a tablet PC (33%, 179 Votes)

No - I'd prefer another type of tablet (iPad, Android, etc.) (33%, 178 Votes)

Total Voters: 545

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I am happy with my iPad2, but will certainly be interested to see what Microsoft has to offer.

Irrespective of how good it is, I don’t think I could bring myself to buy anything branded Microsoft or Windows because I associate these names with some of the worst products I have encountered in my life. I acknowledge that Skoda and Fiat have achieved a lot since their cars a bit of a joke, but I’m still not interested. I know that some do respect Microsoft and Windows but I really believe that a rebranding exercise is needed.

Microsoft might do well to capitalise on the current corporate dominance of Windows and produce a tablet focused on business rather than entertainment. RIM, manufacturers of the BlackBerry, shot themselves in the foot by producing a tablet called the PlayBook. That does not convey the right image for corporate use.

So yes, I would like to have a play with a ‘Surface’. I mean the tablet, not the large table-top computer christened with this name a few years ago. For a small commission, I will offer to find Microsoft some decent product names.

Probably not for me, but I can see the advantage of a tablet with the full version Windows 8 (as opposed to Windows RT) for some if it means that you can run desktop apps on the go. For corporate IT systems it may make it easier to manage devices and software (which can sway whether kit is purchased).

It may even work out cheaper for some people if you can use your tablet as a desktop – all depends on how useful the USB port is. The amount Apple charge for their adaptors is a bit much.

Overall then it has a chance. My first tablet was a Windows CE one years ago and syncing with Windows XP did have its advantages, so MS does have some experience here. I think the keyboard, stylus and keyboard make it different enough from others on the market (at present).

I agree with you on the name – Windows Surface makes me think of Windolene, not Microsoft.

Windolene Surface cleaner. Now there is an opportunity for bringing an old fashioned product into the 21st century. 🙂

So Microsoft copied Apple’s magnetic iPad cover. Now Apple will need to copy Microsoft and incorporate a keyboard. That should appeal to iPad users who want a keyboard but not another bit of kit to carry around.

19 June 2012

Desktop for me!…Tablets are too easily damaged, nobody wants to repair them, easily stolen/left behind in Taxis, Buses, Trains, Pubs etc, like Camerons Daughter!

Dale says:
19 June 2012

Definitely not for me, after years of fighting to get things to work together without numerous re-loading of software and the training of people in the finer arts of Microsoft issues, I went to Apple Mac and have a system that just works well together and has done for years, in fact I have different aged machines all connected together and they just work.

I know people don’t like the sandboxing of software, but for me I get why they do it and it brings a better experience along with a more polished product.

The new Surface looks like it will be popular with certain people but will the infrastructure be there, will the Virus issues be even worse and is it going to use Flash and all its problems. Furthermore, its fine having a USB port, but at what cost to your battery life, surely the whole idea is to keep your cables to a minimum.

19 June 2012

I can see the great attraction for the young, but, as long as I can perform various functions on-line, emails, sending photos to the gang, look up any information I might need, fiscal transactions etc, I ‘ll stick with my desktop until I am forced to move on by total obsolescence!

I shall definitely be buying a Windows Tablet as soon as I can 🙂
I already have a Windows Phone and it’s great, it just works and it has an interface which makes total sense to me. A Windows Tablet will compliment my Phone, my PC and my Xbox just nicely.

I’m not keen on Android devices, because they’re too open source and lack any real standard. Some of them you can install google marketplace on, some you can’t, some support flash, some don’t and the list goes on.

Apple software in general I find very difficult to use, but I’ve been a Windows man since the year dot, so whenever I look at an Apple product, the interface just makes no sense to me. My kids have iphones and I struggle to help them with things like itunes, which in my opinion is the most awful piece of software ever written.

I appreciate that a lot of people like Apple and Android devices. As always, it’s each to their own.
What’s really needed is compatibility between them all as far as applications are concerned. It shouldn’t matter what platform you choose, they should all be able to communicate, run the same apps and be able to share data easily.

Yes, I think that competition only helps drive standards so Microsoft’s entry should change things.

Interesting you say that compatibility is important, what has really put me off Microsoft was the Xbox 360 and their pettiness over compatibly – controllers don’t connect through a standard USB connector (unlike the PS3), you had to buy theirs; the wireless USB dongle had to be their Xbox 360, not an open one; wireless controllers needed a special (pricey) wireless adaptor to use on the PC; transferring the hard drive meant buying a special cable you could only use once with the drive then bin.

I know all manufacturers have used their own standards (notably the Apple connector), but it was the wide range of Microsoft-only items on the Xbox that came across as mean-spirited. I really hope they don’t repeat this strategy with the tablet.

If there was just one portable device which did all your phone, x-box, Pc and tablet can do, would you use it instead of all these devices?

