At least the Surface has forced me to think about what devices I carry

Overall the Surface is, well, a turd. It is a crappy cheap laptop. Or maybe an ok-but-expensive tablet, although completely lacking the tablet apps I want.

But it has forced me to think about the gear I carry. Right now my bag contains a laptop (MacBook pro or ASUS ultra book depending on the day), an iPad 3, and a Kindle Touch. And now the Surface is trying to push its way in there. Oh and my phone is always in my pocket. What do I really need?

The principles I think are this:

* All data is going to synced with the cloud all the time, and will be available with native clients on every relevant platform, so using multiple devices is a fine experience
* All devices are going to get lighter, cheaper, with greater power and battery life. Carrying around a couple won’t be a problem weight-wise or economically.
* Device design will be optimized for the way it is used — consumption, creation, etc.

I’m always going to have a phone. Pocket sized, 1 day battery, great voice/text, decent apps and web. No need for it to bloat up in size, I’ve got other bigger devices with me, and I want it in my pocket, and it just has to be great at texting and talking.

I also need a great content creation device. A 13-15″ screen with a great keyboard (the Surface keyboard is too compromised), in a stiff shell so that the keyboard works well (the Surface has taught me the value of a stiff shell). Today this is a MacBook Air or Ultrabook, these will just get better and lighter.

And then I need a great browsing and consumption device for web, video, games, etc. The current iPad is great but is just a little too big. I’m betting the market moves to the 7″ tablet form factor, the iPad Mini/Kindle/Nexus. Fits in a hand, great for reading or video or web or games, great battery life. Smarter people than me are betting on this move as well — see for instance the “Daring Fireball”: view on the iPad mini. This knocks the current iPad and Kindle out of my bag (though I do love the passive display on the Kindle, so maybe I still carry the smallest Kindle around).

This set of gadgets would be substantially lighter and more compact than what I carry today, and would hit all my needs, and isn’t that much to carry around. An implication: Tweener devices make no sense. Phablets? Surface? Eh. You’ll just carry a best of breed 7″ tablet and a laptop. The tweeners are economic compromises — cheaper than carrying two devices — but over time, the prices on all these gadgets continue to drop, the economic argument is a loser long run. And tweener devices are always design compromises — never great at either scenario, no matter how much work engineering goes into the transforming bridge work.

5 thoughts to “At least the Surface has forced me to think about what devices I carry”

  1. Your thoughts nearly echo mine. Here’s what I’m carrying…

    iPhone 5 – I’m new to the iPhone world, but am liking it a lot). Will be trying a Radio Shack Enercell to provide power backup since I hate searching for a plug).

    11″ MacBook Air – I prefer to keep my PCs as light as I can get, though I also lust after higher resolution/more desktop real estate, so the new 13″ Retina MBP interests me.

    Old Kindle Keyboard – I love the battery life and portability and the real keyboard lets me do the NYT Crosswords I purchased for the Kindle.
    Mine is so old that the letters have nearly worn off the keys, and I might think about a new PaperWhite eventually.

    SIM-less, unlocked, iPhone 4 – My wife’s old phone, I use it to play games and listen to music when I have WiFi available (so I preserve my primary phone’s battery life) and as an iPod at the gym. It’s also proven useful while traveling, at least while international carriers don’t readily have prepaid nano-SIMs yet (Japan).

    If I could get more TV content from Comcast away from my living room, I’d probably spring for a tablet, but as it is, I don’t know what I’d do with one (I sold off my v1 Kindle Fire since it just collected dust). The 11″ MacBook Air is so light that I carry it everywhere and I can easily consume and produce content with it.

    The only other gadget I lust for a little is the new Sony DSC-RX100 since it’s an amazing camera in a small package. But at its $600 price, it’s more than I want to spend on a camera to supplement my iPhone’s and I’d be afraid of losing/breaking it.

  2. The Surface keyboard will get better, IMO.

    More than one device is one too many. Taking inspiration from Transformers, being able to transform your device for the current scenario would be powerful. I don’t know however, what hardware technology would make that feasible.

  3. Seems like there will be a range of views on the number of devices it makes sense to have. I am firmly in the multi-device camp — one data set shared via the cloud, but many devices, using whatever is most appropriate for the situation. I use my phone, tablet(s), and pc(s) daily and wouldn’t want to give any of them up.

  4. Well my distant cousin, if I may offer a contrarian view… while I don’t disagree at all with your perspective, I live in the corporate world where many of my technology choices are dictated to me by IT. I don’t have the luxury of a well-integrated gadget system – so for me, the Surface (or rather the Pro version yet to come) is more in line with what I need out of a tablet.

    I’m issued a Dell laptop PC and I currently carry a Blackberry, though we’re slowly moving to iPhones – meaning that by the time I get mine I’ll likely be a rev behind. These devices include all of the security implements that a corporate IT department loves, so if I want to watch what’s on my DVR or check out Guns & Ammo, I have to supplement with additional technology which I supply myself. I travel with my PC, iPad, Kindle, and Blackberry – I feel like I’m back in the military with all the gear in my backpack.

    I have an iPad, though all I find it useful for is Web surfing and e-mail – consuming rather than creating. If I want to use MS Office and such, I have to use my PC. I’ve long wished for a tablet that I could, at least, leave with for a meeting or event, and still be able to use spreadsheets and Word, use a thumb drive when I don’t have wireless or 3G/4G access, and maybe use a mouse with, since I still find it more useful than my fat fingers.

    From what I see of the Surface, it seems built to fill that need.

    Perhaps one day we can find a happy medium between Apple’s elegant “system” approach and Microsoft’s “open” approach. It might allow use of a tablet sized computer fully capable of creating all the content I need, allowing me to access the personal, social, and business applications I regularly use – plus a mobile device/phone for my more portable needs – all synchronized via the cloud.

  5. Hey the promise of a converged device always sounds great, but I encourage you to use a surface before you buy. It simply doesn’t live up to the vision. Office on it is nearly unusable. Make sure you are happy with it before you buy. If I was buying again, I’d get one of the ultra books with a touch screen, I think they would be a lot more functional.

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