Ever since Apple released its first iPad, sales of personal computers, and especially laptops, have come grinding to a halt. Consumers and businesspeople alike have instead moved toward tablets — almost exclusively the iPad. That’s been a pretty monumental change in the way people — especially mobile workers like field service techs — get work done from the road, as we’ve noted in the past. But for all the good the iPad represents for the mobile worker, some still complain about an inability to totally replace their desk- or laptops with a tablet.

That’s why people seem so giddy about Microsoft’s Surface tablet, which was shown off to reporters earlier this week at an event in Los Angeles. The new tablet features a few smart design elements — a built-in kickstand, a cover that folds open to reveal a thin keyboard, and a stylus pen. The tablet will operate in concert with Windows 8, the forthcoming operating system that’s expected to be released in October. And because it’s Microsoft, the Surface will come with Office, one of the most widely used software programs in the world. Tech Crunch seemed bullish on the new tablet:

“Laptops have dominated the mobile scene for as long as there was a mobile scene. Tablets have yet to prove themselves as serious productivity devices thanks to their limited computing platforms. But this is Windows. With Office. In a tablet. With a stunning keyboard cover. Love it or hate it, Windows and Office know how to get things done.”

In all, the Surface seems to have tech bloggers practically drooling at the possibility of a tablet that can virtually replace your laptop. (Although, it should be noted, the Surface was just debuted, and thus is still a long ways off from being broadly vetted for bugs and glitches, etc.) PC World wrote:

“But while the iPad is becoming a popular choice for the road, many people are still holding on to their laptops. That could change with Surface and similar devices since they offer a familiarity the iPad doesn’t necessarily have. … Even the entry-level version of Surface running Windows RT offers the more familiar desktop interface (albeit with limited functionality) for people who want a basic desktop.”

The first reaction has been to compare Windows’ new tablet to the iPad — some people have suggested it may be the first legitimate competitor to Apple — but in reality, the iPad is waaaay too entrenched at this point to be overtaken by Microsoft as most people’s go-to tablet. (Mashable suggests it’s actually Android that should be a little spooked by Microsoft.) But even if the Surface never becomes half as popular as the iPad, it may well signal the beginnings of a more competitive market for computer tablets — something that benefits everyone.

More: Google, Quickoffice Make File Editing Easier for Field Techs.

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ABOUT Ian Stewart

Avatar photoIan is a veteran journalist who has covered sports for various news outlets. Previously, he was managing editor for an electronic-book publishing company and a public relations writer.