Surface RT tablet available for preorder: Why I am waiting

Microsoft's Surface RT tablet has captivated me since the unveiling. Now that information is becoming available about the Surface I am in no hurry to put my order with Microsoft.


The Surface RT tablet is on sale at the Microsoft web site, with delivery promised for October 26. Orders seem to have been brisk with the initial inventory sold out. Microsoft is already quoting a 2 - 3 week delivery for the new tablet. While my initial plan was to order a Surface RT as soon as possible, information about the tablet has put that plan on hold.

Update: While the shipping delay was reported online last night, today the Surface order site is back to quoting a delivery date of October 26.

Update 2: The Surface order site is now quoting 3 week delivery on the low end 32GB model, indicating sales have been brisk. That depends on how many Microsoft had available for launch, of course.

Tablets are my passion, that's why I own several of them. The new tablet from Microsoft captured my attention from the beginning and I couldn't wait to get one of my own. As the sale window grew near I was bothered by the lack of information about the Surface RT, especially the all-important pricing. Now that we know more about Microsoft's new tablet, my plan to buy a Surface RT is on hold for now.

Several things have dimmed my excitement for the Surface RT. The first information to come to light from Microsoft is that the Windows RT installed on the Surface RT will take about 10 GB of the storage. That's not a lot for Windows, but it makes me think that buying a Surface with less than 64 GB of storage will be a mistake. I tend to use a lot of storage on Windows systems, and I don't see any reason for the Surface with Windows RT to be any different.

That leads to the pricing of the Surface RT. The 64 GB version of the tablet is $699 which also comes with the innovative Touch Cover. While that price is in line with the competition, I was hoping it would be a bit lower. The Surface RT is a totally new beast with Windows RT, and that price is just too high for me to see how well it works. I would likely want the Type Cover with real keys for typing, and that adds another $130 to the total. I'm not ready to plunk down $829 to see if the Surface RT works for me.

That's a big if in the beginning, as there is no guarantee what apps will be available for the Surface RT when it is delivered. The ecosystem is young and will surely round out the apps offered over time, but that's not going to happen quickly. There's a real risk that the Surface RT won't have all the apps I need for a while. I would be willing to wait for that to happen but not at that high price.

The single biggest advantage to Windows RT over the competition is the inclusion of a light version of Office. That's a big plus and no doubt drove a lot of buyers to place their order. That's why the observation yesterday that the licensing of the version of Office on Windows RT devices prohibits its use for commercial purposes put the brakes on my purchase order.

I use my tablets for my work which is purely commercial in nature. According to the information that bubbled up yesterday I could not do that with the Office on the Surface RT. That kind of negates the advantage of having Office on RT, at least for my situation.

Mary Jo Foley was able to clarify that this version of Office can be used for commercial purposes if additional licenses are purchased by either individuals or enterprises. According to Microsoft the licensing needed is either Office 365, Office Standard/Professional 2013, or a license through a volume licensing agreement. That puts another fee on top of the already steep purchase price of the Surface RT configured as I need it. It makes little sense to me to include a version of Office that can't really be used by Surface RT buyers without the need to buy a totally different version of Office. That kind of negates the benefit for my use case.

I will eventually buy a Surface, but now I am seriously considering waiting for the Pro version. It is supposed to follow the RT version in 90 days, and will come with full Windows 8. That version at least has fewer risks from early adoption than the RT version. Of course, my purchase of a Surface Pro will depend on the pricing. My fear is it's going to be a lot higher than Surface RT.