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

Where this thing went off the rails

If you're reading this, you're probably thinking Kevin is stupid, that he should have read the online sources, and he would have known that the Surface RT wouldn't run desktop applications.

But Kevin is like most consumers. He's busy living his life and doing his job. He sees ads, does a little investigation, asks questions of sales reps, and buys products.

Microsoft apparently told Sean Hollister of The Verge that the sort of misleading statements he got from Microsoft Store representatives (which I used as dialog in this article) won't happen in the future. The company claims it's going to better train its employees and will make sure the marketing used is very clear about the use (or lack of use) of desktop "legacy" applications.

But we've all met sales representatives, they come, they go. Microsoft can do its best to provide good training, but there's no doubt there will be confusion and there will be unhappy customers who feel the product was misrepresented. If the Microsoft return policy is upheld as written, and people who take their Surface RTs out of the packaging, try them, and find them wanting can't return them, there will be a lot of very unhappy consumers who feel really ripped off. 

UPDATE: Kudos to Microsoft for stepping up to the plate and assuring us that returns will be accepted. See Microsoft says returns okay on opened Surface RT product packaging.

I'm convinced that there will be a lot of Kevins out there, people who will buy the Microsoft Surface RT thinking it runs full Windows.

I strongly advise Microsoft to play fair and let their stores know that they should allow consumers to return these devices, whether opened or not.

Most users don't consider their daily-use applications legacy applications. Most work users aren't going to go for the Metro interface for all their work. They can't. They need four or five or six or seven or eight windows open at once. They need to multitask between CRM and accounting and writing and programming and special terminal interfaces into their corporate ERP system.

While, as Ed Bott reported earlier, the Surface RT is a fine device for certain usage models, I'm convinced that there will be a lot of Kevins out there, people who will buy the Microsoft Surface RT thinking it runs full Windows.

The difference, as Hollister describes, is that when you go from Mac OS X to an iPad, there's a very, very clear difference in user interface. But when you go from Windows 8 to a Windows RT, there's absolutely no difference in UI. They look identical. This confusion will permeate product sales into the future -- unless Microsoft finds a way to differentiate Windows RT from Windows 8 more clearly.

In the meantime, Microsoft can count on more buyers' remorse and more product returns.

As for Kevin, it turns out he's quite happy with his iPad. He also bought a sweet little Ultrabook for doing real work on, and he's also quite happy with the full version of Windows 8 that runs on the Ultrabook.


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?!?