Microsoft have announced the smaller cousin of the Surface Pro tablet/laptop hybrid, and it looks like giving the iPad a run for it's money as a coaching computer. 

My iPad has become a valuable tool for coaching. It's small and light enough to take with me to net sessions without a second thought, meaning I have access to all my Evernote notes, web/email and a decent camera with video coaching tools.

The Surface is capable of all this too, while also offering full Windows for a similar price.

Its a bigger and heavier (140g more in your bag and an 11" screen) device. You might like the extra screen size or you might hate the weight, so this could be a pro or a con, but neither is so great as the be a deal breaker. It has a camera that is good enough for snaps and video analysis, and, unlike the iPad, you can use Surface to run an external camera for multiple angle work. It's fanless so when using it like a tablet it feels like a tablet.

The device becomes a no-brainer if you need Windows. If you run specific software that is Windows only, you can buy this device, use it as a laptop when you are at you desk and switch it to your notes/video machine when you are coaching. 

One area the iPad has not found a killer app is in cricket coaching. Note taking and video analysis are are excellent, but not exclusive to iOS. It's also excellent at "real work" at a desk, but again iOS is not exclusive on this. And as the Surface can be docked to a full size screen, keyboard and mouse, it is better on the desk than an iPad. That means that those who prefer the full legacy desktop experience of Windows (or want a hybrid) now have a tablet that can compete with the iPad.

One of the apps that an iPad can't run right now is PitchVision. As you know, I work for the company that produce this coaching tool. It currently ships with a Windows laptop in the box, software preinstalled. I would be interested to test the Surface with PitchVision. The specs on the device are low, so it might not run properly, but if it does you suddenly have a mobile version.

Compared to iOS, the mobile apps are far less in number, especially the quality apps. There are no Windows Modern apps anywhere close to Dark Sky, Drafts, Workflow, Editorial, Coach's Eye, Pixelmator or many more. On the other hand, the iPad can't compete when you want full power desktop apps like PitchVision Coach, Excel and Photoshop. So you need to assess your requirements.

If price is a factor, a Surface can be your PC and tablet for about £500. An iPad Mini and MacBook Air, as the closest equivalent in the Apple world, are nearer £800. This is slightly unfair as it's not like for like, but it's worth considering.

Overall, the Surface is not going to be an iPad killer for all cricket coaches.  If you live in the Apple world happily, this is not enough for you to switch. However, if you are weighing up your options for either a tablet or computer, the Surface is certainly capable enough to be used in the field and in the office. 

Surface is a handsome, capable device. I'm glad there are real options a competition to the iPad for cricket coaches with portable computing requirements.



AuthorDavid Hinchliffe