No, dive! Dive!

So, Microsoft has made their move. They’re releasing two tablet devices: Surface and Surface Pro. I can’t deny the fact that I’m excited, but also a little wary.

Right away, I can see this being a major boon for enterprises who want to offer tablet computing to their users. Right now, it is more a capitulation on the part of IT administrators — their users are outright demanding they use their iPhones or iPads rather than the clunky standards of Blackberries and notebook PCs. People want to use their i-Devices in the enterprise not because they love Apple, but because they love the devices themselves — iPhones are a great device with a great app ecosystem behind it, as are iPads.

Unfortunately, that ecosystem doesn’t play well with your enterprise back-end infrastructure. Chances are, your company is build on Microsoft products and services, and your desktop computing environment is Windows-based. i-Devices have to be effectively shoehorned into this environment to even attempt cross-compatibility between your office files (and file storage) and the device itself — and typically, there are bounds that cannot be crossed.

If Microsoft can break into the enterprise with Windows 8 tablets, I think they’ll start to see more adoption on the consumer side as well. Metro is scary, and most users are turned off by it when they see it — but those who have played with it on Windows Phones say it is actually pretty great. The problem here is adoption, exposure. Now, if your workplace issues you a Windows 8 tablet and essentially “forces” you to use it… you may discover the Metro interface isn’t that bad, and the device is pretty sweet. Your iPad may look less fabulous. Your perception of Metro is changed, and you give strong consideration to getting a Windows Phone or another tablet device. Suddenly, iPads seem less fantastic.

I won’t say this will happen, but it very well might. Personally, I like what Apple is doing, but I am not in love. I think Microsoft can appeal to users who feel iOS isn’t powerful enough for them, while also encouraging a few Apple-fans to convert. How Surface is engineered, debuted, marketed, and supported will be very crucial for Microsoft — they have to hit a home run here, or they’ll end up with another Zune on their hands. They appear to have the engineering part down (the device itself, plus the touch/type covers are both showing to be very impressive), now they have to keep the momentum going.

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