If you know me, or follow me on Twitter, then you know that I follow politics closely. I also enjoy the HBO series Real Time with Bill Maher for the lack of censoring you see so much on main stream news sources. For about the last year, Bill Maher has had a segment on his show each week called "Life Inside The Bubble" where he makes fun of an example of a Republican issue or talking point in which is only being covered on Republican blogs or Fox News. Usually, the Republican base is up in arms about something that everyone else is ignoring because its a non-issue or they are trying to drum up faux outrage about a topic that isn't outrageous. While idea is common in politics, this 'Bubble' I mean, I've encountered it in other places as well.
Earlier tonight, Marco Arment wrote about his experience of wandering into a Microsoft Store today while he was on his way to the Apple Store to buy AppleCare+ for his wife's iPhone 5. He was curious about the Microsoft Surface, not having seen one yet, and wanted to try it out in order to compare it to the iPad.
Marco's entire piece is well worth your time to read but one thing in particular really caught my attention. During the aggressive demo the salesperson gave Marco, he made a particular comment.
He showed me Office, which was almost unusable: it was extremely sluggish, and touch targets were tiny and difficult to hit. He said this was the only tablet that could run Office, and if you used Office at work, this was therefore the only tablet that you could use at work. I played dumb.
I read the rest of Marco's article but in the back of my mind, after I read that paragraph, I couldn't get the thought out of my head. This comment by the salesperson pissed me off. I have a ton of questions I wish I could ask him. Was this his opinion? Was he instructed to say this as a part of his training? Does he really believe this?
The reason this really struck a chord with me is because I work for a large environmental non-profit in Washington DC. Despite being a non-profit, the day-to-day work environment at our office is more like a corporate job than working for a non-profit. We are managed and ran like a corporation. When I started there we were heavily married to Microsoft infrastructure and software - now almost 5 years later we're starting to move away from this, but it is still largely true. In the last few years more people are being given Macs, certain management now have MacBook Airs or iPads. Our new website is powered by Drupal. We're dropping .NET in favor of open source/Drupal/php. Things are getting better.
We have about 260 employees, last I checked, and most of our workforce has Lenovo notebook computers. If you take the marketing & tech departments out of the equation, most of our employees spend 90% of their time in either Outlook, a web browser, or core Office apps such as Word, Powerpoint, or Excel. Whether in meetings or at their desk, this is how they accomplish most of their jobs.
I've been an iPad owner since day one. When the iPad 2 came out and now the 3rd generation iPad, I bought them all. I think I'll skip the 4th generation iPad and pick up next years model but that's beside the point. My previous bosses and current one place a lot of trust in me and have been very flexible over the years of allowing me to select whichever tools I so choose in order to do my job. Because of this, I've had the iPad in the office from the very first model on a daily basis. It has now become a replacement for my old pad & paper that I used to carry around with me wherever I go. It goes to meetings with me, it is at my desk with me and I carry it around the office wherever I go.
My iPad has full Exchange integration. I can access the company's employee directory in Active Directory through the Contacts app. I have access to my full calendar, can schedule meetings with others, and have full access to Exchange email. With my iPad in hand I have access to my entire Dropbox contents (which weighs in at 80GB currently spanning tens of thousands of files & documents since 2009), all of my Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files I need (Pages, Keynote, and Numbers work spectacularly), I can annotate things (Skitch), I can do quick image edits (Photoshop for iOS), I can reboot the dev box (Linode iOS app), our website stats are at my fingertips in any meeting (Analytics HD). I can even SSH into our servers with Prompt, make quick edits with Coda 2 or...well you get the point. I could list off another dozen apps I use once a week or so to do any number of tasks.
You might think it a tad ridiculous for a Microsoft Store employee's comments to Marco to piss me off, but if Microsoft's standard as to whether you can use a tablet in an office environment is if it can run Word, Excel and Powerpoint...well, that's just bullshit. I challenge Microsoft to show how the Surface, right now...today can do half of the things I listed above as well as my iPad can. And they aren't allowed to use the Google bullshit cop-out argument that you can do it in the web browser. I don't expect to pay $500+ for a machine to not be able to do my work on applications that are written in non-native code.
That this employee or perhaps Microsoft trained him to pitch it this way, believes that the Surface is now going to somehow open up this huge door for people to be able to use tablets at work infuriates me. Talk about living inside a bubble. Is there any stronger way to hammer home the reason why Microsoft has been consistently behind all of their competitors for the last 10 years? Does Redmond Washington somehow block out technology related news from the rest of the world? Do they really believe that the corporate world has been holding off adopting tablets because of the lack of Microsoft Office on the iPad? Give me a break.