Tag Archives: microsoft

Surface Pro 4 Impressions


I’m a huge fan of the iPad. My iPad Air is my most used device, outside of my work laptop. I appreciate the tablet form factor in general, and have really only been disappointed by the iPads lack of ability to do some more of the general computing tasks I do.

I started getting interested in the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 earlier this year. It looked like an ideal compromise, but I refused to buy one because of the abomination that was Windows 8. By the time Windows 10 dropped, there were already rumblings of the Surface Pro 4, so I waited a bit longer. Finally, in the past couple weeks, we had two huge announcements: the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4.

Both looked like exciting devices. Both have screens about the size of a piece of letter-sized paper, which would be great for reading. But the Surface Pro 4 was especially interesting because it brings Windows 10 to the form factor. I use my Windows 10 desktop most the time at home over my aging MacBook Pro. It’s definitely a bit rough around the edges compared to OS X, but Microsoft is really churning on it and I’ve been very happy using it.

The Microsoft Store

While hitting the mall with my daughter this weekend, I dropped into the Microsoft Store and was surprised to see they had both the Surface Pro 4 tablet and a Surface Book to try. I stuck my daughter in front of an Xbox One with Forza, and proceeded to poke away at both them for a good 15 minutes. Since I couldn’t install anything on them, I used Google’s Octane 2 benchmark to get a comparison point for performance. Conveniently, the mall also has an Apple store, so I ran the same benchmark on a current MacBook Air and 13″ Retina MacBook Pro.

Surface Pro 4 Impressions

  1. The Surface Pro 4 is slightly heavier than the iPad Pro, but it is still a very manageable weight. I can see carrying it around easily or sitting on the sofa with it on my lap.
  2. Construction quality appears really good. The screen is bright. The kickstand is slick. And having a USB 3.0 and Mini Displayport connector makes hooking up to peripherals and an external monitor easy, which is something the iPad Pro can’t do.
  3. Precision of the pen is really good. It flows smoothly, and can do fine lines, including a signature, easily. It’s comfortable in the hand, and the “eraser” end feels natural. The only downside is it only attaches magnetically to the Surface Pro 4 on one side of the tablet, and in one direction. And you can’t just randomly attach it to the side. The pen needs to be turned to the correct side for the magnet to attach.
  4. Palm detection while using the stylus was a bit slow. Any time I put down my palm, it scrolled a little bit before it figured out what I wanted to do. Since this is software, I’m sure it is something Microsoft will churn on and get right.
  5. The keyboard smart cover is nice. I actually thought it was a bit too stiff, but the trackpad works well. I’m sure I could get used to the keys, though, and be productive with it. It attaches firmly and easily.
  6. The power connection isn’t up the the quality of Apple’s MagSafe connector. It doesn’t attach as firmly, and the cord comes off the connector to the side, not straight, so you have to put it in one way.
  7. Windows 10 felt snappy, and responded easily to touch.
  8. The Surface Pro 4 doesn’t have a cellular data option. I have this on the iPad, and would miss this on the Surface Pro, but it’s not a deal killer. It is a pretty big oversight on Microsoft’s part though. The always on, always ready internet is now.

Surface Book impressions

I played with the Surface Book too, but I actually preferred the Surface Pro 4. In tablet mode, it felt too large. The keyboard and trackpad felt really good, but it didn’t feel any more special than my MacBook Pro keyboard. In convertible mode (screen turned around, attached to base), it is too heavy for normal use. The mechanism for detaching the screen for tablet mode is slick, and worked well, but I suspect it’s going to be a point of failure.

The Surface Book has potential, but I found it too laptop-like. The Surface Pro 4 is an excellent tablet that can become a laptop replacement, while the Surface Book is a laptop that can become a tablet for a little bit.


Here’s the fun part — the Octane 2 scores:

System Score
Surface Pro 4, i5, 4GB, MS Edge 23,994
Surface Book, i5, 8GB, MS Edge 28,979
13″ MacBook Air, 1.6ghz i5, 4GB, Safari 21,036
13″ Retina MacBook Pro, 2.7ghz i5, 8GB, Safari 25,520
iPad Air, A7, Safari 7,153

The Surface Pro 4 sits closer to the Retina Macbook Pro than the Macbook Air. I suspect, once loaded up with the i7, it will be a direct competitor of Apple’s MacBook Pro and not the Macbook Air. I also added the iPad to try and infer what the iPad Pro will do. Even if the A9X is 2.5x faster than the A7, it still leaves it way behind even the base Surface Pro 4 with an i5 at essentially the same price point. The iPad Pro is going to be a tough sell going head to head with the Surface Pro 4.

The Surface Book is definitely a MacBook Pro killer. It’s going to put a lot of pressure on Apple for their next iteration of laptops.


