Started playing around with a Microsoft Surface this afternoon — figured I would be able to write up early impressions quickly, but I have to say that it’s a bit of a puzzler to me so far. (And I’ll conflate the Surface hardware with Windows RT generally - I find them hard to really separate.)
On the hardware side, which reviews seem to universally love, I’m not quite as convinced. It feels heavier & bulkier than the state of the art tablets (iPad & (I know not apples-to-apples) Nexus). And the responsiveness of the system I’m finding a little pokey — long times between finger press and action; slow app loading times, etc.
The touch keyboard is going to take a bit of getting used to.
The flat design aesthetic I in general really, really like. The typography of the system is, in general, other-worldly and lovely. More thoughtful & aggressive design use of fonts — especially thin fonts — than I’ve seen in a long time. Apple’s Helvetica orientation is, I think, in retrospect, the only possible “correct” use of type for them, but it isn’t super warm or human. This is more interesting, for sure, if not as information dense. The type is somewhat undermined by the non-retina resolution of the screen unfortunately — especially at small sizes.
The apps — such few as there are — are fine. Generally tablet apps. Evernote fits in really naturally, and is nice. But there aren’t a lot yet, and missing the Dropbox, Facebook & Twitter apps feels pretty awful.
Overall, though, there’s a much bigger issue that I think is going to prove unwieldy: there’s just too much of Windows’ past (and present) that’s lurking around the interface. For example, the UI supports touch or mouse control. Any UI that supports two main modes will be pretty compromised (see also the original Android UI, with both touch and the track ball).
More confoundingly, touching on any of the Office apps drops you into the traditional Windows Desktop. This seems to me essentially insane. I felt that being the “Office Tablet” was the absolute power zone for Surface — being the best possible way for people to interact with Excel, Powerpoint & Word on a tablet. But it isn’t. Instead it’s giving you the desktop apps, on a desktop (with the start bar, status fields, icons & everything). Weird decision. They could have done something really, really special here but don’t seem to have.
But, as I say, I think it’s going to take a bit of time to really grok this new user experience. I think there are some beautiful breakthroughs, but my quick initial reaction is that there are just too many ghosts of Windows holding it back.
[As a related aside: it is nearly impossible for a software company to move from their once dominant platform to a new emergent platform and make that one successful. What Apple’s done is, by nearly any measure, just astonishing, and maybe made possible because they didn’t win the PC era.]