Reviews Windows Tablets Xbox - 19 October 2012
Author: Ram Uppugunduri

Yesterday I created a use case for Surface RT for students, casual users and others. Today let us take a look into the use case on how well Surface RT could support a student in her/his academic life.

Surface RT

Most of the students carry tons of books regularly to meet their academic challenges, some are bought some are lent from library and on top of it they take a lot of notes (a very heavy and painful job, gone through it when there was only paper and pen were considered to be the only way of taking notes). Technology has evolved and is helping students to work on their academics effectively with the tools that is bringing on to the table. The evolution of laptops led to cheaper notebooks, netbooks and slates/tablets like iPad, and variety of Android Tablets and eBook readers. Since the laptops require more more power and heavy to carry, even though they offer better computing experiences, the world is looking for better alternatives always. Apple brought iPad into the picture and that changed the academic experience totally. With the success of Amazon’s Kindle reader, a student doesn’t have to carry physical books (thanks to its eInk technology), they could use eBooks instead and carry many books on a handheld sized device. iPad and Android tablets are good at consumption of content and have good eBook Readers, which could replace having two devices such as eBook readers and tablets with one, but that still requires having another device to take notes. I am not saying it is not possible to take notes with iPad or Android Tablet. It is possible, but not at the level a student would need. Now with Surface RT’s content creation ability students could meet their academic requirements by creating the content along with consumption in a single device. Here is how:

1. eBook Reader: The Apps such as Kindle, Kobo provide tons of eBooks. The apps are free and students could buy the books or use App like a dedicated eBook reader. With the partnership Microsoft entered with Barnes and Noble, there will be a nook reader in future and that would give students more choice and range to get and read eBooks. In addition to eBook readers, there is PDF Reader, which could be used to read the PDF documents. A lot of eBook publishers use PDF as their medium publishing in addition to mobi and epub formats.

2. Web Surfing: Surface RT comes with IE10 for Windows 8. This allows students to go to their university/school web site and other relevant web sites as long as those sites are free from Adobe Flash or if that site is whitelisted by Microsoft. Microsoft could whitelist a Flash based website on request and after verification.

3. Content Creation:

a. Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview: Office Home and Student 2013 RT preview will be updated to Office Home and Student 2013 RT, once it is released. This comes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for RT. Even though these are 100% as powerful as their desktop cousin, they are powerful and students can format the documents, compose the documents and prepare their notes and presentations. Office allows the student to keep all class notes together in one place or in the cloud. When they want to share the notes with peers or tutors, they could do it simply by emailing or using sharing capabilities of the app.

b. Evernote RT: Popular cloud based note taking app which is available on variety of platforms such as Windows, iPad, Android Tablets is available in Windows Store, and students could use this to prepare their notes and share.

c. Drawings: There are 3rd party apps such as Autodesk Sketchbook Express allow students to quickly draw the pictures to meet their needs.

d. Mind mapping: There are 3rd party tools such as MindMe would allow students to mind map their tasks, assignments, ideas to incorporate into their content and presentations.

4. Calendar: The calendar app is installed out of the box and students could calendar their events and the live tile of the calendar will remind the students with important information. The calendar can be synced with Windows Live Calendar. I think we could sync it with Exchange also since it is part of core Windows 8, but I am not sure about the RT version of Windows, but I will update this once I get the device on hand. Calendar app allows the student to organize the busy academic life, allowing to keep track of tests,appointments, study dates and social events etc.

5. Mail and Messaging: Out of the box Mail App in Windows 8 allows you configure with Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail.com), Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Office 365/Exchange. You could configure it to fetch emails in real-time or at specific intervals. You could message with you friends and peers. The core Windows is configured to interact with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

6. SnapView: One of the main advantages of Windows 8 is SnapView mode. You could snap two apps side by side. One will take 1/4th of the screen and the other 3/4th. In the smaller area you could load an eBook or document in a reader or IE10 with some website related to your research and in the other window, you could load Word and take notes including clipboard activities such as copy and paste and giving citation immediately once you quote the content from the reader windows. No other platform offers this as of now. Of course in desktop Windows you could have more than one window in the display at a time, but I am talking about a tablet/slate.

7. Sharing and Searching: Sharing and search features like I discussed in my previous article, will allow the student to share their material or consume the material from other apps and services and search the content within the app, across the apps in their Surface RT or over the internet. This gives more power to the students while consuming and creating content.

8. Social Networks Integration: Integration with social networks such as Facebook, twitter etc. will allow the students to keep up to date with their friends and partners. This makes communicating with them easy as fluid.

9. Photos, Videos, Music and Podcasts: Content consumption is not only limited to textual information it comes in variety of media such as pictures, videos, music, audio etc. The services and in built apps, and third party apps available in Windows Store make student’s life easy in consuming this content and the SnapView will facilitate a student to listen to podcast in one view and take notes in a different view.