The Surface Pro 4 is a big win, to the point I’ll be ordering one. It has all the media consumption capabilities of a large iPad, while also allowing me to click open the kickstand, slap a keyboard on, and do real work, all on the same device. I could see it becoming my primary computing device. With the pen, this is going to be an awesome tablet for editing photos. I can run real Photoshop, with my favorite plugins, and do high quality edits easily.

Microsoft has really knocked it out of the park with the Surface series, and the Surface Pro 4 in particular. As a Java developer, I’ve been pretty critical of Microsoft in the past. But Satya Nadella has really turned the company around. Microsoft is a technology company again, not just a bunch of sales people trying to suck every dollar possible out of windows and office sales to enterprises.

And great job to the Surface team for building such a truly stunning device. I look forward to seeing what else comes from you all in the future.

Dear New Microsoft CEO

Congratulations on assuming the reigns of one of the best know technology brands in the world. Once you get past your new-hire honeymoon, you have a lot work ahead. You see, Microsoft is dying. Not in the monetary sense, but from an innovation standpoint.

You could continue to license Office and Windows to large enterprises for another decade and make your shareholders happy. But Microsoft’s future viability isn’t about the Office/Windows cash cow, it is about successfully returning Microsoft to a company built on innovation and wonder. As your predecessor so gleefully proclaimed, it’s about developers, developers, developers! And you’re losing that battle.

I’m not a billion-dollar technology executive, unlike what you became the minute you signed your offer letter. But I’ve been in the technology trenches for a while, and the guys in the trenches have a lot better instinct for how the battle is going than the REMFs at the top.

Your challenge is that Microsoft has lost its street cred. When someone says “.NET Developer”, they’re thinking of a minimally-skilled, cube dweller writing Sharepoint widgets. And that’s a shame, because you should be a whole lot more.

I’ve been a Java developer since the JDK 1.1 days, but I’ve tracked the .NET scene since its inception. I used Visual J++, read the language specs for Cool, attended C# training on the Microsoft campus, and deployed more .NET code than I’m willing to admit for fear of being kicked out of my tribe.

You have a great thing in .NET and C#, and your pissing it all away.  I’ve written code in a lot of different languages, and I still think the C# language is about the most powerful, elegant and best-designed language available to developers today.  But you’re allowing your stubbornness and internal politics to kill it by relegating it to best-supporting-actor role for your boring server products rather than driving it as a thought leader for innovation.

How many startups or smart kids in dorm rooms would even give C# more than a passing thought while building the next Facebook? The answer is near zero. Go take a walk around a non-Microsoft technology conference and count laptops. Apple owns. Even those ugly Dells are probably running Linux and not Windows. At SenchaCon this year, I probably saw more Chromebooks than Windows laptops, which must really be rubbing salt in your wounds.

If you want to follow IBM down the path to irrelevance, more power to you. But I always looked at Microsoft as the hometown hero of the northwest, so I hope you aspire to do better.  Here’s a few suggestions to help you out of the gate and to find Microsoft’s mojo.

Step 1: Fire the ignorant fool responsible for stack ranking and fix your culture. You can’t be successful when your internal culture is the equivalent of corporate Hunger Games. Teams play to win. Microsoft is any army of individuals right now. You might be able to hire mercenaries with stack ranking, but you’ll never have cohesion across the company when everyone is in mortal combat with their cube-mates for their very job survival.

Step 2: Give a free Visual Studio Professional and Windows 7 Developer Edition (see below) license to any developer who registers to be a Microsoft developer. Every other ecosystem has world-class tools available for essentially free. You can still make money on your “Enterprise Editions” suckering Fortune 500 clients into paying enormous fees, but the grassroots developers you need to attract won’t pay for it. And Express edition is too gimp. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by getting your tools into the hands of as many people as possible.

Step 3: I use an Apple laptop probably 90% of the time for development, even when it is for tasks I could also do on Windows. The primary reason is the workflow is better. Easy virtual desktops, a full-power terminal, and a window manager that stays out of your face are the primary reasons. You should push out a version of Windows 7 tuned for developers (Windows 7 Developer Edition). Strip it of all the crap for making grandma’s life easier. Include as close as you can get to a real terminal/console (don’t get me started on the suck that is PowerShell). And it should scream when running Visual Studio. Get feedback from developers and churn on it. This is a version of Windows for developers, not Fred in accounting.

Step 4: Make Internet Explorer rock, or get out of the browser game. IE 10 is barely useable, and you all should be embarrassed to even admit authoring any of the prior versions. Everyone I know uses Chrome or Firefox. Swallow your pride and go learn what people want and like from these other browsers. Make Internet Explorer the most standards-compliant browser on the planet. You should own on HTML5 Test and Acid 3. Your JavaScript engine should blow up V8. And start churning! There should be an update to IE every two months, not every two years.

