Australian CIOs sold on Microsoft's Surface tablet

Australian CIOs sold on Microsoft's Surface tablet

Summary: Australian CIOs are betting on Microsoft's Surface tablet.


Australian chief information officers (CIOs) have been impressed with Microsoft's answer to the iPad — the Microsoft Surface — which was announced last month.

Two tablet variants have been announced; one running Windows RT on an Nvidia ARM processor, and the other running Windows 8 Pro on an Intel Core i5 system. Both devices have a 10.6-inch display employing Corning Gorilla Glass 2.

Because Microsoft is so late to the market with its tablet — the iPad was launched in 2010 — it has been stated that the Surface's only chance of success is in the business market, which will be lured by the desktop-like experience of Windows 8.

The kickstand and keyboard included in the case (either a slimmer, multi-touch keyboard or a fatter, mechanical keyboard) are also meant to turn the device into a business workhorse.

We asked the members of the ZDNet Australia CIO jury what they think of the Surface.

The question asked was:

Will Microsoft's Surface tablet provide a real alternative to the Apple iPad?

Of the first 12 CIOs who answered, eight said yes and four said no, although two CIOs voted both yes and no (we awarded half a point for each side in these cases).

(Credit: CBSi)

David O'Hagan, CIO, Queensland Department of Education and Training corporate services division, is convinced by the Surface's USB port, expandable storage and direct access to the file system — all features that the iPad lacks.

BUPA Aged Care CIO Paul Berryman pointed to fact that the tablet should work better with existing enterprise systems than the iPad, saying that Apple hasn't yet provided adequate enterprise management features.

Rondo Building Services group manager of IT services Andrew Paton agrees that features like the USB port are a must for Microsoft's tablet to come out on top, and that its integration with other Microsoft products might help the device win the day.

"Coming from a Microsoft-based environment, it will certainly have to be considered as a potential laptop replacement for the likes of sales representatives in the field," he said.

Sydney Opera House head of information systems Daniel Johnson is also a fan because Windows 8 would make it easy to connect to corporate networks. However, he did have a caveat: "It will be dependent on performance and ease of use of the tablet to win over iPad users," he said.

David Beveridge, who acts as CIO for a number of small firms, said that enterprise would be the Surface's heartland. Consumers won't take to the device, he added, however (making him one of the CIOs who gave both a yes and no response).

Royce Michael Lee, BVN Architecture IT director, is also of two minds. He is impressed with Microsoft for coming up with fresh ideas of its own: the user interface and hardware design in particular. He hopes that Microsoft might become a successful competitor, because a strong Apple rival would stimulate competition and accelerate innovation.

He is not sure, however, of whether the Surface will succeed, because Apple has a better user-experience track record — something very important for tablets and smartphones.

"Also, Apple has been able to use its head start to focus on optimising supply chain, manufacture and distribution processes, giving it a massive advantage over new market entrants," he said. "And, while I'm enthusiastic about Surface, I just keep thinking about the Zune."

Hume Rural Health Alliance IT manager Chris Reeve believes that the cost will be the biggest factor in whether the Surface "could really be an iPad killer". (Microsoft has not yet provided information on cost and availability.)

Quick Service Restaurant Holdings group manager of information systems Peter Smith, on the other hand, doesn't even think that a competitive price would save the tablet. He thinks that Microsoft has missed the boat.

"I am not sure [Microsoft] can make up the lost ground to IOS or Android devices. It is not really apparent whether Microsoft is trying to position the product as a tablet or an ultra-light laptop. Reviews in the intuitiveness of the interface are not particularly positive, so it sounds like Microsoft still has some work to do," he said.

Despite Smith's scepticism, though, it's clear that the Australian IT industry is excited about the possibilities of the Microsoft Surface. If enterprise IT shops are looking forward to a device that works seamlessly with their systems, all Microsoft has to do now is deliver that device at a reasonable price, and watch the money roll in.

Thank you to all of our ZDNet Australia jury participants. This question's CIO jury comprised:

  • Paul Berryman — CIO, BUPA Aged Care

  • David Beveridge — acting CIO of multiple SMBs

  • Craig Columbus — CIO, Russell McVeagh

  • Fiona Floyd — CIO, Suncorp Life

  • David Houslip — CIO, Cancer Council Queensland

  • Daniel Johnson — head of information systems, Sydney Opera House

  • Royce Michael Lee — IT director, BVN Architecture

  • Brendan McHugh — former CIO, Rebel Group

  • David O'Hagan — CIO, Queensland Department of Education and Training corporate services division

  • Andrew Paton — group manager of IT services Rondo Building Services

  • Chris Reeve — operations manager, Hume Rural Health Alliance

  • Peter Smith group manager information systems, Quick Service Restaurant Holdings

This question has been asked in other regions, with the result being that not only Australian CIOs are sold on the tablet. UK, US and Asian juries were also convinced that the Surface would be a real competitor to the iPad.

