Microsoft has left no doubts about how it sees its Surface 2 hardware fitting into the enterprise world. A Sept. 30 blog posting, entitled "Surface Pro 2 Is A Laptop Replacement And Surface 2 Is A Tablet For Business," is self-explanatory, with the actual blog content underlining a partner ecosystem and large customer wins. Add in forthcoming LTE support and it's going to be hard to refute this wave.
Signed by Director of Surface Cyril Belikoff, the blog post boasts that Surface Pro 2 uses user feedback to "complete the laptop replacement promise" –something I'd would disagree with, given the awkward ergonomics of using one on a lap or on an airline tray table. I also think Microsoft needs to offer a bigger screen Surface 2 Pro if it wants to play in the laptop replacement space, otherwise third-party hardware manufacturers are going to outflank them in the tablet and convertible laptop/ultrabook space without breaking a sweat.
It's the range of Surface 2 customer wins that should get everyone's attention. Delta is bringing on Surface 2 tablets as electronic flight bags, replacing 38 pounds per airplane/pilot of reference paper carried around in a big banged up briefcase. Hokkoku Bank has purchased more than 2,000 Surface Pro while City National Bank will be bringing Surface Prod into its 80 branches. The London School of Business & Finance purchased almost 10,000 Surface RT devices for second year students. Novartis and Expeditors International are providing Surface Pro tablets to their respective sales forces.
While customer wins are impressive, it's a building ecosystem of support that will cause problems for Android tablet and Apple in the future. Yesterday, Oct. 1, commercial channel purchases became available in all 29 markets where Surface is sold. New Surface Ecosystem partners include SAP and Omega Group, plus 10 featured new accessory manufactures.
New accessories include fixed and mobile point of sale (POS) accessories from ArmorActive and charging carts from Anthro. Microsoft expects to announce and promote third-party vehicle-mounted solutions and ruggedized cases in the future.
The final piece in the Surface business puzzle is forthcoming support for LTE. Microsoft expects to offer LTE in Surface in 2014. For companies planning to put Surface to work in mobile fleet operations, cellular connectivity is a requirement that first and second generation hardware lacks.
What advantages does Surface offer over Apple iPad and Android devices? Microsoft is working the "we know business" angle hard, giving it a leg up over the iPad and Apple's traditional "take it or leave it" attitude. For enterprises seeking hardware and software consistency and stability, Surface provides a known quantity as compared to the many versions of Android OS and hardware out there. Love it or hate it, Windows is a known presence in the IT department.
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