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