If you would like to be part of our CIO jury, contact us at More details can also be found here.

Topics: CXO, Apple, iPad, Microsoft, Tablets

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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  • 12 CIOs and only 1 brings up the lack of a price?

    Hhmmm, I'm not sure these people operate in the real world. It would be interesting to go back to the jury in 12 months to see how many have implemented Surface, and in what quantities.
    • Some surveyed are not large tech organisations

      The CIOs surveyed would not seem to represent the large tech based businesses in Australia; not by any stretch. Looking at the names of some of the groups, I suspect that some are not even "large" organisations. let alone technologically large. The Sydney Opera House, as one example, employees some 730 staff, of which about 306 are permanent and the remainder casual. A large proportion would be maintenance staff, set builders and the like. The number of "office" staff requiring access to tech would be seemingly quite small. Similarly, the QLD CCA has only 250 staff in total.
  • Price is king

    If business has been so reluctant to upgrade from XP this long due to the costs, then yes, price is king for the success of Surface and Windows 8 in general. Microsoft is smart for making upgrades to Windows 8 only $40, and they'd be even wiser to do that globally and permanently for all to quickly embrace of all of it. They'd be even wiser to make the Surface Pro priced insanely cheap to undercut Ipads and make it the dominant item on everyone's holiday wish lists.
    D.J. 43
    • By referring to the iPad, you defeat your own argument

      that price is King. If Apple products have shown nothing else, they prove that people will pay a decent price for good products. If the Surface is a good product, then people will buy it and they will be prepared to pay a reasonable price. Not everything has to be 'cheap' to entice people to pay. You need only look at the exhorbitant cost of Windows 7 retail licences over time. In Australia, Windows 7 HP is still $300 in retail stores and Office for business can be over $800. Yes, I know you can buy these cheaper on the 'Net, but that is not the point. Clearly, people are buying these products at these prices or those would not be in retail stores!

      However, let us not forget than no-one outside MS has even had the chance to play with a Surface yet - it has been strictly "hands-off". There are many writers, including on ZDNet, telling us about how wonderful is the Surface and yet not one of them has used it!
      • Price insignificant

        For enterprises, the purchase price is somewhat irrelevant. People want tablets, and currently tablets are a nightmare to manage. The cost in supporting iPads would far outweigh their intial purchase price. IF these devices provide a similar management toolset compatibility, then they are almost a no-brainer for any Microsoft shop.
        • Hope you are right

          I hope you're right, believe me - you're preaching to the choir on how it SHOULD be a no-brainer, American business, well, point I was making is they're historically not as eager to embrace change as the rest of us. There's nobody who'd love to use a Surface at work more than myself, assuming the hardware is solid.
          D.J. 43
      • Perhaps the $40 upgrade to Win 8

        would reassure you. It's also a little like comparing apples and swiss army knives. Apple has proved that people will pay money for expensive toys, that with some time, software, money, 3rd party hardware and effort can be of some use. Surface devices are tools straight out of the box and can be used as toys as well. I am more than happy to pay the same people would pay to Apple to get a real computer.
        • For goodness sakes, get some perspective!

          "Surface devices are tools straight out of the box" Really? How do you know this given that no-one outside of MS has even touched a Surface?

          There is next to no functional difference between a Surface and an iPad. For the past few years, I've read numerous comments by MS fanbois, like you, about how the iPad is a toy, how it is for consumption only, how it cannot be used for real work. Now, MS is soon to release a competing product and all of a sudden tablets are different. The Surface and the iPad are both (roughly) 10" touch-screen tablets. The Surface comes with an external keyboard and if desired a user can buy one for an iPad. There is no real difference between the two products except for the OS. Both are good products that suit different people with different needs. Grow-up before you post any more of your stupid comments! I can only guess as to what McS stands-for, but I suspect McSTUPID!
          • Tools straight out of the box...

            You have not touched any Surface tablets yet you claim there is no real difference between iPads and Surfaces. Where did you get your advance knowledge from? Visions from your dreams? I dont like it when stupid people call other people stupid.
          • No Difference???

            I wouldn't at all say there is no difference between the iPad and Surface. I'll probably buy the Surface Pro the moment it comes out. The main reason I'd buy a Surface over iPad is I can do some much more.

            I'm continuously using Adobe Flash, and Im just a Year 10 student. The Surface Pro appears to support normal programs, and you'd hope so with an i5 processor. I can't wait to be able to have to portability of a tablet and the functionality of a laptop. The iPad doesn't even support Flash, let alone full scale programs. I also love how much more free the Surface will be. With a programs directory, the first thing I'll be doing is creating all my own tiles and implementing them to make it my very own. These two things are huge differences between the Surface Pro and the iPad.

