Tablet computers have garnered a mixed reception in the enterprise. On one hand, the user-friendly devices are reasonably priced. On the other, there's a lot of workforce software they don't run, and their usefulness is sometimes open to question.
Microsoft provides a solid answer with the Windows 8–based Surface Pro tablet. Although it looks a lot like its Surface RT predecessor, the Surface Pro offers more capability. The tablet features a 10.6-inch high-definition display, a stylus and optional covers that include keyboards on their inner surface. And because the device runs a full version of Windows 8 Professional, the tablet can access millions of Windows desktop apps.
The Surface Pro's metal case boasts a solid kickstand that supports the tablet at an ideal viewing angle, and it includes a pair of video cameras that are optimized to operate from that angle.
The Microsoft Surface Pro is easy to use and very flexible in its application. Designed for touch, the Windows 8 interface works seamlessly in that environment. In addition to the responsive touch screen, the Surface Pro supports pen input and includes a stylus.
The included pen works much like a Wacom device — in fact, Wacom drivers enable the Surface to work intuitively with graphic applications such as Adobe Photoshop. The Surface also supports handwriting recognition.
Microsoft sells a touch cover and a type cover that includes a keyboard, something we tested the unit with and that users who do a significant amount of typing will likely prefer.
The tablet, at half an inch thick, is slightly bigger and heavier than others, such as the Surface RT or the Apple iPad, though it still weighs in at less than a pound. The extra weight and thickness come from a high-end Intel Core i5 processor and a 42 watt-hour battery. The tablet also includes a microSD slot, a Mini DisplayPort video connector and a headset jack, all of which contribute to the device's flexibility.
Why It Works for IT
The Microsoft Surface Pro is a fully capable Windows 8 computer in tablet form, so it uses the same software and operating system as other Windows computers in the organization. Because the Surface Pro is a Windows device, the support staff will already know most of what they need to know about the device, including command prompts. A brief training period will suffice to familiarize them with the new hardware details. The Surface supports standard Windows security software and configuration settings, flattening the learning curve even more for IT staff.
Enterprise administrators can make the Surface Pro part of their Active Directory domains, and they can limit users' ability to make changes to the computer, just as with other Windows PCs. This is one of the few mobile devices that can fit right into an existing enterprise organization without a reduction in usefulness or security.
The Surface Pro does not come with wired Ethernet or cellular interface, so Wi-Fi connections are a must.