(This isn't to say iPads and Android tablets don't fill a great need, for people whose needs or preferences run that way. They're strong devices. I just happen to like Windows tablets, too, and think they provide a lot more than many people are aware.)
I've only briefly used Surface tablets, so I can't comment at length on them. I've done more thorough testing with other brands' Windows tablets. (For reasons I can't quite explain, I haven't been able to get Microsoft to send me a Surface to review for the past year. Other companies, no problem.) I also haven't tested Windows 8.1 extensively, but the more I've used it, the more I've quite liked it. Some problematic issues, to be sure, but most things are absolutely fine and can be used almost identically to Windows 7, and some things are terrific and particularly highly-usable.
After reading a lot of article on the new Surfaces, I loved (sort of) reading a lot of the reader comments that got posted. It's good to know that angst and hyperbole are not in short supply.
I thought the best comments came after Ed's columns, in part because he probably gets more Windows readers, but perhaps too because over the many years he's attracted most even-handed regular readers, since his writing is so even-handed and smart. (My favorite comment was from someone replying to a comment that said the iPad was better period for the one reason that it was 71% lighter. The person replied, “and the ipad is heavier than a drink coaster And they both have the same lack of ability to run photoshop, autocad, premiere. At least the drink coaster has write-only pen ability.”
(It's worth noting that when something you're being compared to is light to begin with, being 71% heavier means that you're still likely pretty light, as well. Just not as light.)
Mind you, I’m not 100% convinced that this was the best way for Microsoft to go. But that doesn’t mean I’m convinced that it wasn’t. There are some really good things about this, and some head-scratching question marks (the price point is still high for the entry-level model), and I’m still trying to make sense of it. It does appear that they're focusing more on the business enterprise market, and that could be very smart, since its productivity (as I noted) is far above other systems. But it will be interesting to see how the Surface line develops over time for the consumer market. For the moment, that arena appears to be let to other OEMs like Lenovo, ASUS, Samsung,Toshiba and Dell. I'll have reviews of some of those upcoming in the months ahead.