A Surface RT Christmas story

The reduced pricing for the Surface RT made it a reasonable gift for the holidays. That may not be a good thing.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Last weekend I was standing in line in a local coffee shop ordering my usual beverage. I frequently work in local beaneries, and the staffs in them know me by sight and what I do for a living. The barista took my order and then surprised me with his statement.

"I got a Surface RT for Christmas."

"You must have been good this year, that's a nice gift" I replied. I do believe it is, so I was puzzled to see his face reflect little enthusiasm as he made the comment. It made sense when he continued.

"I liked it at first, but it's too restrictive. I can only get apps from the store and can't load two apps that I really need."

Windows RT tablets may be "real laptops" with Windows and Office, but only to a point, as the barista discovered when he received one as a gift.

Ah, the old Windows RT limit raises its ugly head in the real world. The inability to load legacy, or desktop apps was too much for me, too, although now there are Windows apps that meet my needs so it's less of a problem than it was back then.

Even so, I can't see buying a Windows RT tablet with the restriction when full Windows 8 devices are getting so cheap.

The big ad campaign that Microsoft and Nokia has been running doesn't help matters. Windows RT tablets may be "real laptops" with Windows and Office, but only to a point, as the barista discovered when he received one as a gift.

Thinking about the barista's situation, it seems this might be a common scenario. He was given a nice gift that he's discovered can't meet his needs, but he's not in a position to return it. He can't afford to trade up to a Surface Pro, first or second generation, and he doesn't want to make the gift giver feel bad. He's stuck with the Surface RT that doesn't fully do what he needs.

I'll bet this situation might be experienced by a few this year. Many consumers have no idea there is a difference between the Surface RT or Surface 2 and the Surface Pro, other than hundreds of dollars. The cheaper Surface seems like the perfect gift and I'll bet many went that route, and now some are unhappy they can't load their programs.

Savvy shoppers can research tablets and make sure they get one that meets their needs. Those receiving gifts don't have that luxury, they are at the mercy of the gift buyer who often just goes by price. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of Windows RT tablets made it under the tree when a Windows 8 device was really needed.

Microsoft may have to deal with returns of the product, or worse, have unhappy owners of them. Neither is a good situation. This Christmas story may not have a happy ending for the folks in Redmond.

Returning to the barista, I asked him if he got a keyboard with the Surface RT. He didn't, and said he was undecided whether to get the soft Touch Cover or the Type Cover. I told him that some like the Touch Cover but I found the Type Cover better for lots of typing. He still wasn't sure, and he still wasn't smiling while thinking about his gift.

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