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

Kevin notices "Windows RT" on the display placard and remembers he wanted to learn a little more about RT before buying. Is it or isn't it Windows 8? He turns to the salesperson and asks, "What can you tell me about Windows RT?"

Salesperson: The Microsoft Surface RT has Windows 8 on it.

Kevin: Well, are there any other limitations I should be concerned about?

Salesperson: Also it can not do an installation of x86/64 and desktop software.

Kevin knows all about desktop software, and once in a while, when poking around Windows on his computers at home and at work, he's seen mention of x86/64. But he's never really figured out what that meant.

Many people using Windows never really encountered how techies refer to the Intel platform. X86 is the 32-bit version of Windows (named after the 80x86 processors it initially ran on) and the 64-bit version is used to describe the 64-bit versions of the OS and programs. Among other things, the 64-bit OS can support a lot more RAM on the computer. But Kevin doesn't really know all this. He's been using 32-bit Windows installs, with less than 4GB of RAM, for years and it's just fine for him.

But, since the sales person brought up x86/64, Kevin asks what it means.

Salesperson: It's nothing you'd care about, that's more for people who are building their own software.

Kevin's not a programmer. He just wants to use the thing. He knows a programmer in the office, and that guy has a beast of a computer, two huge screens, and he's always cranky. Kevin has no intention of programming. He can't imagine being a programmer. The guy's always squinting and mumbling profanities under his breath about semicolons!

Of course, the salesperson's answer isn't true. What the spec really means is that Kevin is destined for disappointment. But let's not get ahead of our story.

Kevin is just about to pull the trigger, and then he remembers: his games. One of the things that really excites him about the Surface RT is that he wants to run some of his Steam games on it. He is pretty sure it can't handle his high-end shooters, but Kevin has a whole library of fun, older games and board and strategy-style games he thinks would be a hoot to run on his new tablet.

Kevin: I love playing Steam games. I know I probably can't run the big shooters, but should there be any other issues in running Steam? Can I run Steam and my games?

Salesperson: Sure, but you'll have to transfer them over via USB.

Dear Reader, if you've been following the trade press, you know that just about all the answers given by our fictitious salesperson are wrong. But as the Sean Hollister interviews revealed, these were real answers given by the people selling the product.

Let's continue to follow Kevin. By now, he's handed over his credit card, run up an $800+ charge, and has excitedly left the store headed home with his new prize.


Kevin's returned home, unboxed his new tablet, and plugged in the Surface RT to charge. He can't get over just how nice it feels. The fit and finish is actually nicer than anything he's seen come from Apple.

He's so excited about his purchase! It's getting pretty late, and it's a work day tomorrow, so he can't play with the device much. He loads a few Word documents onto a USB stick and transfers them over to the Surface RT. He's delighted to see that they're there. He creates a "Work" folder for them, launches Word, makes a few changes, and saves them back to the desktop.

This is just sweet. He wraps up for the night, and decides to take the Surface RT to work tomorrow.

Next up: Day 2, and unexpected frustrations...

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?!?