Unlikey m. it would have to be able to morph into different sizes for that idea to work for me!
To be honest I suppose a decent laptop can already do all of these things. It’s the usability factor which dictates what I’ll want to work with depnding on the task. Sometimes you will want to sit at a desk to work on a spreadsheet, I wouldn’t do that on a phone, and maybe not a tablet if it was complex. By the same token I won’t sit at a desk to make a phone call.
Funny thing is though, I prefer playing games on my PC, the XBox has become more of a media centre for me now.

Jonathan, your comments on the XBox and compatibility has never really come up for me, and usually I’d be the first person to moan about compatibility. On a games console it just doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t want to use a wireless controller from the XBox on the PC, and I’ve never had the desire to try and copy the hard drive. Wireless is now built-in on new models, and you can now plug externals drives and pens in too.

I think Apple are the worst offenders for those sort of tricks on the hardware side.

In any case, the choice of hardware and OS should be irrelevant, it’s software compatibility that matters. If they can all crack that, then it will be happy days for everyone 🙂

I am interested to see how people view a motherbox style computer, the one personal device that does absolutely everything.
Your comment about sizes is rather intriguing, it seems that a range of peripherals would be necessary and the core would interact with them.
Screen size is irrelevant as we are looking at interactive holo type projected screens, where you will be able to select size to suit you, 4 inch whilst working on the train, 72 inch while watching England thrash Germany 5-1 for the 800th time 🙂
The X box thing, microsoft stripped out a PC and made the X box, [cos we all know nothing is as good as a pc for gaming]. In my house the X box is a media centre, and my son games on his super duper water cooled PC.
Thanks for the input

I think it looks pretty good, and having a keyboard makes it more useful rather than just being a toy. I’ll be interested to see how well it does in our lab tests. This announcement trailer is also impressive:

Well, I’m unimpressed by the uninformative trailer that gives no indication of what the product does. I want to see what’s under the Surface.

Ohhh, I like this advert! This tablet looks brilliant – I love the idea of the thin, clip-on keyboard (especially in different colours!) My iPad is a bit frustrating because, when I want to do things like type a blog post, it’s pretty inappropriate. Having the addition of a keyboard and the option to plug in a mouse would totally solve that problem.

I definitely remain open minded and could be convinced to swap my iPad 3 (although I am completely addicted to the ‘Pocket Planes’ app at the moment), but definitely not for £900!

Just get yourself a Bluetooth keyboard for your iPad 3, Jennifer. The new Surface is unlikely to work as well as a third generation iPad.

NO, no and no again.
Tablets are a just another step on the way to [eventually] real computers, they like comparing a unicycle to a bicycle, fun in small doses and to play around with, but if you want the job done properly get a real bike. Tablets are put on the market to squeeze as much money as possible out of us during the development and testing stages of true mother box computers.
They may have a collectable value in the future, so buy one check it works, keep it in it’s original box and in 100 years your grandchildren may be able to sell it for a few litres of oxygen.

19 June 2012

‘They may have a collectable value in the future, so buy one check it works, keep it in it’s original box and in 100 years your grandchildren may be able to sell it for a few litres of oxygen’.

Advice in old age is foolish; for what can be more absurd than to increase our provisions for the road the nearer we approach to our journey’s end.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

How about the Surf-Ace,
Does that make it sound a little better, should I be charging windows for this idea?
I’d better claim this version of the name as my intellectual property then just in case 🙂

There you are, m. Cleverer than Microsoft, except that now you have published your suggestion your claim to the name is invalid.

That could explain why Bill Gates is so much more successful than I.

Aside from the high price I have to say I really like the look of Surface. The lack of a decent keyboard has been a barrier to my buying a tablet. I really like the look of the clip on keyboard. It’s a shame about the high price tag, which would put me off. It’ll be interesting to see what apps are availale for this.

I don’t use them, but my son has an Asus transformer tablet which docks into a keyboard, he swears by it. This has been around for a good few months now.

I thought this too Sarah, but Jonathan showed me a keyboard and dock he has for his iPad and I was extremely impressed! Only trouble is, it was £60 (but you can sort of see why). wavechange pointed out that there are cheaper, bluetooth keyboards available for iPads though, so maybe I won’t have to swap for a Surface after all.

david says:
22 June 2012

Its not that expensive for the direct iPad equivalent. Which? havent done their homework – there a 2 versions, one a direct tablet competitor for iPads/Galaxy tac etc, the other version being more a replacement for Ultrabook laptops. The article quotes the top end price and low end hardware!

julian pitt says:
19 June 2012

“And the open nature of the Windows platform means that there will be plenty of reasons to consider a Windows tablet”. Where on earth do you get the idea that Windows is open, it is totally proprietary and no part of it is open at all. Microsoft guard the code with an iron fist and will not let any part of it become open source.

