Surface Pro 3: Microsoft’s iPad Rival That’s not an iPad Rival

Surface Pro 3

Yesterday Microsoft unveiled their new Surface Pro 3 tablet. Or tablet / laptop hybrid. Or, in the words of their early ad strapline, ‘The tablet that can replace your laptop’.

I didn’t get a chance to see the Surface 3 announcement event live, but I’ve read quite a few of the reports from those who did attend and some of those who got hands-on time with the new device.Here are some quick thoughts on this from the perspective of the Surface as a (in theory) iPad rival and just from the perspective of a mobile devices junkie:

— It sounds like at this event Microsoft focused much more on presenting the Surface as a laptop replacement rather than a straight-up iPad rival. That’s probably a good call, since they’ve made just about zero impact in the tablet space despite massive marketing campaigns, many of them bashing the iPad.

— It’s priced much more like a laptop – starting at $799 and moving up if you go for a better processor or more storage – even though they still refer to it as a tablet. That’s likely going to make them even more of a non-factor in the tablet market.

— The new stylus pen with OneNote integration sounds slick, but it would be far more impressive if that sort of feature was available for Evernote or some of the other more successful mobile apps.

— The built-in kickstand now offers multiple angles. That’s a very good change.

— Microsoft still seems to be hell-bent on making a tablet / laptop hybrid device, and I think it still looks like they’re making a hybrid device that doesn’t excel at being either thing. But they want it to replace an iPad AND a laptop.

— It runs Windows 8.1. That may be a slight improvement over Windows 8, but it’s still a schizophrenic awkward beast of an OS to work with. I’d say that’s a big drawback right off the bat.

I really want to try the Surface Pro 3 out, and I may well grab one once all the models pricing is available. I currently use a Windows laptop at work and a Nexus 7 and iPad as well. So I’d be interested to see if this sort of hybrid device is a viable option for me.

What do you all think of the Surface Pro 3?

Share This:

Review: Tocomail for iPad – Kid Safe Email

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 18.20.43

Do you remember Clippy? He was a chipper guy, who when I first saw him in Windows as a spotty teen I thought “that’s cool, an interactive comic character who will help me use Office 97!”. Clippy was great, and then 2 minutes later I learned how to use Office properly and he quickly became annoying. I suspect his intention was to educate us in a fun and interesting way about Office 97 in those pre-web 2.0 days. Great idea, but we didn’t actually use it in practice.

This is how I feel about Tocomail. Great idea that works, but it fills a niche that probably doesn’t need to be filled. Tocomail is an interesting concept. It’s positioned as an app with e-safety at it’s heart by providing a controlled environment for children from the age of 5 to have their own email account. Signing up for a Tocomail account will give you as a parent the ability to set up an email account for your children. You can populate the address book with safe contacts, for example your family and friends, and your children can email these people from directly within the app.

The way the app is set up means that your child can only email these contacts and no one else. Likewise, only the people on the contacts list can email the child’s Tocomail account. If an email comes from an address not on the contact list then the email is put into a catch all account which the parent can log on and inspect, rather than going to the child’s inbox.   Setup is easy enough. You as a parent have to create an account with Tocomail, and then you can create an email address for your child (ending in You can set up multiple accounts for different children in the same app and switch between them. You then have two user interface options, both of which have a couple of differences.

[click to continue reading…]

Share This:

Saying Hello to My First Windows Tablet

Dell Venue 8 Pro


I’ve been wanting to try out a Windows tablet for quite a while now. I even once spent several hours at a local Microsoft store with every intention of buying one of their Surface tablets – and then just couldn’t do it after spending a few hours trying them out.

I’ve owned and used a couple generations of Kindle Fire, the sadly short-lived TouchPad Pro that ran webOS, a Samsung Galaxy Note 8, and both the 2012 and 2013 Nexus 7 – so a Windows tablet is one of the few mainstream (ish) types I haven’t had a chance to get to know.

This week I’ve found a Windows tablet that looks like a better fit for me – the Dell Venue 8 Pro. It’s a better fit for me partly because it’s an 8 inch tablet and I am now solidly a fan of the more ‘mini’ tablet form factor. I also like that it is priced much more attractively than the Surface line.

Since I’m now back at work as an IT consultant as my ‘day job’ I’ve been using a laptop running Windows 8 for a few months now. The Dell Venue 8 Pro runs Windows 8.1 – so it will be interesting to see whether this tablet can help be more productive and where it might fit in my work routine.

I won’t bore you with further detail here, since this site is all about the iPad, but I do plan to write up some first impressions and other thoughts as I spend time with the Dell Venue 8 Pro. If you have any interest in seeing those, check out my little baby site, Tech & Nonsense.

Share This:

Microsoft Ad Features the 1 Teacher in America with Surface Tablets in his Classroom

Surface Education Ad

The latest Microsoft TV ad for their clickety clackety keyboard wielding Surface tablets features a teacher talking happily about how all his students have the new MS tablet.

He emphasizes that the tablets have Office and a ‘real’ keyboard – ‘so they can do real work’. They doing real work is the recurring strapline for all of the Surface TV ads – because allegedly the silly iPad can’t do any.

A couple of  questions spring to mind here:

– When’s the last time you heard a young student say ‘Boy I wish my school would help me do more real work’?

– When’s the last time anyone heard of any major school or school district using Surface tablets? Oh, I know – never.

The iPad has recently been said to hold a 94% share in the education arena in the US. And I’d happily major that the vast majority of the remaining 6% is taken by Android tablets. Which would leave Microsoft and the Surface with a miniscule percentage at best – just as their overall market share for tablets is.

It baffles me that anyone at Microsoft thinks THIS is an area for them to try to brag about.

Share This:

Another Day, Another Surface Beats iPad Ad

iPad vs Surface RT

This week Microsoft have released yet another of their TV ads comparing the iPad to a Surface or another Windows based tablet. In this new ad it’s the Surface RT that’s pitted against the iPad.

The newest in this series of ads trots out some of the same supposedly killer advantages for the Surface over the iPad – like the knock on the iPad because it doesn’t include Microsoft Office.

Another advantage cited for the Surface is ‘integrated kickstand and keyboard’. Only in the very tiny fine print does it mention that the keyboard is sold separately. Sold separately for $100 if bought at the same time as the tablet and $120 if not. Pretty stiff price for something that’s ‘integrated’.

Despite every indicator showing that the Surface has had just about zero impact, Microsoft keeps pounding away with these comparison ads. Here’s this latest one, below. Does anyone believe these are having any effect?

Share This:

Now Microsoft Lowers Price on Surface Pro Too

Following its big recent price cuts on the Surface RT tablet line, Microsoft has now dropped the price for its Surface Pro tablets by $100. As The Verge reports, Microsoft has confirmed that customers in 5 countries – the US, Canada, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan – will pay $100 less for the Surface Pro […]

Read the full article →