A scenario where the Surface shined

My wife and I are in the process of planning a vacation.  Now I’ve used an iPad to do a lot of travel planning and booking, but always found it tedious.  Sure its simple enough to go in and book a hotel room or even a flight.  Or to read about a destination.  But really planning a trip was always much MUCH better on a PC.

Trip planning is very much a multi-tasking activity.  And while its data entry requirements are modest (compared to Office type activities) they require considerable precision.  Research a destination, check the driving time between destinations, figure out how long you want to stay, research the hotel, book the hotel, book activities, book flights, copy flight arrival information to your car reservation, enter frequent flyer information, repeatedly enter dates, credit card and other information, cut/paste information from place to place, make corrections to Worldmate or TripIt when they can’t extract information from confirmation emails you forward to it, etc.  All done in some amazingly choreographed dance.

Even without a keyboard the Surface is better than the iPad at these activities.  Being able to snap one app to the side for reference purposes while you are working in another app or browser tab is priceless.  And Surface does app switching, just swipe from the left, so much better than the iPad that it’s not funny.  But add the Touch Cover keyboard and now you have a night vs. day difference for this scenario.  Not only is app switching faster still (Alt-Tab, Ctrl-Tab, etc.) but all of those precision data entry tasks go from painful to easy.

Enter identity information incorrectly on an air reservation and you may be delayed, denied boarding, or (for those into worst case scenarios with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration) subject to a full body cavity search.  Have airplane tickets not match your passport and you may be denied entry into a country that requires you show a return ticket.  Get dates wrong on any reservation and you could be ruining your vacation.  It is hard to get this stuff right with your finger.  And on a complex trip the odds of you making a painful mistake seem to be in the 50/50 range.  With a keyboard and precision pointing device the odds are more like 98% in your favor that you’ll get it right.

We’re still working on vacation plans, but at this point about 70% of the effort has been done on my Surface, 5% on my wife’s iPad, and the rest on a large monitor PC.    Given the remaining tasks I expect the workload to shift a little further in favor of the Surface.  But the iPad?  It’s nice for reading about a destination, but that’s about where it stops being the best device for the task at hand.

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6 Responses to A scenario where the Surface shined

  1. You always bring in real practical insight. Great article about a real world scenario. Bloggers, journalists have a thing or two to learn from such articles.

  2. Jay says:

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now and I love this post. I’m not an apple hater and I realize that they capitalized on a great idea and I applaud them for it. While people like how easy apples are to use, people also want the software to allow them to break out of the mould which win8 allows them to do (as your article suggests). While I don’t have a surface I have installed Windows 8 on my Iconia W500 tablet. It’s so easy my 5 year old knows how to use it but if I need to do more complicated things, it can do that too.

  3. JimmyFal says:

    Whereas the Surface is filling a gap left by the OEM’s, Hal seems to be filling a gap left by most of the blogosphere. :)

  4. What’s the precision pointing device you’re talking about? “With a keyboard and precision pointing device”?

    I often use a keyboard with an iPad for these kind of tasks. I agree that it’s infuriating that they give you a command key on the keyboard but no command-tab switching – I do it out of habit much of the time.

    I use an Origami case to support the iPad with the keyboard. That makes it easy to flip between portrait or landscape when using the keyboard – portrait is often far better for filling in forms.

    With the swipe to reveal current apps, rather than double-tapping the home key, switching on the iPad isn’t as painful as many may remember.

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