Microsoft Surface RT the ideal business tablet / View Mobile Client?

February 24, 2013 — 4 Comments

It seems most people that blog about the Surface RT end up being cut down in flames for a biased opinion either towards Apple, Google or Microsoft, so I wanted to start out by talking about my use cases and the devices I own.

By many I am seen to be an Apple Fan Boy, I have owned every iPhone since the 3G, I use my Mac Book Pro daily, I also own an Apple TV and an iPad one, however I also own a Google Nexus 7 a Samsung Galaxy S2 and use my Windows 8 laptop on a regular basis.

I am going to focus this blog post on my use case for my tablet devices, I am very much classed as a business worker, by day I’m attending meetings, traveling, creating and editing documents, installing and configuring hardware, to be honest in the evenings my use case changes very little as I’m usually working on something in the lab or replying to email or blogging etc. Both the iPad and Nexus 7 are fantastic devices for consuming content such as Music, films, books games etc but I have always been somewhat disappointed by the ability to create content in my work life. Whilst it is possible with the iPad with the larger screen typing on screen is less than ideal and carrying a separate Bluetooth keyboard seems counterproductive (I may as well just carry an ultrabook) a big gripe for me with the iPad is even if I have a fantastic desktop experience using solutions like VMware View the fact I am unable to connect a mouse of any kind makes a VDI solution on my iPad have limited usefulness.

As my iPad is getting older now (it’s an iPad 1) I was in the market for a new 10″ device, I was looking at the Nexus 10, the iPad 4, the Asus Transformer amongst others. I had ruled out the iPad at an early stage because of the limitations I mention above and to be honest because of the lack of innovation since the original iPad, I have never felt there has been a killer feature that would have me upgrade such a device to a newer one as yet. I also like the idea of having a tablet that had the ability to attach a keyboard and mouse as I would really like the ability to treat this device as a thin client into my View desktop when traveling. Whilst I do love my Nexus 7 I felt that the Nexus 10 and other Android devices wouldn’t offer me the software to create the content I wanted without having to use my View desktop all the time, I was keen to have the ability to work both online and offline. This really left me with the choice of looking at Windows devices.

One of the things I like the most about tablet computing is the simplicity and constant performance, going back to a full Windows device did not appeal to me and this is what led me to look at RT. A quick search online will find you a bunch of mixed reviews for devices like the Surface RT and the Dell XPS10 however most of these are trying to compare these devices to the likes of the iPad that offer a personal consumer experience, hands up now if that is the kind of device you a looking for e,g. play some games, browse the web then buy yourself an iPad you won’t be disappointed. With a little bit of further digging I started finding some business users talking about their love for the device my main requirement for the device was as follows.

  • Ability to create and read email
  • Ability to create and edit Microsoft Work documents
  • Ability to create and edit Powerpoint Presentations
  • Ability to create and edit Excel Documents
  • Evernote
  • Dropbox
  • VMware View Client
  • RDP Client

With my use case clearly defined and fully understanding the functionality of Windows RT it seems that a device with Windows RT would suit my use case down to the ground, this also meant I could avoid going down the full Windows install route for a simple continuous experience, longer battery life and maybe a cheaper point of entry.

Looking at the devices on the market I had considered the Surface and the Dell XPS 10, one of the main reasons I chose to go with the Surface was that I was fully able to test the device in my local John Lewis store where as this wasn’t the case with the Dell, for me hands on experience with a device prior to purchasing was important, also for me the touch keyboard on the surface appealed as I could get the mouse and keyboard functionality without any real further weight or girth.

So a week ago I decided to buy the Surface RT, now I fully understand that at present I am still in the honeymoon period and I will certainly be blogging if my experience changes.

So far I have used the Surface at home, in the office, on the plane and as my only device during a short business trip to Ireland. I have found that the ability to create documents and blog posts with Word on the device has been no different to using a Windows 8 laptop, the keyboard takes a bit of getting used to but it is more than adequate. The USB support has allowed me to pair my wireless RF mouse with ease and also my Logitech Slide Presenter with ease. Adding our work based HP printers has been hassle free although as yet I haven’t been able to add my home Kodak MFP. The Mail applications within Windows 8 is somewhat limited without the ability to create new folders but does the job I need, although I would love Outlook on the device.

The current third party vendor support is currently a bit poor with both the Dropbox application and Evernote applications falling short of where I would like them to be. I have found the Evernote application has been good enough to not need to switch to Onenote or similar but I am now embracing Skydrive as an equivalent to dropbox for my needs on the device, hurry up and get a Horizon Workspace application out VMware!

One of the huge wins for me on the device is the ability to utilise VMware View and RDS to create a full desktop experience, whilst I am spending 80%+ of my time consuming applications directly on the Surface there are some times the need to use a legacy desktop application, an example of the is Visio. I have found that using the View Client has allowed me to connect to a View desktop and consume these applications with ease and it offers an experience equal to using the view client on a laptop rather than a tablet (from the point of view of usability not functionality as the View client for RT is currently preview only)

I have also extensively used the remote desktop app and the built in mstsc functionality to connect to my lab servers and install a complete View and Horizon Workspace environment without any issue at all. This has been made all the more easier by having the ability to connect a second screen via HDMI.

I will attempt to keep this blog post up to date with any new findings but for me I couldn’t be happier with the device I have chosen.

p.s. 3rd blog post today created on the Surface, who would have thought of using Word to write and publish blog posts on a tablet would have been possible and functional!

4 responses to Microsoft Surface RT the ideal business tablet / View Mobile Client?


    Your experiences with the Surface RT closely mirror my own – I needed something to replace my “dynamic duo” of an iPad 1 and Netbook for short to medium business trips. Surface RT fit the bill. The Surface allows me to get my work done while also giving me some content consumption options during downtime, plus the USB port, HDMI out, and microSD slot round out the package well. I don’t miss legacy Windows apps, and can always RDP if I really need something. My only complaint is that there are a few apps I used for the iPad that I would like to have on the Surface, but they aren’t work-related.


    I have had my Surface RT since launch day, sadly this machine made us abandon our 2 perfectly good laptops, rarely there is need to boot up the desktops too, the Samsung Tab is also left collecting dust. Using a Microsoft account to login make life so simple now, all our machines were upgraded to windows 8. My one complaint is Microsoft should do something to notify us the Surface when it’s doing background updates that make the Surface unresponsive, it should just freeze the Surface with an update countdown, not all the updates cause this, only some.


    I am a small business owner in australia i am blind and also a university student. i needed a device that i could quite easily hold in my hands and get clost the the screen in order to read emails textbooks and pdf documents. the surface has done this incredibly well and the added benefit of office 2013 on each device has made assignments and research just so easy. The ability to have everything on the one machine has just been so much freedom rather then switching from PC to Laptop. Yes the application numbers on the windows store is low but if you are a business man or a student you dont really need to install any other apps on the device in order to be productive.


    Excellent points Barry. I too was looking for something that would make traveling a bit easier (I have an HP HDX16 that weighs heavier than my 4 year old) and provided the perfecte balance between work and downtime.

    Many reviewers and critics saw the desktop mode as something very negative. I saw it as “the glass is half full”. I’ll bet if Apple integrated a Mountain Lion type of desktop on their next ipad so that an IOS version of Pages and Keynote can be used, I’ll put money down that critics would sing all the heavenly praises.

    I think respect should be given where respect is due with regard to the Surface RT. Great Job Barry.

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