Microsoft Surface Tablet: The Keyboard is the Key

I need keyboards with my computers.

There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that I am a writer by profession and by inclination. A large portion of my life has been, and will hopefully continue to be, the act of putting words on a page (whether that page be paper or virtual). For that purpose, a keyboard remains the best method.

And that's my second reason: I'm a touch typist. I learned how to type in high school, back in the days when they were still training girls to be seamstresses and secretaries (the boys were sent to auto mechanics and woodworking). My brain is wired for it. I type on a QWERTY keyboard as naturally as I walk.

I've tried other methods. For example, I have tried speech-to-text; most recently, with some of the functionality offered by my Android 4.0. However, while I'm pretty amazed by the accuracy of the technology, it still isn't perfect -- and not as fast.

As a result, until recently, I've never been attracted by the idea of a tablet. Oh, I know how great they are for a number of tasks like watching videos, gaming and surfing the Web. I have many friends with iPads and other tablets, and I've tried a few review units myself.

But I couldn't type on one. I've watched journalists at press events picking out words on the touchscreens of tablets, staring down as they made sure that their fingers connected with the correct keys. It would drive me bananas.

Yes, you say, but there are now great, lightweight keyboards that you can buy for your tablet. True -- in fact, we've run two articles on keyboards that you can get for your iPad or for Android tablets, and some of those got high praise from the reviewers. But they added weight, bulk and extra expense to the tablets, and I felt as if I would be simply turning a tablet into a notebook. Sure, I'd be able to detach the tablet when I wanted it for entertainment -- but I'd be carrying it around with the keyboard and the case, and it just seemed like too much trouble and expense simply to be able to join the tablet crowd.

Now, Microsoft has come out with its Surface tablet, which comes with a lightweight cover that is also a keyboard -- and one where you can feel the keys.

I've been in this business way too long to get enthusiastic about a product that hasn't yet been examined by journalists and other non-Microsoft testers. Especially when there is still so much information that we don't yet have. And I'm definitely not wed to the Microsoft OS -- while my personal laptop uses Windows 7, my work laptop is a MacBook Pro, and I carry a Samsung Galaxy Nexus loaded with Android 4.0.

But, as Matt Hamblen says in his hands-on article about the Surface, the keyboard covers that Microsoft introduced are the "secret sauce" that could make these tablets something to be considered -- both as entertainment devices and as lightweight systems on which somebody who writes can get some real work done.

I'll be very interested to see what the reviewers have to say once the tablets are available.

This story, "Microsoft Surface Tablet: The Keyboard is the Key" was originally published by Computerworld.

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At a Glance
  • Surface RT is packed with productivity potential, and finds a certain measure of success in reinventing the tablet form factor. But its hardware isn't perfect, and its Windows RT operating system lacks flexibility and app support.


    • Inspired industrial design; nifty kickstand and keyboard options
    • Fun, fluid, powerful touch gestures
    • Delivers legit Microsoft Office support--on a tablet, no less!


    • Display isn't world-class
    • Windows RT is the hobbled alternative to Windows 8
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