Microsoft Surface Pro: Why 2 SMBs Say Yes
The long-term success of Microsoft's high-end tablet is no sure thing, but it has won some early admirers. Two SMBs explain why they're pro Surface Pro.
Count Joshua Weiss among them. The CEO of TeliApp, an 18-person mobile development firm, said Surface Pro is essentially the device of his dreams. "I have been looking forward to the Surface Pro from even before it was conceived," he said in an email interview. "[I] intend for it to be the one device I utilize into the foreseeable future, eliminating all other tablets, laptops and desktops."
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Both the Surface Pro and the consumer-oriented Surface RT have spawned some doubt since their debuts, as has Windows 8 in general. Questions about the Surface Pro's actual storage capacity and Windows 8's overall progress have led the charge, but the not-so-hot publicity isn't of much concern to Weiss.
The CEO has both a MacBook Pro and a Dell desktop in his office, another desktop at home that he uses for work and a personal iPad that spends more time in his 4-year-old child's hands than his own. The MacBook Pro mostly stays in the office for fear of damaging it in transit, which means he is heavily reliant on Dropbox for accessing and sharing files -- a process he says has several downsides, including waiting for syncs to complete and failed syncs.
"You'd think it's not a big deal, carrying a laptop back and forth, but the truth is that a laptop monitor can crack by accident and cost over $600 to replace," Weiss said. "At that point, one considers just buying a different device."
[ Want more info on Surface Pro's pros and cons? See Microsoft Surface Pro: 7 Questions To Ask. ]
Weiss sees the Surface Pro as a means to consolidate his existing hardware into a single device, one that runs a full-blown desktop operating system rather than a stripped-down version like Windows RT or Apple's iOS. His typical PC usage requires going higher-end on specs like RAM and processor.
"I'm constantly opening up [Photoshop] PSD files that my art director creates and offering notes on improvement, and I can't wait the extra time it takes when I have Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, open at the same time," Weiss said. "My iPad, even if my 4-year-old didn't win the battle, is obviously not an effective solution to be a real work device for me."
Like many small business owners and executives, Weiss doesn't buy technology until there's a clear-cut business justification. He plans to purchase his Surface Pro in March when the office's MacBook Pro and Dell desktop are reassigned to two new TeliApp hires; that will provide the business case he needs to shell out upwards of 900 bucks for the Surface Pro.
Comedian Dan Nainan couldn't wait that long -- his Surface Pro arrived recently via UPS. Like Weiss, device consolidation was the name of the game. "The reason I need the Surface Pro is that I use Dragon voice dictation on my laptop and I also have an iPad," Nainan said via email interview. "If I ditch them both, then I can cut the weight of my technology in half, since I travel so much."
Indeed, the comedy business keeps Nainan on the road regularly -- recent stops have included the Democratic National Convention, a TED conference and three events at the presidential inauguration. A few days after he'd unwrapped his new device, Nainan checked in again via email with his initial thoughts.
"I'll be honest with you, it's taking a bit of getting used to because of the dual user interface, but I'm sure I'll be able to customize it to my needs as time goes on," Nainan said. "I know that I should just [read the manual], but I'm the kind of techno geek that likes to poke around and learn things without the manual."
Nainan, a former Intel engineer who traveled frequently with then-CEO Andy Grove doing demos on stage, said the keyboard -- he sprung for the more expensive model -- also takes some getting used to. That's only a minor issue because he dictates most of his typing needs; you'll be hard-pressed to find much buyer's remorse in Nainan's first impressions.
"What's really freaking awesome is that I can close the keyboard and use it tablet-style with voice dictation anywhere, as opposed to having to pull out a laptop," Nainan said. "That's the number one selling point for me, as well as the weight."
There's a cool factor with Surface Pro, too, the same one that keeps Apple Stores humming with eager buyers. "[Another] thing that's amazing: people are asking me all about it everywhere I go, the same as with when one has the newest Apple gadget," Nainan said. "Never thought that would happen with a Microsoft product."
TeliApp's Weiss shares Nainan's vocabulary when drawing his bottom line on why the Surface Pro is "the device" for him.
"It fills the [role] of a fully functioning computer with the GUI and 'awesomeness' of a tablet," Weiss said, adding that he'll use docking stations at work and at home to create a multi-monitor setup with external keyboard for when he's not on the go. While Weiss will continue to use Dropbox for catastrophic backup, he will no longer rely on it simply to get work done. He'll get a battle-grade case to ease fears of damaging the device. There's even some parenting upside.
"As as an added bonus," Weiss said, "my 4-year-old and I won't have to fight over using my iPad."
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