Windows Surface RT: Microsoft's greatest hardware fiasco ever?

Windows Surface RT: Microsoft's greatest hardware fiasco ever?

Summary: Kin, Zune, and now Surface, Microsoft shows once more that as a hardware company it's a fine software business.


Windows Surface RT, like a certain coyote we all know, is destined for failure.

Ed Bott "enthusiastically recommends" the Windows Surface RT." I think it's already dead.

Oddly enough, we agree on the main point, "It’s more than an iPad, and less than a PC." Where we differ is what that means. He sees it putting RT Surface into a middle-ground. I see it as being neither fish nor fowl; it's not entertaining enough to replace a wildly popular tablet, nor work-friendly enough to replace a laptop.

That has far more to do with the software, Windows RT, than it does the hardware. Windows RT, Windows 8 for ARM, is both a confusing mess and crippleware.

To be exact, Windows RT is a limited version of Windows 8 that runs on ARM-based devices, not on traditional PCs. It is compatible with most, but not all, of the Metro-style apps that also run on Windows 8. Windows RT will not run any desktop Windows applications beyond the applications that are bundled with the operating system.

What are these bundled applications? They're the usual Windows built-ins such as Paint and WordPad, but for some reason Windows Media Player isn't included. It does include, however, Office Home & Student 2013 RT. Unfortunately Office RT comes with restrictions for office use. This suite includes Word, Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint... but not Outlook. In short, it may look like a Windows 8 tablet, but it comes with even fewer applications than the Windows Phone.

You may think I'm just saying this because I favor Linux for the desktop and Android for tablets. Wrong. I'm saying it first because it's true and, as it happens, I'm paraphrasing Paul Thurrott. You may know him as the guy behind Paul Thurrott's Supersite for Windows, arguably the best Windows-specific Web site in the world.

There's more though. For example, you can indeed use Flash on Windows RT, but only on Microsoft approved sites with Internet Explorer 10.

Chrome? Firefox? Opera? What about them? You can't run them on RT. You can only run applications from Microsoft's Windows Store, they, and most other Windows programs, aren't to be found on its shelves.

Thinking about using Windows RT tablets on your business network? You can't do it. Windows RT doesn't support Active Directory (AD)

There's not even, and this one surprises me just as much as the lack of AD, a RT native client for Microsoft's cloud-storage service, SkyDrive. Just when everyone is building in cloud storage to their tablet and desktop offerings, Microsoft pulls back from what seems to me to be a perfectly natural and smart move.

That's all bad enough that I wouldn't give two-cents for Surface with Windows RT's future, but then there's the pricing and the timing. Those seal the Surface's fate.

The entry-level 32GB Surface, without a keyboard, costs $499. With its Touch Cover and Type Cover keyboards, which Bott "can’t imagine using this device without," add an additional $100 to $119 to the tab. The comparable and brand new and exciting iPad 4, without a keyboard, costs $599.

On the other hand, lots of business users have no trouble using the iPad for business without a keyboard. Indeed the entire BYOD (bring your own device) to business movement started because of the iPad. It will take a much bigger price advantage than the one Microsoft is offering to sweep iPad users to a Windows Surface RT.

But, I really don't know that the Surface was meant to be an iPad competitor. If indeed it's greatest value is with a keyboard then isn't it really a laptop competitor?

If that's the case, then why not buy a "real" Windows laptop? A Surface RT with Type Cover will cost you $628. Over on CNET, I found over 740 Windows laptops for that price and below. Now if you really want a revolutionary laptop, which comes with a free, no-restrictions office suite and an amazing price of $249 what you really want is the new Linux and ARM-powered Chromebook.

Here's the truth of the matter: the Surface RT isn't good enough, cheap enough, or nifty enough to matter in today's market. It's dead technology as it sits there. The Intel-powered Surface with Windows 8 will probably be better... but they'll cost even more and they won't be out for months yet.

With a new full-sized iPad on one front, a wave of 7-inch tablets on another, a new model of desktop computing led by the Chromebook on yet another front, and last, but by no means least, cheaper real Windows laptops everywhere, the Surface RT's only fate will be to end up with the Kin and Zune in Microsoft's hardware trashpile.

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Topics: Windows, Android, Tablets, Operating Systems, Mobility, Mobile OS, Microsoft, iPad, Google, Browser, Apple, Web development

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  • once again you're going to be wrong

    It must really suck to be backing the wrong horse time and time and time again.
    • I've realized that to SJVN they're just words with no conviction

      It's one thing to write with conviction, knowing your words have truth behind him.

      For SJVN, I doubt he believes in what he writes, to him they're just words to make some money, hollow words, lifeless words.

      Look at his statement at the end -

      "With a new full-sized iPad on one front, a wave of 7-inch tablets on another"

      His thought is that the pre-order sell out of Surface doesn't exist, that the interest in Surface is all made up.

      "a new model of desktop computing led by the Chromebook on yet another front"

      Leading to the storage shelf, or back to the store for an exchange. The articles he doesn't want you to read, so he pretends they don't exist.

      "and last, but by no means least, cheaper real Windows laptops everywhere, the RT Surface's only fate will be to end up with the Kin and Zune in Microsoft's hardware trashpile."

