Surface RT tablet available for preorder: Why I am waiting

Surface RT tablet available for preorder: Why I am waiting

Summary: Microsoft's Surface RT tablet has captivated me since the unveiling. Now that information is becoming available about the Surface I am in no hurry to put my order with Microsoft.


The Surface RT tablet is on sale at the Microsoft web site, with delivery promised for October 26. Orders seem to have been brisk with the initial inventory sold out. Microsoft is already quoting a 2 - 3 week delivery for the new tablet. While my initial plan was to order a Surface RT as soon as possible, information about the tablet has put that plan on hold.

Update: While the shipping delay was reported online last night, today the Surface order site is back to quoting a delivery date of October 26.

Update 2: The Surface order site is now quoting 3 week delivery on the low end 32GB model, indicating sales have been brisk. That depends on how many Microsoft had available for launch, of course.

Tablets are my passion, that's why I own several of them. The new tablet from Microsoft captured my attention from the beginning and I couldn't wait to get one of my own. As the sale window grew near I was bothered by the lack of information about the Surface RT, especially the all-important pricing. Now that we know more about Microsoft's new tablet, my plan to buy a Surface RT is on hold for now.

Several things have dimmed my excitement for the Surface RT. The first information to come to light from Microsoft is that the Windows RT installed on the Surface RT will take about 10 GB of the storage. That's not a lot for Windows, but it makes me think that buying a Surface with less than 64 GB of storage will be a mistake. I tend to use a lot of storage on Windows systems, and I don't see any reason for the Surface with Windows RT to be any different.

That leads to the pricing of the Surface RT. The 64 GB version of the tablet is $699 which also comes with the innovative Touch Cover. While that price is in line with the competition, I was hoping it would be a bit lower. The Surface RT is a totally new beast with Windows RT, and that price is just too high for me to see how well it works. I would likely want the Type Cover with real keys for typing, and that adds another $130 to the total. I'm not ready to plunk down $829 to see if the Surface RT works for me.

That's a big if in the beginning, as there is no guarantee what apps will be available for the Surface RT when it is delivered. The ecosystem is young and will surely round out the apps offered over time, but that's not going to happen quickly. There's a real risk that the Surface RT won't have all the apps I need for a while. I would be willing to wait for that to happen but not at that high price.

The single biggest advantage to Windows RT over the competition is the inclusion of a light version of Office. That's a big plus and no doubt drove a lot of buyers to place their order. That's why the observation yesterday that the licensing of the version of Office on Windows RT devices prohibits its use for commercial purposes put the brakes on my purchase order.

I use my tablets for my work which is purely commercial in nature. According to the information that bubbled up yesterday I could not do that with the Office on the Surface RT. That kind of negates the advantage of having Office on RT, at least for my situation.

Mary Jo Foley was able to clarify that this version of Office can be used for commercial purposes if additional licenses are purchased by either individuals or enterprises. According to Microsoft the licensing needed is either Office 365, Office Standard/Professional 2013, or a license through a volume licensing agreement. That puts another fee on top of the already steep purchase price of the Surface RT configured as I need it. It makes little sense to me to include a version of Office that can't really be used by Surface RT buyers without the need to buy a totally different version of Office. That kind of negates the benefit for my use case.

I will eventually buy a Surface, but now I am seriously considering waiting for the Pro version. It is supposed to follow the RT version in 90 days, and will come with full Windows 8. That version at least has fewer risks from early adoption than the RT version. Of course, my purchase of a Surface Pro will depend on the pricing. My fear is it's going to be a lot higher than Surface RT.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Tablets

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  • Office fee

    Fairly logical office fee.
    Working in a modern enterprise, or SME for that matter, you'd have paid for a full office seat anyway, now that per user CAL would cover the Surface too I guess
    • Promising device but not enough be a success. One thing is for sure though...MSFT is getting a fanboi following that rivals Apples. The huge memory footprint of windows cannot be dismissed with "just get an SD card/memory stick" because of the limitations the OS puts on removable storage. Can you install programs on it? Can you sync to your card with sky drive? Also having to pay for office RT on top of thereally high cost of the device to avoid severe usage restrictions is a rip off. Add to that the closed nature of RT vs traditional windows and you've taken away the only true advantage it has over iPad. RT is also a no go for business because it cannot be joined and managed on a domain which would make it a very serious contender. Now we have to wait to see what the pro version has to offer and if MSFT will ruin it somehow too either with overpricing it or imposing too many feature limitations.
      Mark Hayden
      • But you're forgetting what the RT Tablet is supposed to be...

        And that is the iPad rival. You can't join an iPad to the domain either. It doesn't even have a removable storage option, save for iCloud, but you can't sideload apps to that. The RT tab was made for people who want the windows experience in a lightweight form factor, and it's priced to match the iPad as a result.

        People like to harp on the fact that you must pay extra for the touch cover which is practically mandatory to get the fullest experience out of it. I'm genuinely failing to see how that is the slightest bit different than requiring you to buy EVERYTHING separately for the iPad, including the "camera connection Kit ($29), just to be able to connect a memory card that will sideload into iPhoto, which is the closest to removable storage it gets.

        Yea, the extra licensing for Office is a deal breaker, but from the way James describes his use, he's going to want more than just a peripheral gadget anyway. I recommend he wait for the Pro to come out.
        Andrew Clary
        • You can't

          join a WinRT tablet to a domain either.
        • Why?

