The Fine Art of Surfacing? Microsoft’s New Tablet

On this blast from the past (The Boomtown Rats), we heard about the silicon chip inside her head. Perhaps we all want one, but one to help us ameliorate the overloading of information rather than have it exacerbated.

One of my formative childhood memories (1978) was an Horizon documentary about the laser, describing the beams as a solution looking for a problem. (The documentary had added poignancy because it was narrated by second Doctor Who Patrick Troughton.) I haven't got a tablet yet because I haven't needed a tablet yet. The marketeers haven't got to my soul to convince me that I just don't realise how much I need one until now perhaps. So what is it about the Microsoft's Surface tablet that attracts me? What problems that I may not even have realised that I had is it going to solve?

My immediate reaction is that it seems to be the portable device that gives me the wherewithal to take my desktop with me. By that I don't me the attenuating model of all the work I'm blessed with, diminished into a set of well-meaning icons. I mean the environment on top of the veneer-layered, high compression particle board. It's not what's in there, it's how you get there that's important. At a guess it was 1991 when I first walked into the hallowed halls of the British Standards Institution to be given a choice of attending a panel setting standards for cement chimneys or user interfaces. It was a moment when the creases of Pratchett's trousers-of-time rustled uneasily, wondering where the career would go.

Alright, alright! Not really. I hadn't travelled down from Manchester without the intention of researching the integration of technical writing with the user interface. But with a device that gives me something less in the luggable category and more in the portable domain, the Surface tablet is a commendable step back to familiarity. If it's there to do a job, then the other quality attributes of which security is one should be well embedded. Take a look at the standard ISO/IEC 25010 (system and software quality) to understand the landscape. It's all about the 'f word'-functionality. Or rather functional suitability.

I'm sure that when it comes down to it, the tabulation of what an iPad and a Surface (other tablets are available) can or can't do will be as informative as the notices in electrical stores which convince you that to do your laundry in the way you want, you need two washing machines. It's the way a device works that is the gateway to the security of information it handles; it's how the user interfaces (is that really a verb?) that matters; encryption, firewalls, antivirus and similar technologies might be motherhood and apple pie but you have to make the home for them first.

Am I saying this is the only information technology you'll ever need? Of course not! History has shown that if you are going to make an impression with tablets, you need two...