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Foos: Microsoft Surface Pro for the mobile attorney

May 7, 2014
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Indiana Lawyer Focus

By Robert Foos Jr.

If you’re like me you eagerly anticipate the next big thing in mobile computers. The market is flooded with laptops, tablets and hybrids all claiming to offer something new or different than other versions. One such device that caught my eye was the Microsoft Surface Pro. I had an iPad that I had been attempting to make work as a viable laptop alternative for my mobile computing needs and had found it lacking. I don’t mean to disparage Apple or the iPad, but despite some good attributes it just did not fit my needs, mostly because it was incapable of running Microsoft Office.

foos-rob.jpg Foos

I purchased the Surface Pro in September and have been using it as both my primary office computer and my mobile computer. Don’t let the size of the device fool you, it is a fully capable laptop computer with a footprint slightly smaller than a manila envelope. It has a USB input that allows you to connect to a docking station and power a full-size monitor, speakers, wireless keyboard and mouse. There is also an input for a micro card for additional storage.

The Surface Pro also allows users to choose between the Windows 8 “live tile” interface (the tiles are constantly updating content) and the more recognizable Windows 7 “desktop” interface. The Surface Pro also has touchscreen capability making the transition from iPad less daunting. I’ve found the touchscreen to be very similar to the iPad in the ability to resize the screen by pinching and pulling.

Users are able to download software directly to the device, including our firm’s practice management software (Practice Master). You can also download Windows 8 versions of various applications from the Microsoft Store. A couple that I find particularly useful are Evernote (a note taking program) and ShareFile, which allows me to access files on our server remotely.

Surface Pro also may be used as a tablet by disengaging the keyboard from the computer itself, or by simply folding the keyboard behind the computer. It is a bit larger and heavier than an iPad but the functionality remains relatively the same.

Overall, I believe the Surface Pro is superior to the iPad as a work computer and a permanent replacement to a more traditional laptop. However, it does have its flaws, and I am not fully convinced it will prove a viable long-term solution to my mobile computing needs.

The most glaring issue is the lack of a cellular data option. My work takes me to places where WiFi connections do not exist and it is imperative that I be able to send notes, photographs and email to clients immediately after an investigation. The iPad with a data plan was ideal for these situations and is far superior to tethering the Surface Pro to my cell phone and dealing with lengthy delays in sending and receiving information. Document scanning is another area where the iPad is superior to the Surface Pro. I can never seem to get a good photograph from the scanning applications on the Surface Pro, whereas I never had an issue with the iPad.

Another weakness which I believe has been addressed in the second generation is the inflexibility of the support stand on the Surface Pro. It is fine to use on a flat desk or tabletop, but with only one locked position it can be ergonomically challenging when trying to type with the Surface Pro on your lap. It also makes it more difficult to use on those tiny airplane tray tables (which is where I am typing this).

Those are the main issues I found with the Surface Pro as a work computer. However, others may find the lack of options in the applications store and the relatively small amount of available memory to be issues as well. Be assured the Surface Pro can access music, play videos, connect via Skype and a whole host of other things that today’s mobile attorney requires, but if you want to play some of the more popular online games or download your bank’s mobile application, you may be left wanting.

My complaint with all currently available mobile solutions is the inability to provide an easy-to-use solution for accessing data remotely.

The iPad offers several applications that work like Windows’ terminal server, but using the applications and maneuvering inside the application is tedious.

I believe the Surface Pro is a functional replacement for the traditional laptop, and I will continue to use it until a suitable replacement comes along. But it falls just a bit short of also adequately replacing the iPad. Perhaps the Surface Pro 2, which offers a data plan and multiple locking positions, could be an adequate replacement, or perhaps something even more versatile may come along.•

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Robert R. Foos Jr. is a partner at Lewis Wagner LLP where he concentrates his practice in transportation litigation. His practice often involves being called to accident scenes where the use of technology to collect and transmit witness statements, accident scene photos and document scans is required. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. No second amendment, pro life, pro traditional marriage, reagan or trump tshirts will be sold either. And you cannot draw Mohammed even in your own notebook. And you must wear a helmet at all times while at the fair. And no lawyer jokes can be told except in the designated protest area. And next year no crucifixes, since they are uber offensive to all but Catholics. Have a nice bland day here in the Lego movie. Remember ... Everything is awesome comrades.

  2. Thank you for this post . I just bought a LG External DVD It came with Cyber pwr 2 go . It would not play on Lenovo Idea pad w/8.1 . Your recommended free VLC worked great .

  3. All these sites putting up all the crap they do making Brent Look like A Monster like he's not a good person . First off th fight actually started not because of Brent but because of one of his friends then when the fight popped off his friend ran like a coward which left Brent to fend for himself .It IS NOT a crime to defend yourself 3 of them and 1 of him . just so happened he was a better fighter. I'm Brent s wife so I know him personally and up close . He's a very caring kind loving man . He's not abusive in any way . He is a loving father and really shouldn't be where he is not for self defense . Now because of one of his stupid friends trying to show off and turning out to be nothing but a coward and leaving Brent to be jumped by 3 men not only is Brent suffering but Me his wife , his kids abd step kidshis mom and brother his family is left to live without him abd suffering in more ways then one . that man was and still is my smile ....he's the one real thing I've ever had in my life .....f@#@ You Lafayette court system . Learn to do your jobs right he maybe should have gotten that year for misdemeanor battery but that s it . not one person can stand to me and tell me if u we're in a fight facing 3 men and u just by yourself u wouldn't fight back that you wouldn't do everything u could to walk away to ur family ur kids That's what Brent is guilty of trying to defend himself against 3 men he wanted to go home tohisfamily worse then they did he just happened to be a better fighter and he got the best of th others . what would you do ? Stand there lay there and be stomped and beaten or would u give it everything u got and fight back ? I'd of done the same only I'm so smallid of probably shot or stabbed or picked up something to use as a weapon . if it was me or them I'd do everything I could to make sure I was going to live that I would make it hone to see my kids and husband . I Love You Brent Anthony Forever & Always .....Soul 1 baby

  4. Good points, although this man did have a dog in the legal fight as that it was his mother on trial ... and he a dependent. As for parking spaces, handicap spots for pregnant women sure makes sense to me ... er, I mean pregnant men or women. (Please, I meant to include pregnant men the first time, not Room 101 again, please not Room 101 again. I love BB)

  5. I have no doubt that the ADA and related laws provide that many disabilities must be addressed. The question, however, is "by whom?" Many people get dealt bad cards by life. Some are deaf. Some are blind. Some are crippled. Why is it the business of the state to "collectivize" these problems and to force those who are NOT so afflicted to pay for those who are? The fact that this litigant was a mere spectator and not a party is chilling. What happens when somebody who speaks only East Bazurkistanish wants a translator so that he can "understand" the proceedings in a case in which he has NO interest? Do I and all other taxpayers have to cough up? It would seem so. ADA should be amended to provide a simple rule: "Your handicap, YOUR problem". This would apply particularly to handicapped parking spaces, where it seems that if the "handicap" is an ingrown toenail, the government comes rushing in to assist the poor downtrodden victim. I would grant wounded vets (IED victims come to mind in particular) a pass on this.. but others? Nope.

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