Surface RT: A tweener device for Windows laptop users

Surface RT: A tweener device for Windows laptop users

Summary: The many reviews of the Surface RT from Microsoft have been a mixed bag. The dual nature of the device makes it not quite a tablet and not quite a laptop. It's a tweener device aimed at getting Office on a mobile platform.

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Image credit: Ed Bott ZDNet

The Microsoft Surface RT is either the greatest tablet in the world or the worst, depending on who you ask. The reviews have been all over the place, pegging the Surface RT as highly recommended all the way to stating it is flat out bad. Many words have been written trying to determine exactly what the Surface RT is aimed to accomplish, and ZDNet's Matt Baxter-Reynolds has finally figured it out.

"The Office side of this is perfect. Everything else that will make Windows RT and Surface attractive in the consumer and business markets is playing catch-up." — Matt Baxter-Reynolds

Matt has been using Windows 8 full time since March, so he is very familiar with its inner workings. My conversations with him make it clear he likes Windows 8, likes it a lot in fact. When he received his Surface RT last week I was most interested in getting his take on the new device, as he would be concentrating on the form and function.

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The article I have been waiting for Matt to write has finally appeared, and anyone considering a Surface RT purchase should give it a read. Matt details his experience with the Surface RT and the great frustration he has using it as a Metro tablet. That frustration is due to laggy performance and Metro apps that don't live up to the tablet competition.

As Matt details, that frustration disappeared when he started using Word on the Surface RT. It became obvious to him that the whole point of Microsoft was likely to get Office running on the ARM platform, and running well. He even suggested it should be called the Wordbook as the user experience is so good on the Surface RT.

This leads me to believe something I have been suspecting for a while, that the Surface RT is a "tweener" device aimed at those who already carry a Windows laptop everywhere. Those folks who never leave the house without a bulky backpack with laptop in tow.

The Surface RT is aimed at those folks. It's not a great tablet based on lots of reviews, including Matt's. It's not quite a great laptop, but with Office and the special keyboard it can pinch hit for one. In other words a tweener device that fits between a solid tablet and a good laptop. One that the aforementioned laptop junky can use to lighten his/her load in the backpack.

I think Matt nailed it in his review of the Surface RT. It didn't start to click for him what it was designed for until he started using Office, particularly Word, on the device. I suspect his use incorporated a keyboard although he doesn't state that implicitly. 

If that's the case then the Surface didn't click for Matt until he stopped using it as a Metro tablet and used it as a Windows laptop. Don't forget that Office on the Surface RT doesn't run in the Metro side of the device, it is really a desktop app. Which leads me to believe that Matt nailed it on the head -- the Surface RT is Microsoft's effort to get Office on the ARM platform. A tweener device, if you will.

Another colleague I respect immensely had a different take on the Surface RT user experience in his review. Ed Bott found it to be a decent tablet and a good laptop companion rather than a replacement. He "enthusiastically recommended" the Surface RT for such use, and I put good faith in his recommendation. This quote from Ed's review sums it up nicely:

"It’s not a replacement for a full-strength PC, but as a companion device that offers light weight, excellent entertainment options, and the ability to use full-featured Office apps, it’s irresistible."

Ed's review captures it nicely and is also a must read for those considering a Surface RT purchase. As he perfectly summed up the device:

It’s more than an iPad, and less than a PC.

Sounds like a tweener device to me.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Tablets

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86 comments
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  • .

    Just like the original WP apps, they will get quicker now the hardware is out and being tested.
    danjames2012
    • My RT Surface is a laptop

      I no longer take my large Dell Precision laptop with me to meetings. Because my RT Surface has a Remote Desktop client I remote into my laptop that is sitting on my desk and my 3930K 12 hardware thread SSD tower PC at home when I need to do any real work. Almost all communication is down via the Surface (including my phone calls using Skype). When I am at one of my desks then I sit and use my larger laptop / PC with large duel screens. But on the go I get to have my cake and eat it to.
      ggibson1
      • Wow.. You get to eat it too...

        The iPad has always been able to connect to any computer via remote desktop and skype... How's that cake working out for you????

        As for the title of this thread... There is a typo... Drop the "T" from tweener and it will be correct.
        i8thecat4
        • Apple is too feminine and dumbed down for my liking

          Windows IS the PC ... I get a lot more than just what Apple offers. And I am not looking for a company logo to define my personhood.
          ggibson1
          • Perhaps you should be looking for choices...