Step 5: Beat Apple at their own game. You picked the wrong battle to get into the hardware market with. An upside-down laptop isn’t revolutionary. Similar to #3, you should go build a developer-focused laptop. With all your R&D power, you should be able to come up with something than can trump a Retina Macbook Pro. Sell it direct to developers. Earn mindshare. Your stock vesting plan should correspond to the percentage of Microsoft laptops being used at conferences in three years. If you walk into OSCON or RailsConf and over 50% of the attendees are using your laptops, you’ve won.

Step 6: Become the new MySQL. SQL Server is a tremendous product. You have a database that is very easy to use, yet powerful and reliable. But once again, you’re caught up in the enterprise world trying to be Oracle instead of being yourselves. SQL Server Web edition should be filling the role you’ve been pushing SQL Server Express edition for. And it should be free. Yes, you’ll eat some short term revenue loss, but you’re in it for the long game. There should be no reason someone picks PostgreSQL or MySQL over SQL Server for a startup. And no, Bizspark doesn’t count.

I know all this sounds like a lot of developer whining, but the people who write code really are The New Kingmakers. Microsoft has a lot of cool stuff going for it, but it feels very fragmented. Microsoft is losing the battle for the hearts and minds of today’s developers, and pretty much screwed for the  future generation. You must change that. Microsoft can’t afford another lost decade.



I’m not sure why Microsoft is being so quiet about it, but they have apparently released the ASP.NET MVC 1.0 final. Kudos to Caleb for tipping me off via a random tweet.

I went fishing all over yesterday and didn’t find any big release announcements. I expected Scott Guthrie to have something on his blog, but nothing yet. The MSDN site finally had a release announcement this morning.

This is fantastic news for .NET web developers. This finally gives ASP.NET a production-ready web MVC framework distributed by Microsoft. This framework is the future of ASP.NET.

Fuzzy Grid

For a small break, I attended the Microsoft Developer Conference in Dallas today. One of the big draws of the conference was Windows Azure, Microsoft’s new cloud computing initiative. More than just a hosting environment, it provides various services too. The Microsoft vision is that users will maintain their information in the cloud and also make use of application in the cloud. I had gotten into the Azure beta, but have not deployed a service, so I was interest to learn more.

The keynote was mostly a pep talk around Azure. But rather than leaving me excited about it, I’m more apt to run away screaming.  My main grief is a total erosion of privacy. The showcase application they demo’d was a Blockbuster video cloud application written in Silverlight. You install the application into your “world”, Live Mesh. At install, the application pops up a security warning saying to install, you allow the application access to your online information, your contacts and your social network. It seems the way Microsoft is trying to draw businesses into using Azure is by enticing them with intimate access to their customer’s data.

I’m just not keen to the idea of me keeping all my personal information up in a cloud when I know that the host’s principal interest is in making that data available to its partners. Yes, I know I’m just trying to maintain an illusion of privacy. The data already available out there on me is probably staggering, but at least a business has to work to find it rather than me laying it down at their feets.

The other sessions were OK, except for the JQuery and ASP.NET presentation. The presenter was very nice, and I’m sure he’d be fun to have a beer with, but he was a JQuery and JavaScript noob, and I expected better content from a Microsoft-sponsored event.

As an example, here’s a little JavaScript trivia. The presenter wasn’t sure about this, and I’ll leave it to anyone interested to fire up Firebug and give it a try themselves.

Which alerts (if any) are shown when this snippet runs:

if("1" == 1) {
alert("First evaluation was true");
if("1" === 1) {
alert("Second evaluation was true");

2009 Predictions

Not to be outdone by the innumerable quantity of pundits out there making their own baseless predictions, I’m going to toss out my own for the coming year in the technology space:

  1. Sun Microsystems is toast. Their only real asset is Java, and it is worth more to a company like IBM or Oracle. If the frigid economic climate continues, Sun will be purchased by IBM.
  2. Windows 7 will rock. This prediction might get delayed until early 2010 given Microsoft’s track record, but I fully expect Windows 7 to put Microsoft firmly back in the drivers seat. It will make up for past sins and put Apple on the defensive.
  3. Google and Apple turn out to be evil after all. Pretty safe bet; both want to be what Microsoft was last year and will sell their souls to do it.
  4. Microsoft won’t be the evil empire any more. Now that Bill is gone and Ray Ozzie is setting the tone, you’ll see a lot more warmth and geek-friendliness out of Microsoft. Check out Microspotting if you want to catch a glimpse of the new Microsoft.
  5. Oracle will buy Spring Source. This is about the only jewel they’re missing and would be a better investment than BEA was. Unfortunately, it will kill all the enthusiasm around the Spring Framework, thus killing one of the few exciting things left in the Java space.
  6. (Wildcard) Microsoft buys ExtJS. Apple picked SproutCore, so Microsoft needs a good RIA JavaScript library. They’ve put their backing behind JQuery, which is awesome, but it is not in the same league as ExtJS. They could buy ExtJS for a pittance and have one of the best AJAX widget libraries on the market overnight. ExtJS and ASP.NET MVC will be the winning combo.