Justifications for buying a Surface machine

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A lot of people come to me with the question “why should we, as an organization, invest in Surface?” Or, to be more honest: developers come to me with the question “What can I do to convince my manager to buy us a Surface Unit"?”, which is the same question but more honest.

The answer is, of course, the same answer as I give to everyone who asks me for a justification for investing in hard- and software: there needs to be a business case. And in these hard economic times: there needs to be a clear and robust proof of the return on investment. Even in the financial crises that we are in right now, there are still funds available for new projects but you have to prove the value of it to the organization.

Now, I don’t have the killer application laying around here. I can however tell you what the killer app should be like in order to convince your organization to invest in Surface computing. So, pick the items from the list below and fit them into your sales pitch:

Software should make the company money

The days when people invested in computers and software just because ‘it is cool’ are over. The budgets don’t allow for fun projects anymore. So when you make your case for your project be sure to focus on the way that this investment is going to make your organization some money.

Focus on the return on investment. It can be that by using Surface your customers will be buying more goods from you. Or that by using Surface the customer satisfaction will increase. Or maybe Surface allows you to tap into markets you haven’t been able to reach: after all, Surface does have an appeal to people.

If you design a system that doesn’t utilize the core features of Surface, or more specifically: doesn’t do anything that cannot be done on a normal computer, then chances are the project won’t get a green light. Outline the added features of Surface that no other platform offers, and you’re halfway there.

Surface is all about communication and collaboration

The Surface machine is a table with a PC inside. It’s not the other way around. The focus is the form factor of the unit: it’s a table! Table are one of the oldest means of communications: people sit at one, gather around one for meetings and use it as a container for documents. I bet you never thought of tables in that way, but it’s true! Now, add a computer to that, a computer that all people can use at once and you’ve got a very good mechanisme for improving communication. People who sit at a table are more effective than when you present your data in a traditional way (i.e. beamer). Tables invite people to share documents and talk to one another. They can look at each other and learn from each other, something that doens’t happen with other computer technologies.

The PC is, as it name implies, personal machines. Surface isn’t a PC: it’s a way for people to interact with each other and the data available to them. So make sure your Surface apps focusses on enabling people to work together, to share insights together and to come to a result they couldn’t have reached with traditional means.

Surface is a way to distinguish yourself from your competitors

Although this point is hard to prove and even harder to measure, it still is valid. We’ve noticed that companies that utilize Surface in the correct way (see the two points above) are considered to be more up-to-date with technology than other companies. So if you want your company to be seen as a leader in technology adaptation, Surface might be the right choice for you. But don’t forget: this point alone isn’t enough: the ROI and communication parts are still as important!

Surface allows non-technical people to interact with computers

The whole nature of the Natural User Interface that Surface stands for, allows for people who are not that savy with mice and keyboards to use computers. Better than that: they might not even notice they are using computers at all. So if you want to target an audience that normally wouldn’t be able to use computers, or not be able to take full advantage of the potential a PC offers, Surface might be the tool for them. Young children and elderly people are the kind of demographic groups you might think about.

If you can think  of a case that addresses most of these points,  you might have a killer app on your hands, one that will convince the management of your organization to purchase a Surface and let you develop with it. And if you do, let me know!

Print | posted @ Thursday, July 2, 2009 2:09 PM

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