Microsoft Surface tablets: Content creation devices?

Microsoft Surface tablets: Content creation devices?

Summary: While I have been using an iPad as a content creation device for a good while, there are many who believe it is not a capable gadget for that purpose. Will Surface tablets break through the image of consumption only devices?


Tablets have held the distinction of content consumption devices since the appearance of the iPad. Even though I have written about my ability to create lots of content with the iPad (and Android tablets), I often hear from folks that tablets are not good for content creation. Will the Surface tablets from Microsoft have to deal with the "not a content creator" fallacy?

The resistance I get to the iPad as a content creation tool is usually centered around two areas: the OS and the lack of a physical keyboard. Never mind that I have detailed how I use an external keyboard with the iPad to create content. The resistors tell me that is cheating, that using a "real" keyboard only proves the tablet is not good for creating content.


Some tell me that the OS, either iOS or Android, is not designed for creating content and all the functions required to do that easily. They tell me that tablets will never be content creation tools for that reason. Well, that and the lack of a physical keyboard.

This argument sets me back on my heels, as I've made it clear I think any device can be a good tool for content creation if it works for that. I am usually hit with "just because you create content with it doesn't mean it's a content creation tool". I have to concede I have no comeback at that point.

The typical debate (in email or on Twitter) goes like this:

Me: I write 2,000 words per day on the iPad/Android tablet, so for me the tablet is a content creation device.

Other: No it's not, you have to use a keyboard for that.

Me: So? It's easy to do it that way and I like it. It works for me.

Other: But it's still not a content creation device. 

At that point I usually give up, as to continue the debate would get nowhere.

Interestingly, some of the same people debating with me that tablets aren't content creation devices are anxiously waiting for the availability of the Surface tablets from Microsoft. I've been told by quite a few that the inclusion of Windows, a real OS, and the special keyboard covers make these the perfect portable content creation devices.

Since these keyboard covers are included with the Surface and designed by the tablet maker (Microsoft), they don't count as extra parts like the iPad/Android counterparts. They are there by design and thus augment the tablet "naturally". This plus the fact the Surface will have Windows running things makes them real computers, and content creation tools as a result.

I wonder if there will be those who slam the Surface as a content creation tool once it's available, or will the Windows sticker on the bezel settle the debate? 

I personally believe if I create content with any device that makes it a content creation tool, but that's just me. And my friend Harry McCracken also believes that

See also:

Topics: Mobility, Android, Apple, Microsoft, Tablets

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  • Will depend on how many and how fast "creation"-type applications will be

    ... created.

    None of existing software, even on bigger and heavier Wintel tablet, will be effective on this small screen and touch UI without complete UI redesign and rewrite. Without it, it is not better than working remotely on a Windows computer via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) on your iPad.

    For for the first year or so iPad, which is not "content creation tool" by public opinion, will still have much more actual content creation applications that WindowsRT or bigger Wintel tablet will have.
    • bigger Wintel tablet?

      please explain that, not sure what product you're talking about.
      William Farrel
      • Microsoft announced two tablets:

        1) cheaper, lighter, thinner, more battery life tablet on ARM -- with WindowsRT;
        2) pricier, heavier, thicker, less battery life tablet on Intel -- with Windows 8.
        • BIgger or just heavier to support Intel?

          Didn't see where the screen size is any bigger......
          • Fatter counts as bigger

            Fatter counts as bigger, even if the screen size is the same.
          • Non-surface tabletsf

            Some OEMs have 12-14 inch intel based windows8 tablets. I suspect that is what is being referenced.
    • Content creation such as....

      Word and Excel you mean? As those will exist on EVERY Win8/WinRT device made? Sounds like it's already got the iPad beat in that respect to me?
      • Are there any spreadsheets or word processors...

        available for the iPad?
        • Of course there are

          Native apps and multiple apps that work with native Office documents. Quite well, too.
          • quite well?

            Compared to what? A pen and paper?
        • Yes but point is missed

          There are two major issues for "Office" type creation:
          1. I can create basic / beginning docs with non MSOffice .... usually. No matter what I create I need to finish in MSO if it is in any way complex, uses embedded links / files, macro's, VB or similar objects. Now add decent Visio and Project abilities. You can create but it is "incomplete".
          2. The ability to have a flexible files system. Android does that well. iOS, not. You can leave out the iCloud as businesses are starting to limit access / functionality for security reasons (my company is doing that ).

          For me it is about the software and supporting OS capabilities. Hardware is good; keyboard or not (I really like my Transformer keyboard dock!).
          • Document Modification is even worse

            Most times when I use a non-MSO app to mod, I still have to run it back through MSO to fix what gets broken.
          • Windows RT will provide a similar experience

            I realize that's a prediction, but it's a safe bet. Microsoft needs to retool Office for ARM, and faces the same conversion that everybody else faces. Office RT will not be 100% compatible with Office 2013.
            Info Dave
          • Say What?

            Where did you get that?

            Office 2013 on ARM tablets is the real Office! Exactly same code base only compiled for ARM!
      • Really? Post a picture for us of you creating somethin your Surface tablet.

        Oh, that's right, you can't because it's vaporware. Meanwhile an iPad with QuickOffice can CREATE and edit any Microsoft Office document and share them with Windows or OSX users.
    • From a developer's viewpoint

      I developed a content creation authoring system for eLearning, now in its 15th version, currently in .Net (WPF). While I really like the new Win 8 UI, I wasn't considering developing a version for RT for the same reasons I don't view the iPad as a content creation device.

      However, with the announcement of Surface, I've had to re-evaluate, as with a keyboard available and usable resolution on a 10" widescreen, it's now worth considering porting to WinRT. Yes we will need to change the UI, but I like the new integrated across multiple devices direction Win 8 is taking us. If I can get some MS Angel funding that was announced a few days ago, then it's a done deal.
      • Let us know how this turns out

        Sounds like a great opportunity if you can do it.
  • 'Content Creation Device' is kind of a BS metric.

    Even a pencil and a spiral notebook can be a content creation device, so that metric by some is kind of meaningless.

    It's what you do with anything, not its form factor.
    • I would agree with the last part, but...

      A pencil and spiral notepad are the very definition of content creation tools. They can only be consumption tools if you like reading the phrase "no. 2" over and over again.
  • Primarily a Consumption Device

    I would never say that you can't use an iPad to create content. However I do believe that it's use in that capacity is somewhat limited; mostly by the software and what the OS maker allows. The iPad which uses iOS was built with consumption being the primary focus. Whereas PCs were originally built as productivity devices for enterprise-like use.

    In that way, I would say that the Surface Pro is a device where creation can be the primary focus (since it has a full desktop OS), but the Surface RT is primarily a consumption device, since so far Metro seems built as consumption-first, much like iOS.