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Is Surface 2 LTE the right fit for the enterprise?

Microsoft’s Surface 2 with 4G LTE capabilities became available this week but there are downsides that may prevent IT professionals from deploying it to their end users.

Anything with Windows 8.1 — whether the full blown PC or RT version –represents an uphill battle for the majority of enterprise deployments. Businesses continue to struggle to migrate off of Windows XP, or have recently spent gobs of money migrating to Windows 7.

Deploying the Windows 8.1 operating system is still a faraway prospect except for pockets of companies testing the latest OS or deploying the Surface, Surface 2, or Surface Pro 2 for specific mobile needs.

The new Surface 2 with AT&T’s 4G LTE capabilities enters an environment with workers already using Apple iPads as a secondary unit to their workhorse PC or even as a primary device for some users.

It’s hard for IT to even think about supporting a Windows 8.1 RT tablet, given that it doesn’t easily support Active Directory , unlike the Surface Pro 2. It’s a no brainer for many enterprise IT administrators to simply not place a Surface 2 on the approved list when they can’t easily manage the device.

The specs for the Surface 2 LTE unit add up to a decent system.  It includes an NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor, 10.6-inch display with full HD that renders 1080p videos, 3.5 MP front camera and 5 MP back camera, battery life of about 10 hours, Microsoft Office Home and Student RT version, Outlook 2013, unlimited Skype-WiFi for one year, 200GB free storage on OneDrive for two years, and full USB 3.0 slot. It also includes the Surface product line’s signature kickstand – a feature that makes Surface exceptionally useable on many surfaces (pardon the pun).

The product lists for $679 for a 64 GB version, $130 more than the $549 64GB WiFi only Surface 2. The 4G model of the Surface 2 is cheaper than a comparable WiFi plus cellular 64GB iPad Air which lists for $829, while a WiFi only 64GB iPad Air is $699.

The Surface 2 (with and without 4G) can serve as replacement for an iPad if your company is a Microsoft shop and you absolutely need a version of Microsoft Office for workers. That is, if you don’t care about the small number of available Windows RT apps compared with the enormous number of apps for iOS devices. Of course, this could change if Microsoft releases its Office for iPad app.

But with Surface 2, IT administrators have to deal with the unknown factor of Windows 8.1 RT compared with the more prevalent iOS or Android platforms.  And, they’ll be wondering if they should bet their mobile efforts based on an RT operating system that may or may not be around a few years from now.

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