Tablets Need More Than WiFi Cloud Access

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-07-23 Print this article Print

The reason? The 8GB Nexus 7 depends on the cloud for much of what it does, and yet without a ready connection to the cloud, it€™s not really functional. There€™s speculation that potential buyers aren€™t willing to depend on the high-speed wireless connections that are necessary to reach the cloud.

So what does this mean for Microsoft€™s Windows RT-based Surface? The version of Microsoft Office 2013 that comes embedded in the Surface is apparently the cloud-based version of Office. While the cloud-based version of Office 2013 should have at least some stand-alone functionality, the question for Microsoft and the Surface is whether it€™s enough. Will users of the Windows RT version of Microsoft Office 2013 be able to perform useful work without an Internet connection?

The possible answer is that Microsoft will follow Apple€™s lead and not require that basic productivity apps have cloud access. If you use the iPad€™s Notes app, for example, you don€™t need anything beyond the iPad itself. While it€™s not a full-featured word processing app, it will do for a lot of things, and with the new iPad, you can even use it for voice dictation.

But there€™s no indication that the Surface will come in any form except WiFi-only. Microsoft hasn€™t mentioned any carrier information or the presence of an LTE radio in the device. Perhaps it€™s in the works. But if it were in the near future, I suspect that the announcement of the Surface Pro would have mentioned that.

Of course, the Surface comes with plenty of on-board storage, so a cloud connection may not be necessary. But if the first versions of the Surface require a cloud connection to be useful, then it may not sell as well as Microsoft hopes.

Regardless of the potential success of the Surface, the fall of 2012 is shaping up to be a seriously hot time for tablets. The technology is well thought-out, the requirements for a consumer and professional tablet are known, and at least some of the patent wars are settled. Now the question becomes whether the wireless carriers are going to support tablets the way they need to if they€™re going to be the nearly universal devices that buyers seem poised to make them.

That means wireless access needs to be universal as well. Tablet users should be able to get to the Internet and the cloud from nearly anywhere. Are we there yet? Probably not, but I€™m planning to embark on a road trip to find out. On Monday evening, I leave on Amtrak€™s Silver Meteor to travel through the South looking for wireless. Who knows? Maybe I€™ll find some. I€™ll report back on that when I get to Miami.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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