Why I Chose a Surface


The days leading up to the Windows 8 launch I thought I knew what I wanted.  I was convinced months ago that I was going to buy a Surface.  As the days grew closer and closer to the launch of Windows 8 and the Surface,  I started to convince myself that Windows RT was not for me.  I thought that I wanted to have the freedom to install anything I want (“legacy applications” that run on Windows 7) and so, I ended up not buying one on launch day and instead reading blogs and waiting for the Surface Pro.

A friend asked me if I wanted to take a look at all the new stuff at the Microsoft Store this weekend and I agreed.  So, today I ventured down to the Mall of America to meet with a friend and look at all the new Windows 8 devices at the Microsoft Store, particularly the Surface.  The store was packed and there was a good buzz inside.  Everyone was waiting to see a surface and play with it.  I jumped on one and started playing around.  I have Windows 8 at home so this was nothing new to me.  I ended up talking to an employee there, my friend, and even other customers about it and Windows 8 as a whole.  They all seemed impressed not only with the Surface, but all the Windows 8 PCs.  Every PC we looked at also supported touch.  At first I thought that having touch on a laptop would be weird and useless, but 3 min after using Windows 8 on a laptop with a touch screen I found it easier to touch something instead of using the arrows to navigate around.  Maybe it’s because I am already familiar with Windows 8, but to me it seemed natural.

After playing around for a bit, my friend and I huddled and talked about what we were going to do.  We both walked in expecting to walk out empty-handed or with an Intel based Windows 8 touch device.

This was my case for a Surface:

  1. I want something with a super long battery life
  2. I want something light
  3. I want something with few moving parts (for me, hybrid devices that flipped were out of the question)
  4. I will need (at some point) a Windows RT device that I can test my applications on
  5. I know what Intel based Windows 8 has to offer (my PC at home)
  6. My next laptop at work will probably be some sort of hybrid that supports touch (not a given but I think touch screens will be standard very soon, and from the looks of all the major OEMs, it already is)
  7. If my next laptop is touch, I don’t want to carry 2 almost identical devices around (laptops)
  8. I like the idea of the touch cover (it works well, and the type cover seemed like something might break down the road)
  9. The other Windows RT devices do not compare to the Surface (lighter, but seemed cheaply made, no type/touch cover and no kickstand)
  10. I could Remote Desktop into my PCs or Hyper-V server at home, thus giving me features of PCs
  11. Our company supports BYOD (bring your own device) already, and with Server 2012 it will support new ways of connecting, including the Surface
  12. I can plug-in a mouse and keyboard (and hundreds of other devices)
  13. I can connect via HDMI to larger display devices
  14. Cost – these are/will be cheaper than buying a Surface Pro/comparable in quality – devices
  15. Fast boot – near instant-on
  16. It comes with Office 2013

After thinking all of this through there was one more hurdle I had to overcome.  I use Untangle as my gateway/router/VPN/UTM/everything.  It only supports OpenVPN, which is great  however, the Surface doesn’t support installing the OpenVPN client.  This is pretty much a showstopper for me.  I need a secure way to get back into my PCs and servers from anywhere.  I  don’t open up my RDP port to the public internet, I use OpenVPN to connect to home, then use RDP.  This has served me well for years and I didn’t really want to get rid of Untangle.  Then I thought…  I think I can build a Windows Server 2012 with Direct Access and have my Surface connect to it for VPN. From the blogs I read, they made it seem like all I have to do is forward port 443 to it.  I already have my Hyper-V server in place as well as my own TechNet Plus subscription, so I already have what I need.  I think this will work (and I plan to write something up if I get it going).  Also, in thinking all of this through, I might even get rid of Untangle and go back to pfsense (since it supports PPTP, L2TP, and IPSec VPN tunneling) but I’ll jump off that bridge when I get to it (-W.G.).

Needless to say I am now the proud owner of a Windows Surface device.  I went with the 32gb model and picked up the cyan type cover.  I think it was a wise decision and I will check back in a few weeks to see if I have buyers remorse.


Did you buy a Surface? Are there other supporting cases to buying a Windows RT device?   Are you waiting for another device?  Skipping Windows 8 altogether?  Sound off the in the comments below.

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