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Microsoft's Surface brings old Mac-vs.-PC war home again

June 22, 2012|By Michelle Maltais
  • Microsoft's Surface tablet computers are displayed at a news conference at Milk Studios in Los Angeles.
Microsoft's Surface tablet computers are displayed at a news conference… (Jonathan Alcorn / Bloomberg )

I'm becoming more and more convinced that Microsoft's Surface might just be a home wrecker.

When Microsoft on Monday unveiled its long-rumored, arguably overdue entry to the tablet market, what really surfaced in my household was a battle that had been put to rest by the lack of true competition in tablet computing.

Call it what you will -- the war of the OS, platform pugilism or just good ol' Mac vs. PC -- now it's back under my roof. The gentle truce is threatened by that Office-running, keyboard- and trackpad-having little number dangling her wares -- hard and soft -- before my husband.

PHOTOS: The Microsoft Surface

At our side-by-side desks in our home office, we live in different worlds: My technophile hubby has long been an addict and aficionado of all things Windows, and I am a card-carrying, decade-plus convert to the first united church of Mac.

He constantly reboots and restores his PC to the recurring tune of good-natured (enough) mocking out of the corner of my mouth, as I overconfidently tool around on my MacBook, quietly cursing through the other side about it becoming ever more sluggish and its too-soon fading battery. 

For the most part, we accept each other with our differing platform persuasions, despite each of us believing wholeheartedly in our own preference.

But in terms of mobile, from smartphones to tablets, we are a single OS family: The iPad united us. We share apps, tips, wireless keyboards, the whole kit and kaboodle.

Now, the Surface threatens to shatter that, in a way no even slightly sexy Android tablet had before.

You can imagine my shock when the hubby said he was ready to drop some serious dough on the Surface, an as yet untested and unpriced device, particularly after we dropped some hardly-kidding cash just last year on the iPad 2.

He is soon to be in the market to replace his laptop computer, which is both giantic and rather geriatric at this point. And though he was waiting on Windows 8 to land before making a purchase, Surface got him thinking. He could upgrade his laptop and ditch his iPad for a single device. 

Here's his reasoning on why -- and why he wants to try to persuade me to do the same.

The Surface promises to do what Apple's iPad hasn't quite accomplished, he says: Actually replace the laptop.

Though for most of us Apple has provided a much more than adequate offering, Microsoft's tablet is to come fully loaded. That is, with full-sized USB, a micro SD slot for expansion, an integrated stand, built-in HDMI and a touch screen that also supports digital ink.

For the movie-viewing mobile masses, it's to come with 16:9 widescreen; and for the video chatters, it should have the now-standard front- and rear-facing cameras.

The two biggest selling points for him are that Surface is expected to offer true multi-tasking -- as in on the screen simultaneously -- and allow installs of full desktop programs, not just scaled-down mobile apps.

The cover, with its integrated multi-touch keyboard with trackpad, I must admit, is certainly enticing.

For my husband, being able to truly upload documents from the device and save them to it, not just inside an app, make Surface a deep-down contender -- a new class of viable and desirable device that is something between a tablet and an ultrabook and both simultaneously.

It's all more reasonable sounding than emotional, come to think of it. But that's if -- and that's a gorilla-sized "if" at the moment -- Microsoft can deliver what's promised.

Whether he can get me to walk away from my iPad and my MacBook (dream on) for a Surface, however, is a whole other matter. At this point, without anything akin to Final Cut Pro, I won't go. Even if I was seduced by the Windows Phone 7 interface on the Lumia 900.

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