          Let's review why Surface is worth buying. You want a small form factor, full Windows experience, connectivity, expandability, real keyboard... oh wait! You really want a small laptop, not a tablet! Let's see... Ultrabook, Air, both better choices and far more versatile. But no touch screen. Oh yeah, you don't really need that. Especially with the awesome trackpad and gestures the Air has. :-) Tell me again why you want a Surface?
          • Then...

            Don't get it... Stick with you MBA...
          • License

            This 'non commercial' license is beyond ridiculous.

            But not as ridiculous as actually PAYING ANY ATTENTION to it whatsoever.

            This unenforceable bullshit can't possibly hold up in court; it's an unrealistic requirement that people cannot expect when purchasing something. (Unless very clearly advertised)

            Worse, this sort of BS has the potential to blow up in MS' face and cause a PR disaster.

            First the sky-high price, now this.. leading to the obvious question: Are the legal & marketing suits fucking up a product that very bright engineers and developers have worked so hard on?

            Can you go write a ZDNet article with that title please? (Feel free to remove the prophanity. ;) )
            Han CNX
          • Unenforceable..

            Whether it's enforceable or not is debateable, but given how long the idea of non-commercial or educational software has been around, I would wager that it is plenty enforceable.
          • Here is why ...

            Just imagine that you want to pass a MacBook Air around relatives and friends over the dinning table in a restaurant to share your vacation photo. Or, holding the Air to read on a bus. That is a reason why the tablets are so popular these days. It is easier to hold in a mobile way. The problem that I found with iPad is that it is not easy to attach external storage devices to it. Even with 64G, it is simply not enough. You may say that then you need a computer, not a tablet. Then do I need to take both with me? If Surface Pro has reasonable computing power and good display, I would consider very seriously in buying one over the iPad. With the keyboard cover, it is just like the old-day "convertible" notebook with the form size similar to iPad.
            Ctaya Chan
          • Your trying to compare the Surface Pro

            with the iPad and they are two completely different animals. You want a full fledged computer in a tablet form factor which is not what the iPad was designed to be and who knows if the Surface Pro will live up to it either.
        • That exactly my point

          Know the RT device is supposed to compete with iPad that is my point. If it is not cheaper and it us just as closed and just as incompatible with corporate systems then it will fail as a competitor. At least apple has more apps and market share and Android is open enough to side load custom or in house apps. As good as surface RT is it offers no compelling differentiation and thus will likely be a failure.
          Mark Hayden
        • Surface and Windows RT

          It's made for die-hard Microsoft fans.
          • Really

            Whilst not a die hard Microsoft fan, I do think they make an excellent operating system and some amazing server software.

            I am not at all considering buying a surface RT. Whilst I know that any Windows RT tablet (not just the surface) will take away some of the silly restrictions that Apple has imposed on the ipad (I own the ipad2), I am not considering any Windows RT tablet.

            These tablets still come with a walled garden approach and will not run any win32 applications.

            I am indeed waiting for a surface that runs Windows 8, or a similar tablet/hybrid from another manufacturer (the acer 700 something looks promising ).

            I do not get the complaints about office. Windows RT is clearly targetted at consumers, just like the ipad. Businesses are much more likely to want a proper Windows 8 tablet, one that runs lob applications, and can be joined and managed by AD.

            Of course, since bigger companies are vlk, they would have no problems running the consumer version of office on Windows RT tablets anyway.
          • So

            You agree with my opinion?
          • Targeted toward consumers that will use

            it in at work as well. For most people work is not at a large company. The iPad was targeted at consumers as well and look at the uptake in business it has had.
        • Requiring you to buy EVERYTHING separately?

          We have 3 iPads in our house (1, 2 & 3) and we have not been required to buy anything separately apart from cases/covers of our choice. I did buy the camera connection kit (paid $19) when we got the first iPad a few years ago, tried it out that day and have never used it again. So much for your requiring statement when talking about items you don't need.
      • I totally agree with this

        "Add to that the closed nature of RT vs traditional windows and you've taken away the only true advantage it has over iPad" ...that's a fact. Support for x86 legacy software has always been Windows' main appeal for most consumers. Suddenly MS forgets about it and turns it's back on its own user base, instead reliying on a "fanboi base" they don't even know they have. Not too smart of them, but let's see how it turns out.
        Rob Haddad
      • It is a device, manage it like one...

        MS is delivering tools that can manage this tablet as a device, just like iPads and phones. I don't see anything wrong with this strategy. Since this is a different OS and provides different capabilities, you would have had to create a whole new domain policy for it anyway. This way, you can mamage all your devices seperatly from your internal PCs. Especially since this device can't be connected to your internal network anyway, except through WIFI. At our company those are seperate networks.
      • "Add a memory card" may not be needed

        The free space after the OS and other things would be around 20Gb and that alone is more than the 16 GB most people have on their iPads - and don't have any problems with that much storage.
      • Yes and No

        "RT is also a no go for business because it cannot be joined and managed on a domain which would make it a very serious contender."

        Right and somewhat wrong at the same time. Microsoft is coming out with tools to manage Windows RT devices.

        Honestly though, why any business would look at the RT model more seriously than the Pro is beyond me. In my opinion, the RT is an entry level, consumer model. This is not your true productivity tablet. All the talk of Windows RT not being right for business is all well and good, but I don't think this model was really MEANT for business to begin with.