19 June 2012

Where on earth do you get the idea that Windows is open, it is totally proprietary and no part of it is open at all. Microsoft guard the code with an iron fist and will not let any part of it become open source.


Agreed, I intend to get a second-hand PC, install UBANTU, learn to use it with all its ramifications & wean myself off Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft is getting increasingly greedy, requiring you to pay all the time for programmes that are now free on-line with open source applications.

For goodness sake. I’m sure that Rich is well aware that Microsoft is protective of its products.

I assume that his comment is in the context of the widespread availability of Windows-related software and hardware produced by other companies.

19 June 2012

If there was just one portable device which did all your phone, x-box, Pc and tablet can do, would you use it instead of all these devices’?

No!…All my eggs in one basket?………..Daft!

The keyboard on the Surface tablet is very thin, so little movement of the keys will be possible. Even the thin MacBook Air laptop has a decent keyboard action. OK, some smartphones don’t have buttons that move, but no-one tries to touch type on them.

The keyboards available for the iPad are thicker and look far more sensible.

david says:
22 June 2012

Very poor article – doesnt distinguish that there are 2 verions and gives only the top end model’s price while talking about the lower end chip set which is not high power at all.

Take the time to look into the facts Mr Deputy computer editor – there are 2 verions, one top end running Windows 8 Pro with Intel Core i5 hardware and one aimed at existing iPad/Android users with Arm hardware running Windows RT but with the huge benefit of coming bundled with Office.


Rich has provided a prompt and topical introduction. It is there for contributors to discuss, correct and contribute information, but personal criticism is uncalled for.

For 20 years now, I have used the Microsoft Operating System and related products both at work and at home, over which time I have formed an impression of their ethos that is very much akin to Rich Parris’s dissertation on them above.

Suffice to say that (in my opinion) the only reason they have are finally trying to get off their lazy greedy corporate backside and put some renewed effort into their act is their realisation that unless they do so, Apple and Google are now in real prospect of cleaning up on the back of their arrogance and inertia.

It will be interesting to watch whether this latest initiative will enough to halt their slide, but again like Rich Parris, I too for the moment will be confining my interest to watching their progress rather than actually participating.

Dennis says:
22 June 2012

Why would I want to have a tablet. My wireless netbook does everything I require.

22 June 2012

Why would I want to have a tablet? My wireless netbook does everything I require.

I guess its a case of ‘Horses For Courses, it depends on you lifestyle, career, ‘Image’, ‘Must Have’ ‘Latest’, etc, etc!



I did not want a tablet until I had spent some time using iPads belonging to friends and learning the strengths and limitations. As with many things, some people can only see the advantages and others are totally opposed to tablets. You are right that it’s down to the individual, Finsbury.

I don’t use my tablet nearly as much as most people, but it is really useful and convenient when travelling and on holiday and doing things that most people would use a smartphone for.

I am really looking forward to trying the new Windows tablet, even though I don’t want one. Someone might like to produce a cover incorporating solar PV to keep the battery charged when it is not in use.

22 June 2012

Seeing as how I’m always in a rush to post here, I sometimes make grammatical errors!
Is there anyway of ‘Editing’ them once they are posted??

I mean No

would be useful if there was

Neil Maybin says:
22 June 2012

Not for me either – it may look like a tablet but under the covers it will be just another Windows computer, with all the frustrations which that implies.

23 June 2012

‘Not for me either – it may look like a tablet but under the covers it will be just another Windows computer, with all the frustrations which that implies’.

I’ll drink to that!”

23 June 2012

Someone on this forum has suggested a cover that incorporates a ‘Solar Pv Panel’ to charge it in daylight!

One small snag with that, most people don’t leave their Tablet out in the open for all to see, ( 9 out of 10 crooks recommend Tablets, they sell rather well) they usually tuck it away somewhere out of sight,….where the sun does not shine!

An O.K idea at home behind a window,….But then again, if you are at home, why not plug it in for a quick charge?…………..Just a thought.


Not a bad idea – according to this article a Welsh firm has developed dye that will produce solar power indoors and they already have made bags and fabrics using it. So it’s early days yet but perhaps in time for Windows 9?


Newsfrowned says:
27 June 2012

I think by the time it’s available – the world will have moved on!

27 June 2012

‘I think by the time it’s available – the world will have moved on’!

The world will still be here,…But, will we have moved on??

Judging by the repetitive mistakes we are making, I doubt it!

But, as I think what you are inferring, yes, possibly the design of the batteries or the charging methods will have changed,…..Maybe!

John says:
28 June 2012

I have tried Windows 8 consumer release and found it abysmal to use! I have an iPad for mobile work and a windows 7 pc as a main machine. I have no intention or reason to purchase a Microsoft tablet.