All three of Southern Man's regular readers may recall that back in June The Dean presented Southern Man with a shiny new Microsoft Surface Pro running Windows 8 RT and he has bee playing with it ever since. So he will break his review into three chunks: the hardware itself, the Windows 8 Metro interface, and Windows 8 proper, with comparisons to Southern Man's now three-year-old first-generation iPad.
Disclosure: Southern Man wrote his first program in BASIC using a teletype on a PDP-8 (Girl Programmer is chortling as she reads this). He owned the second TRS-80 sold in Southern City (his district manager got number one) and has owned dozens of desktops since. He's been using computers (and their operating systems) both personally and professionally for forty years. An odd gap in his experience is Apple; he ran the aforementioned TRS-80 against his friends Apple ][ and had an Amiga 1000 during the Macintosh Classic era.
Two computers that Southern Man loved: the TRS-80 Model III (eight times the RAM of the Model I and dual double-sided 5.25" floppy drives!) and the Amiga 1000 - full color and multitasking against the monochrome single-tasking Mac Classic. He has yet to see implementations of Gauntlet or Marble Madness that can touch the ones on the Amiga. There's also a warm place in his heart for his first 486DX PC, which he upgraded to a whopping 8 MB for Windows 95 and endless hours of TIE Fighter and Quake.
Although he's purchased many an iThing for the Southern Children the iPad is his very first Apple product of any sort; he's no Apple fanboy (in particular regarding iTunes as the work of iSatan himself) but thinks the iPad is sweet indeed. Nor is he particularly keen on the Microsoft operating systems, but that's what he (mostly) uses.
Now for the hardware. The Surface Pro is beautiful. It has the best small keyboard that Southern Man has ever used. The screen is crisp and clear. Southern Man has not yet begun to tap the potential of the touch-sensitive stylus. Everything clicks together with strong magnets. And, unlike the iPad, it has a USB port, which makes it actually useful as a computer. Coupled with a leather case Southern Man picked up on Amazon it is neatly portable and turns heads wherever he goes with it.
That was the good news. Now for the bad.
The Windows 8 Metro interface is essentially unuseable. It is the least intuitive operating system Southern Man has ever seen. The only way he was able to get it to do anything at all was to sit in his office with a regular PC and Google for help. Even such a simple act as closing a program required a 'net search to figure out how to actually do it. The "tiles" are fixed size (and different sizes to boot, depending on the whim of the developer) and there is no indication as to what words or symbols respond to touch or mouse and what does not. And there is no provision to organize programs in folders - they all just lay flat on a single...surface. Heh.
The standard Windows 8 interface isn't much better. There's no start button, pre-installed applications don't show up in the Programs list, items in the Desktop folder don't appear on the desktop... so again Southern Man had to resort to Google just to figure out how to launch basic applications or locate the Control Panel. Worse, the mouse touchpad doesn't act like a mouse because it must also respond to "gestures" on the Metro side. On the plus side, it runs Office and web browsers are far more stable on the Surface than on the iPad. Also, Flash.
But Southern Man's final verdict is that Microsoft has done the impossible; they've coughed up a version of Windows that's worse than Vista.
For another opinion, here's a video review.
Southern Man's cell phone died over the summer and he'd been thinking about a Windows phone to replace the often-frustrating Android phone. Nope - having already met Metro he just got another 'droid. He's also laptop shopping and for the first time in his life is seriously considering a Mac. That's how horribly bad Metro and Windows 8 are - bad enough to drive a long-time (as in since MS-DOS 1.0) user into the other camp. If you're considering a device with Windows 8 Southern Man prays that you'll borrow one for a month and find out for yourself if it's really right for you. In the meantime, anyone know of a touch-screen laptop with Windows 7?