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Microsoft Surface Pro 2 is making inroads in higher education

Surface Pro 2 from Microsoft
Surface Pro 2 from Microsoft
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

On May 1, 2014, Ubergizmo.com reported that CDI College in Canada, with 26 campuses and 5800 students, will distribute the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 to all students by the end of summer 2014. Given the dominance of iPads and Android devices, this is a decision that completely bucks the trend of adopting the marketing leaders. Although Microsoft has been aggressively marketing the Surface Pro 2, sales lag significantly behind Apple, Samsung, and other Android brands.

The Surface Pro 2 is arguably a device that is much more closely aligned to the needs of students when compared to other tablets. Important features include the full version of Windows 8.1 (not a mobile operating system), an active digitizer that supports pen input, an integrated keyboard cover, and hardware features to enable the connection to peripheral devices.

The Surface Pro is not relegated to primarily consumption activities; it is designed with productivity in mind. This is important for students because learning is an active process, and students need to create content through keyboard input, writing free hand, and using software applications.

The full version of Windows 8.1 means that students can not only run Office, but also install and use any Windows software as they would on a PC/laptop. Students are not limited to just apps, as they would be using other tablet choices. For many students, the Office applications are the primary tools used across most disciplines, but other software programs are also often needed. Having a tablet that can install legacy software is a great advantage of the Surface Pro 2.

The integration of the keyboard cover is a big leap forward for productivity. Content creation is still primarily facilitated using a keyboard. There is just no way around that. Touch screen are wonderfully convenient and fun to use, but are much too limiting for students that need to type extensively. The keyboard touch cover that attaches to the Surface Pro 2 in very thin yet enables a high quality and efficient touch typing experience.

Perhaps the most unique and valuable feature of the Surface Pro 2 is the inclusion of an active digitizer, which supports a stylus pen. This means that the writing experience on the screen is very similar to writing on paper. The digitizer enables a very natural writing experience on screen. There is no lag as one writes, and the pen is fine tipped like a pen/pencil. Students take notes extensively, and annotate digital texts; therefore, the writing capability of the Surface Pro 2 is an essential technology feature.

The Surface Pro 2 supports peripheral devices such as a mouse or printer. Printing is still a major need for students despite the ubiquitous use of digital media. For some types of software, the mouse is also a necessary tool. The option to use peripherals helps to close the gap between laptop and tablet functionality.

All in all, the students will likely be very pleased with the features, functions and performance of the Surface Pro 2. If the price of the Surface Pro 2 was more in line with iPads or Android products, we would likely see a much steeper adoption curve across college campuses. Hopefully the price does drop to a more affordable level so more schools and students will consider this viable tablet choice.