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 is back on the phone to the Microsoft Store. He's trying to get some answers. He speaks to a rep, who tells him, "I honestly can't say there's much a difference at all when it comes to a regular computer user. For an average user the differences between the pro and RT are slim."

This raises another red flag. "What," Kevin asks, "is pro?"

The sales rep tells him that "pro" means the Surface Pro, which will be out sometime next year and will run full Windows 8 for Intel.

Now, Kevin is starting to freak out. "What," he asks, "Do you mean by 'full' Windows 8 for Intel? Isn't that what I just bought?"

"Oh, no," the rep replies. "You have Windows RT. Only mobile apps would run on Windows RT."

By this point, Kevin is nearly enraged. It doesn't make sense. He bought a product from Microsoft that looks like Windows 8 and has Office, has a Windows 8 desktop, but won't run Windows applications -- and yet, he was told it would.

He's spent almost three days (and nights) trying to get things to work, he's out more than $800, and not only can't he get the programs he wants to run to run, he's also apparently not allowed to use the machine for work.

What? The? Frak?

Kevin calms down enough to tell the sales rep that he's going to come back to the store later today to return the machine. Kevin wants to know how to securely erase the machine, so the work documents he installed on the machine are no longer stored on the machine.

UPDATE: After publishing this article, a Microsoft spokesperson reached out to me regarding return policy. Although I believe the wording could still be misinterpreted, I've been assured that Microsoft will, in fact, accept returns even if the Surface RT package has been opened. Here are the details:

See Also: Microsoft says returns okay on opened Surface RT product packaging

I've added strikethroughs on the sections below where the policy has been clarified and, therefore, the returnability concern portrayed in this story is no longer an issue. Big thanks to Microsoft for stepping up with an honorable answer.

The rep tells Kevin that a support person will have to answer his question about securely erasing the machine, and that Kevin can make an appointment to see a support person in the store. But the rep also tells Kevin that since he's opened up his computer's packaging, it's not something he can return.

The rep points Kevin to the Microsoft Store return policy and quotes the return policy for hardware, including computers and Xbox:

Returns and exchanges of computers, computer hardware items (including mice, keyboards, and printers), and other hardware items (including Xbox 360 consoles and controllers, Zune players, and accessories), will be honored for thirty (30) days from the date of purchase, provided the item has not been opened or altered from its original state and does not show wear or damage.

By now, Kevin's worked up a full head of steam. It's probably good that he's calling on the phone, because he's just been told he's spent more than $800 for a computer that won't do what he wants it to do, what he'd been told it would do -- and he can't get his money back.


The day passes, but slowly. Kevin has growled and been surly to everyone in the office, because he's been so upset about his purchase. He was even more upset that the rep told him he couldn't return the device.

It took most of the day, but Kevin has finally calmed down. Kevin is a very capable negotiator and he knows that most things will go his way if he just takes them slow and stays calm.

He's decided to go to the Microsoft Store and talk with the people there, in person. After about an hour waiting for the manager to be freed up, and another 45 minutes arguing his case, the store waives the return policy, and Kevin finally gets a full refund for the Surface RT.

There was no tech available to help him securely erase the tablet, so Kevin had to give up on fully clearing the storage on the RT. He decided that while the work documents he had on the machine were confidential, nobody would really find much use in them, and besides, he wanted his money back on the tablet, and that was more important.

Kevin leaves the store stressed out, but satisfied. The whole Surface RT experience was a huge letdown for him, but he feels he was eventually treated fairly, and he got his money back.

Kevin has decided to take Barbara's advice from lunch the other day. He is going to buy an iPad. After all, while it also won't run Windows, it's got hundreds of thousands of apps. Kevin can't play his Steam games, but he's heard Angry Birds is pretty good.

Next up: lessons learned...

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?!?