Touting Surface 2, Microsoft ironically makes a business case for Chromebooks

Check the latest blog post from Microsoft’s Surface Team and you’ll see a compelling case for using the Surface 2(s msft) in the enterprise. The company suggests Surface 2 is the most productive tablet for business, in fact. And I can understand why: The device is relatively locked down, works with the Microsoft Office productivity suite and supports USB 3.0 peripherals. With the Windows 8.1 RT software update, Microsoft’s(s msft) case is even stronger thanks to three highlighted features.

Ironically, they’re all features available on Google(s goog) Chromebooks and Chromeboxes as well.

Surface 2 Windows

The Surface team pointed out these three features as the “top three” that make Surface 2 ready for the enterprise:

  1. Remote Application Access. Surface 2 can remotely connect to another Windows computer so that users can access and use legacy Windows apps. These won’t run on Surface 2 natively because they’re built for x86 chips, not the ARM(s armh) processors used for Surface 2. I agree with Microsoft: Since you can’t run older Windows apps on the device, this is a great feature for businesses.
  2. Data Access using work folders. Companies that deployed Windows Server 2012 R2 can create folders and workspaces that can be shared among Windows and Windows RT devices. And I.T. shops can centrally manage the storage.
  3. Enhanced Manageability. The I.T. department also needs to manage devices and thanks to the Mobile Device Management (MDM) features supported by Windows RT 8.1, they can do so. MDM supports hardware and software inventory, device configuration, remote data wipes and more.

It turns out that Chrome OS supports the same features, often exactly replicating what the Surface 2 can do.

Toshiba Chromebook

And it can do that for much less, with Chromebooks starting at $199 and LTE models costing just a bit more; Microsoft announced Surface 2 with LTE for $679 earlier this month.

  1. Chrome OS has long had a Chrome Remote Desktop extension that supports access to a Windows or Mac computer. The remote environment runs securely in the browser and works as if you were sitting in front of the remote computer. And there’s another option available: Last month, VMWare announced hosted desktops for Chromebook access, so you don’t even need another dedicated Windows machine for Windows apps on a Chromebook.
  2. Microsoft’s shared workspaces can easily be replicated with Chromebooks and Google Drive storage. Granted this is a cloud approach vs. an in-house server storage model and not every enterprise can or will embrace it. But there’s little here that’s unique to Windows or Surface 2 as compared to a Chrome OS device.
  3. Just like Microsoft does, Google offers a Chrome Management Console to I.T. shops that support Chrome OS. That’s what schools are using to deploy Chromebooks in the classroom because the feature set and control is robust enough to do the job: Inventory management, device configuration, app install blocking, user access, group profiles and more are included.

Obviously, a key difference between Surface 2 and all of the available Chrome OS devices is the form factor: The former is a tablet while the latter group isn’t. I think it’s a very reasonable assumption, however, that any business considering a Surface 2 deployment will include the Microsoft keyboard covers. After all, these folks are going to do “real work” as the kids say these day, and they’ll want a keyboard. Microsoft’s Touch and Type Covers are excellent; among my favorite, in fact.

My point here isn’t to suggest that every business go out and adopt Chromebooks. That would be ridiculous. Each organization, or individual, for that matter, should asses their needs and use the best tool for the task. I don’t really care if that’s a Surface 2 or a Chromebook; I have no stake in either company, nor any other that I write about. If you need Office and can’t remotely access it or must have Windows apps, Surface 2 is a super choice.

Instead, the point is to illustrate that for all of its rhetoric — think back to the semi-misleading Scroogled ad campaign — Microsoft offers and even promotes a compelling business device whose hand-picked best features are found on Chromebooks costing less.