Let me begin by saying that I love my iPad. I love all the magical things that it does. It is truly a wonderful media consumption device. However, from the beginning, I have not been satisfied with just those things that the iPad does well – I want more. Frankly, I want the functionality of a laptop in the iPad package. By cobbling together a collection of applications, I have essentially managed to achieve this objective, however, to do so I have spent hundreds of hours and dollars experimenting with applications and hardware – precious hours I will never get back. Oh sure, it’s been fun teaching my fellow lawyers how to make this magical device function in their legal practice. However, most lawyers will never spend the time that it takes to master the iPad for efficient legal work – nor should they.
The naked truth is that the iPad is a forced fit for most lawyer work and it has serious limitations, e.g., it’s word processing capabilities are quite rudimentary – – lacking in functions that lawyers demand such as the ability to create redline comparisons, track changes, view multiple documents at the same time, sophisticated editing capabilities, etc. In addition, the inability to access external storage or import files via USB is a significant drawback. The general inability of iPad applications to communicate with one another also limits its functionality. Perhaps most significantly, the iPad does not play well with the PC-based infrastructure at most law firms
Finally, there has appeared on the horizon a tablet computer that most lawyers will be able to just pick up and use with minimal new training required– this of course is the Microsoft Surface that was unveiled on June 19, 2012. The Surface an elegant tablet with a 10.6 inch display. The Surface will come in two operating system versions, one running Windows RT on the ARM platform used by most iPad competitor tablets today. In serious contrast, the “Pro” version runs Windows 8 (Pro), on an Intel processor. Both versions come with a paper thin external keyboard built into the cover. Both versions also sport front and rear cameras and stereo speakers.
The Windows RT version will run the full mobile version of Windows. Apps will be purchased from the Microsoft Apps store. The RT version of the Surface will come in 32 GB and 64 GB models. This version will be powered by a NAVIDIA ARM processor. The RT surface comes equipped with a microSD slot and a USB 2.0 port. The RT is expected to be marketed at the iPad price points ($599-699). It is not the RT version, however, that I’m excited about.
The higher-priced version of the Surface, will run Windows 8 (Pro), and will utilize an Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge processor. The beauty of this version is that not only will it run Windows 8 Metro apps, it will also be compatible with legacy Microsoft apps, although how well they will function in a touch-screen environment remains to be seen. As for connectivity, the Pro supports microSDXC and USB 3.0. It also has a mini display port video output. The Pro will be available in 64GB in 120GB models. It is expected to be priced competitively with ultra notebooks (Est. $999-$1500).
So if it is not obvious already, the Microsoft surface Pro should be a much better fit for lawyers than the iPad. First, it will utilize a Windows based system that most lawyers are thoroughly familiar with, although the Metro touch screen interface for Windows may take a couple of hours to master. This means that MS Word, the entire MS Office suite, and most PC based software applications will work on the Pro. The Pro will also be compatible with existing systems and infrastructure at most law firms. In other words, the Surface Pro is basically a full capability PC laptop in tablet form. The Surface RT is expected to go on sale in the Fall of 2013, with the Pro being available three months later.
I will be at the head of the line for a Surface Pro 128GB model and you can rest assured I will write about it here. BTW – I do still love my iPad.