            Like all the apps you could ever want and more... Something Apple has and Microsoft does not...
            i8thecat4
          • Microsoft has decades of apps ...more than anyone

            RT does not have access to that library directly though with remoting you do...and with the Surface Pro you will have access to every app ever made by any Windows developer...Apple/Google cannot touch that.
            ggibson1
          • ROTFLMAO!!!!

            Gee and you can remote to a PC with an iPad, iPhone, or any Roid device as well... But if you want actuall choices for apps that run on the device, that you can actually use in the real word and not be restricted to a wifi only connection to a lousy windows pc, then you might want to consider something with real choices... Like Apple... Thanks for playing.. All your bases belong to us.
            i8thecat4
          • And the same can be said about the iPad

            So your point is what?
            non-biased
          • Windows RT

            is only 2 weeks old. It has a pretty darned good selection for starters and I have no doubt that the apps will come. Apple hinted that they would be switching over to ARM type processors for their mainstay machines in a few years so clearly Microsoft is way out in front on this one. Although it won't surprise me if it continues to be a bad idea until Apple releases it's product lines.... sarcasm.
            ethananim
          • Nice try but wrong

            First, Apple did not hint at moving to ARM for their desktops and laptops, analysts have been speculating on it, big difference. Second, even if they did hint at it how is MS ahead, they are currently running two different OSes just like Apple is.
            non-biased
          • i

            If you just take note of all the crappy apps you so excited about on the apple store, then u might wake up from your long sleep. 100000 apps of which 90000 are repeats of the same old things. Ha. So worthless. And I am using apple products but not for long. Stop bragging and get real.
            Brian Rhoda
          • Really?

            You have a link to the study that proves this? Just because that's what you want to believe doesn't make it true. Besides, even if it was true 100K unique useful apps is 10X what you have for the Surface RT right now if you assumed they were all unique and useful.
            non-biased
          • Back up your claims, don't just spout talking points

            Let see what it offers that I can't accomplish with the iPad.
            non-biased
        • Remote Desktop

          "The iPad has always been able to connect to any computer via remote desktop and skype... How's that cake working out for you????"

          With Surface RT I have access to a keyboard and mouse, something not available in the iPad. I made a RDP connection with my iPad to the office and the touch navigation wasn't the best experience. IMO, that's one area where Surface does better than the iPad.
          dvm
          • So you disputed nothing

            The Surface might be better for remote desktop but that doesn't not change the fact that it is available on the iPad.
            non-biased
          • available != useful

            you know that you can physically drink liquids by pouring them through your nose? but i'm pretty confident you don't do that very often. using desktop apps via remote desktop on an ipad without a proper keyboard and mouse is as natural as drinking through the nose. surface's keyboard and touch pad on the other hand work very well with desktop apps.
            vpupkin
        • I suppose - i8thecat4

          but the Surface (which I'm using now to look at all the scathing, unfair reviews) is better at those things than the iPad. Remoting into computers is a Windows experience that is handled natively and well in Windows RT. Also network shares, dlna devices and a full file system are available out-of-the-box with the traditional Windows experience that we're all familiar with.

          Another thing that's cool about the Surface is that I can connect wirelessly or via USB to networked devices - printers. It's an easy netbook like experience in a sexy package that works splendidly as a tablet - just pull off the keyboard.

          Microsoft will soon release Office for iPad which should make it almost as attractive but for me the split-task windows are an absolute must. You should cut the juvenile BS from your comment and spend some time with the tablet. It's pretty neat - for a transition device.
          ethananim
          • I've been printing wirelessly over my iPhone since gen 1...

            Get a clue and buy a vowel ethananim... Suggesting that remote desktop is a selling point of any tablet is a far cry from rational thought, it's nothing more than a cumbersome workaround... The main feature that makes a tablet attractive is portability.... Try traveling with that surface tablet and tell me how that remote desktop is working out for you... LOL!!! I use my iPad on the plane, at airports, in a taxi cab, on a train or subway, in the car, at the beach, etc. (places where your remote desktop doesn't work)... I've spent some time on a surface tablet and it is 2 hours of my life that I will never get back... I'll take another look at it when Microsoft gets some real choices for apps, but for now, I'll stick with a device that I can enjoy and actually get some work done on when I need to.
            i8thecat4
          • Printing hard line?

            So your somewhere that you need to print something off, but golly gee! their network is down, or don't have wireless printers, but look at that! a printer with a USB cable. Surface can handle that right out of the box. No lousy, half crapped paid apps by a hand full of teenage developers developing brand specific apps for iOS.
            harley22x
          • Ding ding ding, we have a winner

            for the moronic post of the thread award. Congratulations harley22X.
            non-biased