We're all good on the Surface

Last week I did something I’ve never done before. And it was terrible…

Whilst this story does have a happy ending and concludes with a profound message about the goodness of humanity, it will get quite dark before we get there…

It all started when I left our new London office after a day’s work and got on the train at Liverpool St Station to get home.

Or what I thought was the train to get home.

Turns out the train I’d boarded was heading down a different line and I’d have ended up at Southend if I hadn’t heard the destination announcement and ran to the doors just before the train started to depart.

In a Sliding Doors-esque moment, I made it….and I had a momentary sigh of relief.

Until sheer panic set in.

Here’s where it gets really dark – I’d left my laptop bag on my seat. It contained my Surface Pro 3, iPad 2, and noise cancelling headphones. In short, most of the things I hold nearest and dearest (my family withstanding of course).

I’d like to be able to tell you that I held my calm and didn’t run like a lunatic down the platform, arms waving, trying to get the attention of the train driver. I’d like to be able to tell you that….

Sadly I am so addicted to my technology that dignity and cool were not amongst the virtues I extolled that day.

I spoke to everyone in the station who looked like they may be able to help, making every possible nuisance of myself. I was assured that this happens all the time, and that hopefully someone would hand in the bag at one of the stations on route, or it would be picked up and handed in by the cleaning team. I went home that night, still panicked, but fairly hopeful of an immediate resolution.

That hope came to be unfounded.

Early the next day I rang up the station. There was no sign at all of the laptop bag anywhere – not on the train, or at either station. I went into the office with a definite downward slant to my posture.

At work I was given a temporary replacement laptop (read: very old and clunky.  I still stand by my blog “I’m Never Buying A Laptop Again” – this doesn’t count…) 

There was no issue with my data – thanks to the way our infrastructure is set up I was able to access everything I needed to, and I knew that the data on my lost devices was encrypted and safe.

It was more the mobility and user experience on a slow, heavy, old Windows brick of a laptop that I took issue with. Being used to the Surface, everything was just…hard work.

After an unrestful weekend, Monday rolled around and I was still without my laptop bag. I was spending the week in Newcastle, and since it had been a few days and there weren’t any sightings, I arrived at the tough conclusion that the laptop bag had in fact been stolen, and its contents were currently finding their worth on eBay.

I decided I couldn’t live too much longer without the devices I knew and loved, so on the journey to Newcastle I placed an order for a new Surface Pro 4 and an iPad Air. Having had my iPad 2 for about 5 years, I was interested to see the performance improvements in the Air edition. Suddenly my mood had lifted at the thought of receiving some shiny new toys.

Why did I need a Pro 4 and an iPad? It’s a good question; one that my wife asked as well.

I don’t have a good answer (at least not one that won’t make you severely judge my levels of consumerism).  I mainly use my iPad on holiday because the battery life is so good. That’s it. That’s the only reason I wanted an iPad in my life.

Anyway, as I was sat in the Newcastle office and making all sorts of compromises with the way I was able to work with the replacement laptop, I got a phone call. I didn’t recognise the number, nor the lady whose voice it was on the other end.

But she is now my new best friend.

It turns out she was from the station where a kind soul had just handed in my laptop bag.  They had taken the bag home for the weekend (they “didn’t trust lost property” apparently) and handed it in to the station on Monday morning. The lady who was now on the phone had gone through the bag and found my business card with my office number in one of the pockets. It would be ready to pick up when I was ready.

(I knew that never handing out business cards and instead finding people on Linkedin was always a smarter option.)

I’ll admit it was a bitter sweet moment. Although glad to have my belongings back, I had to I cancel the orders for the Pro 4, iPad Air and headphones…

However, the moral of story is that in the end, humanity won through.  I had come to the conclusion that my bag had to be in the hands of an opportunist miscreant with an affinity for selling on eBay, and perhaps my faith should have held out a little longer. There are some very decent people out there.

It also got me thinking about just how much an effect device usability actually has. It wasn’t quite as bad as this with the brick laptop, but it was close:

This is one of the main reasons why Microsoft came up with ‘Continuum’ when they released Windows 10, which is the feature which turns a Surface into tablet mode when they keyboard isn’t clipped in, and PC mode when it is. They are now expanding Continuum to phones and PC monitors.

So, you plug your phone into the monitor, and watch as it picks up exactly what you were working on, but with the proper PC experience. And you can still use your phone as normal at the same time.  You can use Office and all the things you would choose to work on a PC for.

Microsoft say, “You will now be able to travel and leave your laptop at home”.

Or, for people like me, “You will now be able to leave your laptop in the company of strangers for 3 days and carry on working as normal.”

Will this take laptops out of the equation entirely if all we need is a smartphone and a PC monitor? It would have certainly saved me a lot of time and energy during those ‘lost days’ as I shall now be referring to them as.

Time will tell – if Microsoft’s efforts take off, will we see Apple and Google following in these footsteps, and remove a stalwart piece of hardware from the equation?

Let me know your thoughts.

You can read more about Microsoft Continuum for the phone here.