10. Games: Everyone needs relaxation or some activity to relieve stress. Playing video games are proven to be good stress killers. Xbox integration within Windows 8 brings the Xbox Live games into picture. Microsoft and its partners are planning to bring a lot of games to Windows 8 and some of them are being exclusive. There are already some of the games available in the Windows Store and the number offerings will improve over the course. Surface RT is definitely a portable gaming device, which would allow students to reduce stress in their free time.

11. News Readers: There are variety of 3rd party news readers available in the Windows Store in addition to the ones Microsoft provided (Bing App, News App). Some of the readers will allow students to customize the feeds that they are interested in reading. Someone finds ESPN as better source for gaming information and other might find Fox Games as the one. These readers will allow the student to configure and get the feeds at regular intervals.

12. Weather: Everyone wants find out the forecast and dress themselves as per the forecast. The Bing Weather app that is part of the OS brings a wealthy of information related to todays detailed forecast to what it looks like over the weekend. There are some 3rd party Apps already available in the Windows Store, which could give more information that the student likes.

13. Apps: There are already 5000 apps available in the Windows Store and Microsoft is working 3rd party developers to bring more quality apps to the ecosystem. There are good number of apps that could be used by students to enrich their academic activities. Apps such as Flashcards, subject specific video players etc. are already available in the store.

14. Cloud: Windows 8 comes with SkyDrive app, and students could store their documents in the cloud. There is app for Box.NET, which also could be used to store the documents in the cloud.

15. Physical aspects: Physical aspect such as form factor, weight etc. also play key role. Surface RT with touch cover weights around 1.5lb with 10.6” ClearType display with 1366×768 resolution. Even though screen is bigger than iPad and some of the Android tablets, this gives more room to run two apps on the display at the same time. Also the Surface RT is lighter than iPad with case and almost all the Android tablets of similar sizes. The Surface RT also comes with ports to interact with RT certified peripherals such as Bluetooth mice etc. The USB Port, Bluetooth 4.0, HD video Out, MicroSDXC slot, and 2 stereo speakers, 2 microphone, 2 LifeCams HD (720) front and rear to facilitate video conferencing on the both sides of the tablet, Tablet kickstand are part of the Surface RT. The d

16. Battery Life: Battery life is a deciding factor in many cases where the worker is mobile. As a student, they don’t get an opportunity to charge their devices for long time while they are in sessions. This makes longer battery life as a mandatory and that’s where the notebooks and netbooks fail. Surface RT is promised to have 8 hours of battery life in single charge and that could come handy when there are full back to back sessions.

Sources: Microsoft Surface

Image Credit: Courtesy Microsoft









About Author

Mobile Gadget Geek. My mobility started with HP Jornada Handheld PC LX320. I currently own and use various Windows Phones, iOS devices, Android devices and HP Touchpad.

(8) Readers Comments

  1. Good write up. There are a ton of ways the Surface can be used for school without various work-arounds and probably easier than most competitors. I caught one mistake. I think you may need to check the Surface screen size again… 10.6 not 11.6.

    • Good catch. Fixed it. Thank you.

  2. Another great write-up on the practical usefulness of Surface Ram. I am an admitted Microsoft fanboy, but can anyone deny that the Surface is the most productive, reasonably priced tablet to date. Sure, you can get something like a Netbook, then add Office Home & Student, and maybe an extended battery (if available). But it still does not compete with this turn it on and work (or play) device. Probably they only other thing that would have made it perfect for students would be eInk.

    As thin and durable (and nearly as light) as a composition book, you can take it anywhere. I can see the Surface (or Surface2) being handed out in classrooms around the world at the start of school next year. Not dismissing the competitors, but if you are looking for a fun to use device that is something more than an app launcher you can’t go wrong with a Surface.

  3. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit
    my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Regardless, just wanted to say excellent blog!

    • Sorry about that Chad. Occasionally the site has a hiccup and might go down or reset quickly, while you are typing. They are working on it. As a result, I have learned to copy my comment to the clipboard if I have written more than a few sentences. Has saved my butt more than once. Oh, and thanks for posting.

  4. Pingback: Living With The Microsoft Surface: Finding relevance | TechSuplex

  5. This is an awesome article. I wish more people recognized the ways in which Surface can be used like you did. For students its a no-brainer. Wish the Surface Pro which makes taking notes easier had a longer battery life though.

  6. Being in Australia we get everything a lot later than everyone else and I was trying to decide whether or not to wait for the Surface Pro but being a University Student and after reading this I now know that the RT will do me fine. It is an excellent blog and thank you very much for all the useful information.

    P.S. I am trying to avoid the regular tablets as the keyboards are to weird to type quick enough to write down what the lecturer is saying.