re: Microsoft's Surface Experiment Has Fallen Flat
"All of this makes Surface appealing to the enterprise, in theory."
This is the problem. On paper, the Surface Pro checks off a lot of wants/ needs: mobile form factor and good build quality; access to desktop apps; access to mobile/ touch apps; HD screen; peripherals that let it shift between desktop mode and laptop mode; etc.
But in practice, the device is flawed. It has a lot of merits, and I actually really enjoy aspects of IE in the Modern UI, and, once I got used to it, the way Bing is integrated. But none of the Surface Pro's tablet attributes are going to persuade many people who already like and have iPads. That means the device's primary differentiator is its ability to handle x86 apps, and on that front, it's just not that great.
I know Microsoft is very pleased with the kickstand, for example, but when I have to work on the go, I often have to plop down wherever there's space-- the floor, wedged between people on the train, in a corner of an airport, etc. The Surface Pro is fine if you have a flat surface but miserable if you don't. The flimsy keyboard peripherals are a culprit here, and while I can understand the decision to compromise laptop ergonomics in the name of increased mobility, the compromise doesn't balance properly for my needs.
The relatively small screen, though nice, also diminishes the appeal of the laptop mode and its x86 access. Is it valuable to have a light, portable device that runs Office? YES. But unless I'm in a situation in which mobility matters more than anything else (e.g. reporting from a conference), I'll use a laptop or a desktop every time for Word documents. The bigger screen matters.
Similarly, I like that Win8 tablets let me use things like Lightroom and Photoshop, but if I'm doing more than light work, the small screen gets in the way here, too.
Put another way, the Surface Pro is surprisingly fun when I'm just playing with it, but as soon as I need it to do some "real work," it becomes surprisingly limited, as often as not. I recognize that I might be forcing it into use cases for which it wasn't intended, and that if it's used within the scope of its design, it's great. Fine, whatever-- but how big is the market for people who want to stay inside these design confines?
And that's the point: I think the Surface Pro is a quality device, but it's just too compromised to appeal to a wide enterprise audience. For some people, it will be the obvious choice. Heck, at moments in my day, the Surface Pro is MY obvious choice. But at most other moments, my first choice is something else: a Win7 laptop, an iMac, an iPhone, a BlackBerry, etc. The Surface Pro doesn't replace devices so much as carve out a little niche of its own.