What the Enterprise Can Expect from the Microsoft Surface Tablet

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The Surface Pro should allow for greater productivity among developers. When building applications for the iPad, developers need to have iOS skills, Mac hardware and testing capabilities; most companies just don’t have iOS developers. Mike Snyder, cofounder and principal of Sonoma Partners, offers tips on implementing Microsoft's Surface tablet. He is an industry expert in Microsoft Dynamics CRM and a member of the Microsoft Dynamics Partner Advisory Council. Follow him on Twitter at @miketsnyder.—Jennifer Bosavage, editor.

If you’re an iPad owner like I am, you love your tablet device. The thin and light form factor blows me away. It turns on and off instantly and the battery cranks for days on end. As amazing as the iPad is, it does have a few limitations: typing more than an email is torture, it is a pain for my IT department to support and manage and it’s locked down to the Apple ecosystem.

Related: How To Make iPad Work In the Enterprise

Microsoft’s recently announced device, the Surface for Windows 8 Pro, aims to offer the benefits of a tablet while solving some of its enterprise limitations. Will it work?

Shifting to a Single Device
Tablets currently on the market have been used as supplements to desktops and laptops – not replacements. Microsoft wants the Surface Pro to be different. With the Touch Cover keyboard, built-in kickstand and data entry ports, it looks similar to an Ultrabook or laptop and provides comparable functionality.

Users are no longer stuck just consuming content. They can create content more easily, especially on the go, and still have the sleek design and portability of a tablet. This could mark a shift in IT toward the replacement of laptops. This move to a single device could be an attractive option for IT departments for several reasons, primarily cutting costs on hardware expenditure.

Utilizing In-House Tools & Support
The adoption of the Surface Pro tablets would also mean fewer third-party headaches and easier mobile device management. IT departments generally have expertise in Microsoft support and development, but are not nearly as familiar with iOS. When it comes to third-party apps for iPad, IT departments have to determine who is building, buying and paying for them, which adds an additional layer of complexity.

Microsoft’s approach is to use the management tools already in the arsenal like Microsoft System Center and Windows InTune. This makes an IT professional’s job much simpler – no new software, computers or training needed.

Ramping up Development
The Surface Pro should allow for greater productivity among developers. When building applications for the iPad, developers need to have iOS skills, Mac hardware and testing capabilities; they are limited to building in that environment and only on that platform. Most companies just don’t have iOS developers lying around. With the Windows 8 operating system, developers can build their own Metro apps using the .NET development tools they are already using. The Windows 8 apps can even be developed with CSS, HTML and JavaScript.

With all these options for developers, the Microsoft Windows 8 platform will have a huge development ecosystem available to build apps. Almost anyone can create a Windows 8 application, which is just not the case for iOS. Without the hurdles required for iOS development, the Windows 8 app ecosystem should grow quickly and substantially - another benefit for enterprises.

Transitioning to Windows 8
With the Surface Pro, businesses will be able to make a gentle transition to Windows 8. In desktop mode, the Surface Pro can run existing apps and third-party products that already work with Windows 7. This backwards compatibility is a huge benefit and will allow IT departments the flexibility of making the transition to Windows 8 as fast or slow as they like.

Microsoft has taken a new approach by designing a tablet specifically for enterprise-level use. Both the Surface Pro’s hardware design and software capabilities and compatibility could make it a worthy competitor to the iPad in an enterprise setting.

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