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

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.

TOPICS: Windows, Microsoft

UPDATE: Microsoft says returns okay on opened Surface RT product packaging.

I predict that the scenario I'm about to present here will happen over and over and over again. This is not going to be pretty.

Let's follow a typical consumer, Kevin, as he goes to buy a Microsoft Surface RT.

Last week, Sean Hollister of The Verge called a bunch of Microsoft Stores and spoke to representatives. The dialog I'm going to use for the store reps comes from real representatives who gave Sean these (very wrong) answers. Special kudos go out to Sean for doing this research.


Kevin is sitting down to lunch with Barbara and Mike, his co-workers. Mike says, "Hey, Kevin, did you hear about this new Windows tablet that's out?"

Kevin: Yeah, it might be what I've been looking for.

Barbara: What about an iPad? I like my iPad.

Kevin: Well, the iPad's nice, but I want to be able to do some work, too. I've been thinking about an Ultrabook, but I'd really like something a little smaller and cheaper.

Mike: There's a new Microsoft tablet that runs the new Windows version and has a flippy keyboard. Looks cool. You should check it out. It's even got Office.

Kevin: Yeah, maybe I will.


Kevin surfs the Web, visits the Microsoft Web site, and looks at the Surface RT tablet. The Microsoft site talks about serious fun and play.

Kevin sees the device runs the Home and Student version of Office, which has Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. That's good enough for him. He'd like Outlook, too, but since he can get a free copy from his Exchange provider, he figures it's not much of an issue.

Kevin's a diligent sort. He's been using Windows every day since the early XP days, and wants a little reassurance before he goes out and spends $600 or so. So he picks up the phone and calls his local Micosoft Store.

After waiting on hold for a few minutes, he is connected with a salesperson. Kevin asks, "What's the difference between Windows 8 and Windows RT, or are they the same thing?" The rep replies, "They're pretty much the same thing. There's no real huge difference except the RT is more touch friendly."

That's what Kevin wanted to hear. Sweet. He thanks the woman on the phone, hangs up, and can't wait until work is over.


The Surface has been out for a few weeks now, and the initial sales rush is over. The Microsoft Store has the Surface in stock -- and it's gorgeous! Kevin is incredibly excited by how it feels in his hand.

Kevin likes the tile interface (how he thinks of the Metro UI), and how it looks. Touch and wipe actions are fast and fluid. The salesperson (not the same person Kevin talked to earlier on the phone) shows him how to lauch Office. Word feels like Word, PowerPoint is PowerPoint, and Excel is really Excel.

And all this on a tablet! It's even got the Windows desktop. As a long-time Windows user, Kevin is completely tickled by the idea of a full Windows Explorer desktop interface on a tablet. This is what he's always wanted.

There are also plenty of ports. He can't wait until he gets home, hooks up some of his USB devices, and moves some data and programs over to the new machine.

He's got one more question before he plunks down $699 for the 64GB version and another $110 for the Surface Touch keyboard. Yes, he's spending $809 plus tax, but he's spent that before on a crappy laptop. This is a tablet -- with Windows!

Next up, a questions and mistaken claims about Windows RT...

Topics: Windows, Microsoft


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Good article

    I have seen some snarky remarks about if you can't understand Windows 8, you're basically just stupid. This is an example of the real world, where most real people don't get into it and who aren't into tech like this audience. Expectations met with reality - and reality of price, will determine success of product.
    D.J. 43
    • agree except one thing

      the cure to M$ incompatibilities is not Apple but Android!
      LlNUX Geek
      • Oh Lord, more retards.

        Android isn't an answer to anything. Awful UI, Android tablets suck. 99% of the apps for Android tablets are blown up phone apps that suck.
        • Sorry, but android is the answer...

          Android works just fine at running-
          a browser
          Angry Birds

          which are the apps the majority of typical tablet users want to run at a fraction of the cost of an iPad or Surface tablet
          • Let me laugh

            lol Android is just crap ... A bad UI paradigm + Laggy UI even in Android 4.1 + App crash even on a doulbe Arm CPU with 1 Gb of Memory and Android 4.1.1

            Worst Mobile OS ever!!!
          • Android is the best mobile OS

            I'll put up my Transformer Pad Infinity with Jelly Bean against any tablet even Apple's 4th gen tablet. Will see which one can do more.

            The Android OS can do something iOS has never been able to do and which most people need to do real work easily.

            What is it? It's the standard cursor. iOS has never been compatible with mice, trackpads, or game controllers because of it. Yet, Android, has always had that function built-in. It's a joy to be able to use my tablet with a dockable keyboard that has a trackpad. And that joy only increases when I use my wireless game controller to play games on it.

            Try using a standard laptop without a trackpad or mouse. One word, frustration!
          • Wrong

            iOS handles mouse cursors just fine. A point I have to YOU specifically at least once, and that you continue to ignore, making you more than simply misinformed. It makes you a liar.
          • when it's you...

            saying it, you want people to take your word?
            Hmm. Can you say hypocrite?
          • Please dont comment on these sites

            You are obviously biased. I won't say stupid, just ignorant. I have a Google (Asus) Nexus 7 tablet. It simply rocks. Fast. Multi-User. Supports the Dolphin (best mobile) browser. It just works, and the interface is simple, but rich. Please dont comment about Android (especially 4.1) when you know very little about it. Oh, and by the way, I'm a 25 year software developer and the development framework and paradigm are much more enjoyable then Apple's Objective C. By the way, thats a programming language. You baffoon.
          • Agree, for the most part...

            While I too like Android (I have a phone and a tab), the only problem I face is the lack of a good - and I mean "good" - Office Suite. If this could somehow be dealt with, I'd be content. Also, since I am a heavy Gmail etc. user, Android works well. And, please Google Docs (as much as I like Google's other offerings) is not very good. I wonder if MS would release Office for Android. If yes, that would be worth spending money on.
          • run Windows legacy apps on RT

            You can actually run Windows legacy apps on RT by using software such as ThinServer

          • Not really!

            Thinserver doesn't run on the RT. It is possible that the thin client for it might. However, that is not the same as running the apps on the Surface because you have to connect to the server where the legacy apps are installed.
          • Sorry but even mainstream media is questioning android viability.

            Sure Android "Rocks" for open source techies, but by and large it is a horrible choice for the user this blog is about. Much worse than Windows Surface for sure.
          • Do iOS Apps crash more than Android Apps??

            Prasad Tiruvalluri
          • cc

            like Sara said I am surprised that any one able to make $6279 in four weeks on the computer. have you seen this site..WWW.Ace16.comTry it
          • what are you smoking Eric?

            Android 4.1 is smooth! It is lag, bug, and crash free!

            Just because you can say something doesn't make it true!
          • Boys and their toys

            Eric - obviously to you your tablet is only a toy to play on. There are many of us who want full functionality to work with but still have the light and easy portability of tablet. Is that the Surface RT? Not for me - I'm waiting for the Pro but for many people it will be exactly what they need.

            90% of the tablets I see being used are little more than babysitting devices - no matter what age the person using them is.

            You go ahead and keep your Android device, a full function tablet like the Surface Pro would be a waste for someone like you.
            Jena Walton
          • Android's "killer app"

            Angry Birds
          • iOS Killer App

            Apple Maps! It just might kill ya! Literally!
          • Are you claiming Google Maps does not have errors? Really?!?