Tablets Need More Than WiFi Cloud Access
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, its not really functional. Theres speculation that potential buyers arent willing to depend on the high-speed wireless connections that are necessary to reach the cloud. So what does this mean for Microsofts 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 its 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 Apples lead and not require that basic productivity apps have cloud access. If you use the iPads Notes app, for example, you dont need anything beyond the iPad itself. While its 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 theres no indication that the Surface will come in any form except WiFi-only. Microsoft hasnt mentioned any carrier information or the presence of an LTE radio in the device. Perhaps its 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 theyre 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 Im planning to embark on a road trip to find out. On Monday evening, I leave on Amtraks Silver Meteor to travel through the South looking for wireless. Who knows? Maybe Ill find some. Ill report back on that when I get to Miami.