            I don't really have any opinion of the Windows RT. It provides similar functionality to the iPad, but does support some features the iPad lacks (USB ports, customizabillity and an awesome keyboard - all the iPad keyboards I've found are clunky, terrible and a rip off.

            I made an account just so I could comment against this remark.

            Also, I understand that many think people are making opinions before we actually know anything. Before I buy this, obviously I'll test it out. If it doesn't meet my standards, of course I won't buy t. But from what we've seen, it looks promising.

            Also, Microsoft has made many inventions that have succeeded the first time round, such as the mouse and Xbox.

            Also I am not an Apple hater. Apple products are fine, but a bit too restricted for my liking. And I'm a strong believer in open-source software. It's the arrogance of many people that I hate. Im sure heaps of people believe Apple invented multitasking, the notification centre and a heap of other things, but many of these had been featured on operating systems (namely Android) long before.

            And this is the end of my little rant. I'm happy to discuss any of my opinions with anyone if you disagree. But I hate arrogance and ignorance. I know Microsoft has failed many times where apple has succeeded, but if you do a bit of research, you'll find that in 1997 I think it was Apple asked Microsoft to help them rebuild their company.
          • MS saving Apple is not true

            Read this article for an explanation:
          • Thanks

            Sorry I didn't realise this. I had read an article ages ago. Thanks for the insight.
          • And I don't like it when one group of people disparage another

            simply because of their different preferences. For McS and so many others to continuously refer to the iPad as an "expensive toy" is not only disparaging but it is intended to be offensive to those who make that choice. Is that really what you want to support? Do you support people being disparaged for their race, their country, their religion, their choice of car, their clothing, the quality of their home, how much they earn or anything else. Do you put-down people because the car that they drive is not as good as yours? Do you make fun of people on train and buses because they can "only" afford a Kindle instead of an iPad or an Android device? I know that I do not! So, if you are like me, then why do you consider it to be alright for McS to be purposefully offensive to people who choose an iPad over some other device - because that is what you are supporting!

            McS set-out to be offensive and he achieved it. You can continue to support him but I chose not to do so; I refuse to make fun of people because of their choices. Your tolerance of his behaviour simply gives cause to him and people like him to continue their behaviour. His comment was stupid and immature as is anyone who chooses to support him.
          • You did just what you claim to hate.

            Here is proof:
            "Grow-up before you post any more of your stupid comments! I can only guess as to what McS stands-for, but I suspect McSTUPID!"
            And then again:
            "Your tolerance of his behaviour simply gives cause to him and people like him to continue their behaviour. His comment was stupid and immature as is anyone who chooses to support him."
            The bottom line: MsC doesnt have a monopoly on stupidity.
          • I now understand that you are another

            fanboi troll who is too dishonest to admit that you engage in the same behaviour as McS. No wonder you try so hard to fight for his cause. It is really quite sad that you and he get your kicks in this way; truly sad.
          • I honest think you are wrong with your opinion of me.

            If anybody is dishonest, I think its you. You said:
            "And I don't like it when one group of people disparage another simply because of their different preferences."
            And I simply pointed out instances of you doing something that contradicts your claims. Perhaps there is a more than little diffrence between what you want to be and what you actually are or appear to be.

            You also said:
            ""Surface devices are tools straight out of the box" Really? How do you know this given that no-one outside of MS has even touched a Surface?"
            and yet went on to claim:
            "There is no real difference between the two products except for the OS."
            Does pointing out contradictions make one a "fanboi troll"?
          • And so by passively accepting McS's behaviour, you condone it

            You've not made one comment about the inappropriate nature of McS's comment, yet you continue to try to attack me for doing so; albeit that your arguments are quite poor. That is a moral choice by you and speaks volumes about your morality/ethics/values. I now know all that I need to know about you.
          • Reply

            Sorry of I came of as arrogant. I was just angry that someone would say the iPad has the same functionality as the Surface. However, I do not believe in having top-notch equipment. My phone is a 6-year-old flip phone with an antennae, its the Samsung SGH-440. However, I would like to point out that when Instagram went on Android, Apple was furious, claiming that only luxury phone owners can have such good apps. All companies try to make out like their products are superior to others. I just don't like Apple as much due to this kind of arrogance and their closed platform.
          • Apology accepted but that is not quite what I said

            There is a subtle difference between my statement that the two are functionally similar and your statement that they have the same functionality. I would need to write a treatise to explain the subtle difference, and I am not going to do that :-)

            Anyway, the point is that I did not mean that they have the same functionality; rather, that the serve the same purpose.
          • "Apple was furious...

            ...claiming that only luxury phone owners can have such good apps"
            Please can you privide a link? or you just made it in your head?