Posey's Tips & Tricks
My Wish List for the Next Surface Pro Device
While the next version of Microsoft's flagship laptop will come packed with updated hardware, it's missing the innovation.
It is not exactly a secret that I am addicted to my Surface Pro device. I use it for everything from writing articles while I am on the go, to watching videos while I exercise. I have even taken a Surface Pro device on a zero-gravity flight in the vomit comet.
Recently, Microsoft announced its forthcoming Surface Pro 5 device. By all accounts, Surface Pro 5 will be a relatively minor upgrade over Surface Pro 4, at least in terms of innovation. The Surface Pro 5 will come in multiple hardware configurations, and the top end device will be equipped with an Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, and a 10 point multi-touch display with a resolution of 2736 x 1872.
I have to admit that I am impressed with the hardware specs, especially with regard to the device's storage capacity. Being that Microsoft seems to be pushing its customers to save all of their stuff in the cloud, I am legitimately and pleasantly surprised by the amount of storage that you will be able to get in the device.
As great as the Surface Pro 5's hardware specs seem to be, Microsoft does not seem to be doing anything particularly innovative with the device. Granted, I have not yet had a chance to try out a Surface Pro 5 for myself, but based on everything that I have read about the device, it seems like a Surface Pro 4 with upgraded hardware. It's always possible that the Surface Pro 5 could contain some kind of new and amazing feature that has yet to be announced, but all signs point to Microsoft's efforts being focused on providing better hardware. That being the case, I thought that it might be fun to create a wish list of features that I would like to eventually see in the Surface Pro 6.
First and foremost, I would like to have more display real estate. When I work from my Surface Pro device, the screen size is almost always the factor that limits what I am able to do. Of course the Surface Pro is designed with portability in mind, and there has to be a tradeoff between portability and display size.
So here is what I am thinking -- current Surface Pro devices can be equipped with a keyboard cover. What if, instead of a keyboard cover, Microsoft created a monitor cover? Picture a device that opens like a book, with the book's "pages" being display panels. The end result would be a multi-monitor tablet. Furthermore, if Microsoft were to adopt the same approach that they use with their keyboard cover, then the second monitor could be removed any time that the user wants to reduce the device's weight or battery consumption.
So what about the keyboard? If the device's keyboard cover were replaced by a second monitor, then the current keyboard cover approach probably wouldn't work. One option might be to attach a super thin and lightweight keyboard to the outside of the device using magnets. The keyboard could communicate with the tablet using a Bluetooth link. The advantage to using this approach is that if a user is working at home, then they could opt to use a more full-featured Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, as opposed to the portable one.
There are a couple of other things that I would also like to see in the next generation of Surface Pro devices. First, I would like to see much better support for the Surface Dial. The surface Dial is primarily designed to work with Surface Studio -- I get it. Even if placing the Surface Dial on a tablet's screen isn't practical, however, Microsoft could conceivably provide full Surface Dial support through software, enabling the user to do almost everything that they can do on Surface Studio, but without having to place the Surface Dial on the device's screen.
In case you are wondering, I have a Surface Dial collecting dust on my desk. I think that the Dial is a great idea, but software support for the Surface Dial is currently so limited that the device doesn't really do anything for me that I can't just as easily do with a mouse. Improved software could really release the Surface Dial's potential.
One more thing on my wish list is better support for the Surface Pen. Microsoft has done a lot of great work around this in the last couple of years, and the Surface Pen is far more usable today than it was a year or two ago. Even so, there is still room for improvement. Ideally, I would like to be able to use the Surface Pen with any app without having to stop and think about whether doing so is supported, and without having to go through menus to turn the pen on or off. The Surface Pen should act as a natural interface that can be used on a whim, without having to do anything special.
Brien Posey is a 20-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.