Blog Post

Touting Surface 2, Microsoft ironically makes a business case for Chromebooks

Check the latest blog post from Microsoft’s Surface Team and you’ll see a compelling case for using the Surface 2(s msft) in the enterprise. The company suggests Surface 2 is the most productive tablet for business, in fact. And I can understand why: The device is relatively locked down, works with the Microsoft Office productivity suite and supports USB 3.0 peripherals. With the Windows 8.1 RT software update, Microsoft’s(s msft) case is even stronger thanks to three highlighted features.

Ironically, they’re all features available on Google(s goog) Chromebooks and Chromeboxes as well.

Surface 2 Windows

The Surface team pointed out these three features as the “top three” that make Surface 2 ready for the enterprise:

  1. Remote Application Access. Surface 2 can remotely connect to another Windows computer so that users can access and use legacy Windows apps. These won’t run on Surface 2 natively because they’re built for x86 chips, not the ARM(s armh) processors used for Surface 2. I agree with Microsoft: Since you can’t run older Windows apps on the device, this is a great feature for businesses.
  2. Data Access using work folders. Companies that deployed Windows Server 2012 R2 can create folders and workspaces that can be shared among Windows and Windows RT devices. And I.T. shops can centrally manage the storage.
  3. Enhanced Manageability. The I.T. department also needs to manage devices and thanks to the Mobile Device Management (MDM) features supported by Windows RT 8.1, they can do so. MDM supports hardware and software inventory, device configuration, remote data wipes and more.

It turns out that Chrome OS supports the same features, often exactly replicating what the Surface 2 can do.

Toshiba Chromebook

And it can do that for much less, with Chromebooks starting at $199 and LTE models costing just a bit more; Microsoft announced Surface 2 with LTE for $679 earlier this month.

  1. Chrome OS has long had a Chrome Remote Desktop extension that supports access to a Windows or Mac computer. The remote environment runs securely in the browser and works as if you were sitting in front of the remote computer. And there’s another option available: Last month, VMWare announced hosted desktops for Chromebook access, so you don’t even need another dedicated Windows machine for Windows apps on a Chromebook.
  2. Microsoft’s shared workspaces can easily be replicated with Chromebooks and Google Drive storage. Granted this is a cloud approach vs. an in-house server storage model and not every enterprise can or will embrace it. But there’s little here that’s unique to Windows or Surface 2 as compared to a Chrome OS device.
  3. Just like Microsoft does, Google offers a Chrome Management Console to I.T. shops that support Chrome OS. That’s what schools are using to deploy Chromebooks in the classroom because the feature set and control is robust enough to do the job: Inventory management, device configuration, app install blocking, user access, group profiles and more are included.

Obviously, a key difference between Surface 2 and all of the available Chrome OS devices is the form factor: The former is a tablet while the latter group isn’t. I think it’s a very reasonable assumption, however, that any business considering a Surface 2 deployment will include the Microsoft keyboard covers. After all, these folks are going to do “real work” as the kids say these day, and they’ll want a keyboard. Microsoft’s Touch and Type Covers are excellent; among my favorite, in fact.

My point here isn’t to suggest that every business go out and adopt Chromebooks. That would be ridiculous. Each organization, or individual, for that matter, should asses their needs and use the best tool for the task. I don’t really care if that’s a Surface 2 or a Chromebook; I have no stake in either company, nor any other that I write about. If you need Office and can’t remotely access it or must have Windows apps, Surface 2 is a super choice.

Instead, the point is to illustrate that for all of its rhetoric — think back to the semi-misleading Scroogled ad campaign — Microsoft offers and even promotes a compelling business device whose hand-picked best features are found on Chromebooks costing less.

24 Responses to “Touting Surface 2, Microsoft ironically makes a business case for Chromebooks”

  1. I want to try a chromebook last week, I go to a local electronic shop, power on the one they have in the showroom, then they require google account to log in…. mmmm as I’m in process to reduce my google footprint decline to create one. I will not give my data to the private NSA to get tracked.

