McDonald's IT service manager Doug Baker has told Computing that Microsoft's Surface tablet looks like "a very viable device" that could "bridge the gap" left by the iPad between simple data consumption and data generation on the move.
"Surface could really bridge the gap between those that consume data on the move and those that create, enabling reading, management and creation of documents, particularly Office documents on the fly," Baker told Computing.
"The current challenge it offers to iPad is native Office support, and this has the potential to bridge that gap," said Baker.
Baker is already spearheading trials of Windows-driven tablets at the fast food chain, and believes that Surface's more developed features could "really add to that mix, enabling more choice".
He said that "the Metro interface works very well on a tablet and gives a real consumer feel", and feels that the "full" Windows 8, rather than the RT consumer-focused version, could "really supply an in-the-field device enabling full access".
Baker added that the combination of the Surface's keyboard case and tablet element looks to "provide the best compromise" between the tablet and laptop formats.
Chief strategy officer of enterprise mobility firm Verivo, Todd Christy, is equally positive about the tablet's potential.
"Microsoft has finally acknowledged the fundamental differences between tablet and desktop computing, and is attempting to bridge both markets via a common OS, apps and developer tools," Christy told Computing.
"We expect Windows tablets to succeed in the enterprise, creating choice for professionals in a growing BYOD market."
Christy said that iPads are already "widely adopted at all levels within [Verivo]" as business tools, with "similar patterns of broad iPad and limited Android tablet adoption among the vast majority" of Verivo's enterprise customers.
However, Christy believes, like Baker, that Surface should prove an aggressively disruptive influence on business customers already using tablets.
"There is no doubt that thriving consumer demand for devices is driving cross-over into a business context," Christy said.
"We expect Microsoft will attack both fronts," he said, "promoting consumer uptake for Windows tablets through the strength of its Xbox community and cloud services, and building corporate demand via the promise of consistent desktop and tablet experience, common management, and its daunting global distribution force.
"IT must prepare for an explosive increase in both tablet and smartphone app demand across an increasingly complex device landscape," added Christy.
It's Microsoft's dominance of the business software market via Office that director of managed and support services at IT consultancy Northdoor, John Milward, believes will be key to Surface's success.
"The Surface promises to be a very popular device for the vast majority of businesses," said Milward.
"With Microsoft reportedly having a 94 per cent market share in business software because of its Office suite, this increases the tablet's attractiveness for enterprise as greater integration with existing IT will be easier to address."
It's this hardware and software convergence, said Milward, that is the key driver behind the "BYOD phenomenon", an area where he believes Surface's unique feature set could help it capitalise over iPad and other existing tablets.
Software engineering lecturer at Hull Universiry, and Microsoft Most Valuable Proffesional, Rob Miles is another who feels that Surface could be a "gap bridger".
"The man from Apple reckons that merging devices doesn't work," Miles told Computing .
"He sees a combination of toaster and fridge as a bad idea. I reckon the Surface is a 'fridge freezer', a rather sensible and desirable device. I also think that for the last couple of years Microsoft has been bending its services in the background to get to the point where it can tie everything together like this, with Surface, Phone and Smart Glass all hanging off the cloud. It will be interesting to see what Windows Phone 8 brings later today."
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