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Microsoft Surface Pro 3: Customers Speak

Early adopters of Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 say the Windows device is working well as a tablet and an ultra-light laptop.

Surface Pro 3 Vs. World: Mobile Smackdown
Surface Pro 3 Vs. World: Mobile Smackdown
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The Surface Pro 3 has earned better reviews than its predecessors -- but most of the commentary has come from tech journalists, who, let's face it, are an awfully keyboard-dependent, word processing-oriented bunch. What are Microsoft's actual customers saying? We spoke to IT decision-makers at Seattle Children's Hospital and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), two early Surface Pro 3 adopters to find out how and why they've chosen to deploy the device.

The Surface Pro 3 is technically a tablet, and Microsoft still sells its Type Cover keyboard separately. Nevertheless, both organizations were attracted to the device's laptop capabilities.

"It's the thinnest Ultrabook ever created," UPMC VP of Medical Information Technology Rasu Shrestha said of the Pro 3's appeal.

[On the fence about the Surface Pro 3? Read Microsoft Surface Pro 3: Why To Buy.]

"The mobility of it, the lightness, the kickstand, the screen size," said Seattle Children's CIO Wes Wright. "It hits a bunch of our complaints from the originals [and] makes it much more viable in a health care setting."

Despite a shared enthusiasm for the Pro 3's laptop mode, each organization plans to use the Pro 3 in somewhat different ways. Wright said Seattle Children's plans to deploy around 1,000 devices, 300 of which are destined for clinical use. The rest are pegged for non-medical staff, such as those in the finance and supply chain departments.

The hospital had previously deployed around 150 Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2s, mostly as notebook replacements for execs and administrative departments. Similarly, the majority of the hospital's Pro 3s will serve first and foremost as ultralight laptops. But Wright said the Pro 3's hybrid qualities will play a bigger role among the 300 devices earmarked for doctors.

All of Seattle Children's Surfaces will rely on a Windows 7 virtual desktop for shared resources because "the fat app changes often, and rather than trying to touch 6,000 devices, it just makes more sense for us to serve up a single virtualized image," Wright said. But whereas most of the Pro 3s will be managed like typical corporate-issued devices, the clinicians' units will "probably be issued in more of a personal device mode.

"If I just gave them a laptop, I wouldn't get any innovation out of [the doctors]," Wright said, noting that the Surface Pro Pen opens up new ways for doctors to use tablets.

UPMC plans to deploy most of its 2,000 Surface Pro 3s to physicians. Microsoft touted earlier Surfaces as a way for doctors to access and modify Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems on-demand, enabling them to work more effectively with patients, and avoid running to a computer workstation between appointments. UPMC's deployment taps this vein, but with the added twist that the hospital is developing its own EHR product, Convergence.

A Windows 8.1 app, Convergence pulls information from multiple EHR systems and allows doctors to switch between a visual view of a patient's records, and those underlying systems. UPMC will serve as a "living lab" as the Convergence team prepares to bring the app to market, Shrestha said. UPMC originally planned to build Convergence on iOS but

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Strategist
6/27/2014 | 1:36:11 PM
Nice to see...
It's nice to see the Surface getting some favorable hands-on reviews.  By and large, most of the complaints and criticisms it gets are from people who've never used one and don't have the type of needs which the Surface addresses.  

For people who need more than a mobile-based tablet but don't necessarilly do the amount of typing that would be better served by a full size keyboard, the Surface has a lot of advantages.  I happen to fall into that catagory, and despite being initially fairly critical of Windows 8 in general, and the high cost of the Surface line, I've pretty much come full circle and consider my Pro 2 to be the best mobile system I've ever used.  
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