Thursday, February 07, 2013

My very own Microsoft Surface RT experience

I’ve been trying to write this post for a long time now, but I’m glad I didn’t do it right after a month or so of use. I’m glad I waited all this time because there a few things that now look a lot different. Although there are some things that I have not change my mind of, some of them good, some of them bad.

I started using the Surface a little skeptical, I was looking for apps that would make me use the device. It was not easy at the beginning. Just a few apps in the Windows Store and some of them you could tell just from the icon that were pieces of crap. And that was Microsoft’s fault, they let people upload apps with the default icon Visual Studio would add to your test app (a black cross). They did change that and the store started to look better.

When talking about the Surface I guess you need to separate 3 different aspects of it. Its hardware, its Metro side (yeah I said Metro, deal with it), and the Desktop side.

Hardware: Great! I love the hardware, I love the resolution and the fact that the screen is 16:9. It’s great when reading plain text to use it portrait. It is super responsive, the first time you grab a Surface you want to swing around the start screen (I guess that’s all you can do) and it is very responsive or as Microsoft says it, fast and fluid.

The gestures are not that intuitive, you have to learn them, but once you do they feel pretty natural.

The Metro side. It’s ok. I like the fact that every app looks the same, so you know where to go look for stuff. Whenever I come across an app that does not follows Microsoft UI guidelines (*) it takes me a while (30 secs?) to understand how to use it. I also like the Semantic Zoom and the ability to have a big picture view of my apps.

The Desktop side. What a piece of crap!. Why is it even there? I don’t want it!, but unfortunately I need it :(

The first time I got and email with an attachment in my Surface it was a log file (plain text), so how do I open those? with good old notepad, which runs of course as a desktop app. Calculator? desktop app. I have found Metro style replacement apps for these.

Why is the desktop side there? because of Office. Is it easy to use? hell no! Why do you think Microsoft’s previous tablets (with XP) never took off? Precisely because they had the same XP you would found on a desktop PC. Why didn’t Windows CE for phones wasn’t that big of a deal… because you had to be a friking genius with that little stylus in order to move around the OS. And now they add the same OS they had before in a 10.6 inches screen? Do you know how hard it is to hit the X on the top right to close Power Point? try selecting a word and make its font bold, it’ll drive you nuts!

Having that said, I had used Power Point with SkyDrive to prepare a presentation. I love the way SkyDrive integrates everywhere but I know you’d get that with DropBox also, although I have 25GB of free space on SkyDrive :)

As a developer there are a couple of reasons I use the desktop side. First of all, it comes with PowerShell which is needed to locally deploy apps. And second, there’s a cool feature of remote debugging your apps thru the Visual Studio remote debugger which is a desktop app. This app allows you to run your app in a Surface while debugging it with Visual Studio in your PC, and that’s a killer feature (for developer only of course)

So, to wrap thing up. I love the Surface RT, I love the way it feels and I love the fact that there are cool apps coming everyday (have you heard of Find My Plane? :) .Will I get a Surface Pro? Hell no! I have a notebook for that! Yes, it’s a huge 17inches heavy ass Vaio, I like the big screen, the Surface Pro is a netbook, and netbooks are just not for me. Everywhere I read about the Surface Pro they talk about how to hook it to an external monitor so I don’t think even Microsoft knows where is the Surface Pro targeting. (I really hope I’m wrong)

*: If you create your app with Genexus you don’t have to worry about this.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

How come you need the old Desktop to debug "Modern UI" applications on the actual device? Is there no way to bootstrap programs without manually starting a debug server on the desktop?

Anonymous said...

How come you need the old Desktop to debug "Modern UI" applications on the actual device? Is there no way to bootstrap programs without manually starting a debug server on the desktop?

sebastian gomez said...

There is a way. You can install your appx package via PowerShell, but by doing that you just run the app, you can not debug it. If you want to debug it you need to start the VS Remote Debugger which will listen and fire your app for debugging.