Has Microsoft legitimized tablets with keyboards with the Surface?

Summary:Tablets with keyboards are nothing new. There have been keyboards for iPads and Android tablets for quite some time but not used by many. It's possible the Surface tells consumers that all tablets are OK for productivity with keyboard attached.

Tablets with keyboards 600
iPad, ThinkPad Tablet 2, iPad mini

I have written about using various tablets with keyboards for both content creation and consumption for years. That writing has often generated a reaction that this is not really a solution for productive use. That was largely due to the tablets, either iPads or Android tablets. Then Microsoft introduced the Surface tablet with (optional) keyboard. People on the street are now rethinking how productive a tablet, any tablet, can be when coupled with a good keyboard.

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I have seen iPads with keyboards in public for a long time, although not in great numbers. Lately I've seen an increase in the number of folks I see in public venues happily using an iPad with some keyboard case or another.

I've even started seeing a few Android tablets with keyboards being used in public. This is something I would rarely see until recently. Now it's not that unusual to see at least one Android tablet a day somewhere, and some days several of them being used.

While certainly no scientific measurement of usage it must indicate something is changing. These are regular folks I see, not special interest groups. They are businessmen and women working in public venues with their tablet and keyboard. They are college students who have stopped lugging a heavy laptop around and now work on a tablet with a keyboard.

See also: Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 first look | ThinkPad Tablet 2 review

In the short time I have been testing the ThinkPad Tablet 2 I have been using it in various public venues. It has started conversations with some of these folks who are curious about the tablet as it's not something they've seen.

When they hear it's running Windows 8 they often respond with "oh, like the Surface". Microsoft has done a good job of raising public awareness about its first PC. 

I always end up asking these iPad and Android tablet users if they are thinking about switching to either a Surface or other Windows 8 tablet such as the ThinkPad I am using. I have more than once gotten a response to this effect: "oh no, I'm happy with my iPad/Nexus/Galaxy Tab. But I never thought I would find a keyboard useful with it until I saw that Surface on TV. I figured if it was good enough for Windows, it should be good enough for my tablet".

Again, this is no scientific survey but I've heard a similar response to this five or six times in the last two weeks. It's important not to read too much into it but I do find it eye-opening. At least some people on the street are getting keyboards for their exisiting tablets because the Surface ads show them it's useful. Then they discover the same applies to their own tablet, be it an iPad or Android slate.

Microsoft must be happy that consumers' eyes are getting opened by the Surface. I'm not sure it's always what they were hoping for, though.

Topics: Tablets, Android, iPad, Windows 8

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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