      Like most of Google's offerings. You know, the stuff he gets asked "what happened to Google's..." that he never answers.

      So yeah, It's sad that today, even bloggers like SJVN don't believe what he writes, and I guarantee that is the case here.
      William Farrel
      • RE: "the pre-order sell out of Surface

        Be careful as this could be a marketing gimmick. Produce just enough Surface Windows RT-based tablets to create a relatively small inventory for pre-order sales. When supplies [predictably] run out, all the tech sites report it with BIG, BOLD headlines. And, thus, everybody wants one. Right?

        P.S. And I thought that you worked in marketing. :/
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • I work with marketing, not in marketing

          but then you you can say that about anything that sells out - Produce just enough product to have a relatively small inventory for pre-order sales.

          I just read that the biggest problem facing iPad mini could be "parts shortage, so get your now" advice. Could it be that Apple is only stocking X amount of parts to creat a shortage?

          So yeah, but then we would have to view all sellouts like that, right?
          William Farrel
          • RE: sellouts

            In this market, with Microsoft late to the tablet party, it's sensible to view such headlines with a bit of skepticism.

            As for Apple, they're stepping out on a limb just a bit as Steve Jobs was adamant that a 7-inch iPad wouldn't happen. Perhaps Apple is being more careful with iPad Mini production than with the iPad.

            One thing I DO know is that all product sellouts should not be viewed as the same. In addition, some marketing professionals are VERY good at what they do.
            Rabid Howler Monkey
          • You can say that about anything that sells out but

            the difference is when the sell out is followed up with actual sales figures for the sell out. It's been over a week now since the RT release and I have yet to see any info on how many units sold, have you? Same thing could happen with the iPad mini, sold out quickly but could have been limited inventory. I suspect that was the case with the white units which sold out in 20 minutes in pre order but I would also expect Apple to be following up with some sales figures soon.
          • Windows RT is as slow, oversized Windows phone that can't make calls.

            The best way to describe Windows RT is that it is a slow oversized Windows 8 Phone that can't make phone calls and doesn't run Windows Applications (it runs Metro applications of which there are precious few). It is pathetically slow as well and grossly overpriced.


            The $249 Chromebook is 3.34 times as fast as the $599 Windows Surface RT Tablet with cheap flat keyboard cover (Chromebook has a Peacekeeper score of 1162 compared to Windows Surface RT's score of 348). The Chromebook has a superb full stroke keyboard and a superb touchpad, and the same screen resolution.

            Why on earth would anyone be stupid enough to buy a Windows RT Tablet?
          • Mah, Try it before you make incorrect statements

            First of all benchmarks do not equal real world performance. and second of all Windows phone 8 and windows RT aren't even the same platform so your statement about it being an oversized windows phone is completely off base. Why on earth would anyone be stupid enough to make comments about a product that they haven't even tried?
            Richard Barela
      • Hmmm!

        "It's one thing to write with conviction, knowing your words have truth behind him.
        For SJVN, I doubt he believes in what he writes, to him they're just words to make some money, hollow words, lifeless words."

        Sounds very much like Romney :-)
    • It is nothing but sales pitch for Chromebook

      moving on. Probably some higher level person at Microsoft might have stole SJVN's girl, and he is showing it regularly here.
      Ram U
      • I did have to laugh when I saw

        that Chrome books we supposed to be some sort of threat.
    • This is what i've come to expect from SJVN

      What's the point of RT? It's a tablet like experience built around Windows services such as the Windows Store, Sky-Drive, Xbox Music and Office. You can't compare RT to IOS or Android when it comes to the store because the Store just launched. It takes time to have new apps introduced to a new platform....Windows Store is its destined to grow. There will be millions of PCs sold and if you're a DEV you can't ignore this. You need to port or develop for Windows 8. People that write off RT are likely heavily invested in Apple or Android so they fear new and they fear a superior product.
      • It was built around Sky-Drive?

        Guess you missed where Sky-Drive was overlooked or ignored in RT.
    • BACK YOUR COMMENT or don't make it

      SJVN stated his reasons why Surface RT is DOA. You just reply with ad hominem. Your reply does nothing to help someone who's trying to analyze whether to buy one. In fact, you make the Surface look WORSE, just like some zealous Christians with their no-homework remarks, make Bible look bad.

      BACK UP any claim you make, or shut up, please.
    • Denial

      What world are you living in? Do you actually know anything of technology and its purpose?
  • I am shocked

    SJVN doesn't like a Microsoft product?

    And here I thought he loved their stuff...
    Michael Alan Goff
    • It is amazing how SJVN unites Apple & MS users

      I actually fear for a tech gadget's success when Steve endorses it. We should all bow our heads in a moment of silence for the Motorola Xoom tablet - which was only one of the products Steve blessed and believed was better than sliced bread. Poor Peter Perry - he followed Steve's XOOM advice and look where it got him.
      • Xoom wasn't the worst.

        But you're right, he does unite people.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • Whatever happened

        to Peter Perry anyhow?
        • Probably changed his handle here

          and at the same time what happened to Microsoft Office Page Formatting Boy - Donnie Boy?
          Ram U