Three days in the life of a once and former Microsoft Surface RT user

Summary:David Gewirtz showcases three days in the life of a typical consumer, originally excited by the Microsoft Surface RT tablet, who eventually becomes more and more upset and disappointed. David predicts this scenario will be repeated over and over in real life.

Where this thing went off the rails

If you're reading this, you're probably thinking Kevin is stupid, that he should have read the online sources, and he would have known that the Surface RT wouldn't run desktop applications.

But Kevin is like most consumers. He's busy living his life and doing his job. He sees ads, does a little investigation, asks questions of sales reps, and buys products.

Microsoft apparently told Sean Hollister of The Verge that the sort of misleading statements he got from Microsoft Store representatives (which I used as dialog in this article) won't happen in the future. The company claims it's going to better train its employees and will make sure the marketing used is very clear about the use (or lack of use) of desktop "legacy" applications.

But we've all met sales representatives, they come, they go. Microsoft can do its best to provide good training, but there's no doubt there will be confusion and there will be unhappy customers who feel the product was misrepresented. If the Microsoft return policy is upheld as written, and people who take their Surface RTs out of the packaging, try them, and find them wanting can't return them, there will be a lot of very unhappy consumers who feel really ripped off. 

UPDATE: Kudos to Microsoft for stepping up to the plate and assuring us that returns will be accepted. See  Microsoft says returns okay on opened Surface RT product packaging .

I'm convinced that there will be a lot of Kevins out there, people who will buy the Microsoft Surface RT thinking it runs full Windows.

I strongly advise Microsoft to play fair and let their stores know that they should allow consumers to return these devices, whether opened or not.

Most users don't consider their daily-use applications legacy applications. Most work users aren't going to go for the Metro interface for all their work. They can't. They need four or five or six or seven or eight windows open at once. They need to multitask between CRM and accounting and writing and programming and special terminal interfaces into their corporate ERP system.

While, as Ed Bott reported earlier, the Surface RT is a fine device for certain usage models, I'm convinced that there will be a lot of Kevins out there, people who will buy the Microsoft Surface RT thinking it runs full Windows.

The difference, as Hollister describes, is that when you go from Mac OS X to an iPad, there's a very, very clear difference in user interface. But when you go from Windows 8 to a Windows RT, there's absolutely no difference in UI. They look identical. This confusion will permeate product sales into the future -- unless Microsoft finds a way to differentiate Windows RT from Windows 8 more clearly.

In the meantime, Microsoft can count on more buyers' remorse and more product returns.

As for Kevin, it turns out he's quite happy with his iPad. He also bought a sweet little Ultrabook for doing real work on, and he's also quite happy with the full version of Windows 8 that runs on the Ultrabook.


Topics: Windows, Microsoft


In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.