    But comparing the surface 2 with cromebooks, is like to compare a toyota prius with a golf cart, yes both carry people have wheels and are electric but you cannot make a living on a golf cart. Same with chromebooks, the lack of apps and limitations in touch support make the chromebooks good only for people with limited computer requirements, probably a mom and pop store in main street can handle their business, but multi billion companies need to rely in more complete and powerfull platform.

  2. What is “Microsoft Office productivity suite”? Productivity is not measured by how fast you can something initially done. That ignores TCO and ROI. I can become very “unproductive” trying solve the problems people have caused themselves and others by using using “Microsoft Office productivity suite”.

  3. WP7Mango

    Does a Chromebook support multi-monitors? I’m not talking about mirroring – I’m talking about extending the desktop over two monitors. For example, the Surface 2 can connect to an external monitor which instantly gives you a two-monitor setup – one monitor is the Surface screen and the second monitor is the external one. You can interact with the two screens independently, which makes it extremely productive.

  4. Digeratti

    ” I don’t really care if that’s a Surface 2 or a Chromebook; I have no stake in either company, nor any other that I write about.”

    I’ll believe this when I see a Windows RT Show right there next to your Chrome Show ;-)

      • Digeratti

        Haha! granted – although having a preference for one over the other implies that it does matter to you which one succeeds or fails. Its similar to the drama we see between Mac and Windows users. Neither of them want to see their platform of choice fail and one way to ensure it doesn’t is to eliminate any and all threats.

        This applies to Android and iOS, Linux and Windows.. its everywhere. I’d argue though that most tech writers are in the Apple or Google camp — that’s a big challenge for Microsoft.

    • This isn’t a problem for business. It is not normal practice in a business to walk to the printer and plug in your laptop via a USB cable in order to print. Printing is normally done in a business via a print server connected to the LAN or WiFi. All you need to do is to install the Google cloud print service on your office server and buy a cheap HP ePrint or Google cloud print enabled printer at home, and any Chromebook or computer with Chrome browser installed will be able to print to anywhere in the world for example on a train by cell net or a plane with WiFi to any office printer or your home printer. That is a quantum jump in capability and convenience.

      With regard to reliability of business or home broadband connections, these are usually as good or better than the reliability of mains electricity, so it shouldn’t be any less reliable than printing from Windows clients.

  5. Chrome can do remote access of Windows apps as well, but remote access is inferior to genuine HTML5 web apps because they consume greater bandwidth, so for client-server computing ChromeOS is far superior.

    • Adam Z Lein

      HTML5 apps are inferior to genuine Windows RT apps because they consume greater bandwidth, so for client-server computing Windows RT is far superior. :)

      • dereck-the-seal

        thats a load of hooey.
        HTML5 gives the option to cache a lot of the data locally. So apps like google office, google mail, etc can all work offline.

        Anyway bandwidth is cheap, physical memory is expensive. Thats why the surface is so expensive, it needs more memory to run the outdated Microsoft kernel , and the actual OS will take up most of the room on the internal disk. Thats why HTML5 is far better for client side computing.

      • I can’t tell whether you are posting from ignorance or trolling, but here goes:- Windows RT apps are local apps, so they are not client server apps. Local apps run locally on the client, so they are client apps, not client server apps. They do not consume bandwidth if they are run locally and not uploaded or downloaded from the cloud, but they do consume bandwidth when the file is downloaded, uploaded and every time the file is saved.

        There are also hardly few useful local apps around apart from MS Office. This is why Microsoft is pushing remote access top run Windows apps from RT tablets as they are pretty useless otherwise.

        Chromebooks can do remote access to run Windows apps as well, but remote access consumes a lot of bandwidth, but on top of that they can run HTML apps running on the server which consume a minuscule amount of bandwidth compared to either remote access or downloading, editing locally and uploading again. This is because HTML web apps do nor transfer files from the server, only the changes and what is required for display (text) is transferred. This allows Google Docs for example to transparently back up changes to the files you are working on to the cloud every 3 seconds, using an incredibly small data consumption – something that is not possible with Windows or RT applications, which have to transfer the whole file.

        Chromebooks also run local apps (local HTML apps and Portable Native Client Apps), so they can match Windows for disconnected operations as well, but they work better than Windows on a flaky internet connection, because they can work locally, and transparently sync with the cloud when the Internet connection is restored.