Why not to buy the Surface.

I’m writing this on my Surface 3, I’ve found it amazingly robust, rugged, adaptable and insanely portable. I’m relatively excited about the Surface 4.

One thing will keep me from upgrading, a foot MS have chosen to keep firmly in the laptop ballpark:

No USB charging.

I’m not faulting the inclusion of a custom charger connector, but the lack of a way to feed the device power via it’s USB port or a USB-to-charger cable.

It’s precisely because the device is so adaptable and handy that this becomes an issue. USB ports are everywhere these days. But for power, the Surface is utterly reliant on the custom charger brick.

Last week I took my Surface with me to a doctor appointment. I forgot I’d used it while I was having breakfast, so as the train pulled up at my stop I got the 10% battery warning. Sitting in the waiting room, the device went dark. I’d brought my power brick this time, but they didn’t have exposed power sockets, only USB ports.

The sad thing is that, in practice, the lack of USB charge/top-up pretty much un-mans the Surface.

I’ve been curious about the Surface for a while, because the people I knew who bought them always quickly fell in crazy love with the device, you saw it everywhere with them, and then they became a little sad about it, and then you just stopped seeing it entirely.

What happens is that the device becomes chained to its power brick. Instead of using the device in the morning at home, you leave it to charge a little longer, so you’ll have more juice in the day. But then you don’t want to drain your precious charge so much while you’re out so you put it into ultra power saver and, well, Solitaire is such a hog you stick to web browsing but you try and avoid flash sites. And then you move to trying to save battery during the day too so that you’ll have some juice for the evening, and … well you used it so little you forget to charge it overnight and …

The brick itself isn’t all that heavy, but you probably have to carry the surface + brick in a case to lug them around, and *whoosh* that smooth portability turned to burden.

Now your Surface is a stay-at-home Surface.

As minor an oversight as this might seem, in the context of the device it’s a fatal flaw. You just can’t engage with the device as often or in the way you quickly come to really want to.

It’s hard not to conclude that this is a typical Ballmer-MSism. Ballmer believed MS was king of the world, that it was the leader/innovator. Ballmer was the guy on the stage, he just never came around to seeing it. “We’ve done this amazing new thing”. Sure, it’s new to you, but the world has already seen it and iterated on it. Like the recent ad where a guy is announcing his company’s IPO while a heckler says “you mean like this app?” to every feature.

MS folks probably carry their surfaces around in backpacks which comfortably accommodate the brick. They probably lament the number of places that don’t let you plug in to a wall socket or make it hard to reach one while using your device.

You can probably find thousands of disgruntled MS employee restaurant/cafe checkins around Seattle complaining about the lack of a way to charge their surface. They probably tweet/blog/facebook about it from their phones at coffee shops while they charge their phone up via a USB cable.

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