Thoughts On The Microsoft Surface RT From an iPad User
If you’re able to afford an expensive SUV, then you’ll most likely enjoy the ride. It’s built on the chassis of a medium sedan and has the suspension and engine of a truck. You can’t go wrong with that combination. The problem is only being able to afford a crossover SUV. It’s built on the chassis of a small or compact sedan, and in most cases, the suspension is a weird combination of “not so sedan” and “not so truck”. To make matters worse, it also has the engine of a sedan. Sure you can brag about the fact that it’s still an SUV, but all you have are the costs of an SUV. You have to pay for more for the car, more for fuel, bigger tires and parts, but you don’t get the performance of a sedan, or the four-wheel drive of a truck in most cases.
I’ll admit I was immediately in love with the Microsoft Surface when it was announced a couple of months ago. My first thought was: “Wow this is one beautiful and smart tablet”. The little things like a kickstand and a keyboard cover are really the things that made it a genius concept for me.
Sadly, as I pointed out earlier, I felt the need to wait and see before I pre-ordered. Microsoft did a terrible job in allowing all of us in the media handle it before the launch. Before you start with all the “XX blog and XX blog” where invited to Redmond to give it a try, keep in mind that anything that’s controlled is just that, “controlled”. It’s just like how some media outlets went crazy over the HTC One X when it launched after some controlled usage, and since we paid for our units, we gave readers the reality of what to expect. How did that story turn out?
As it turns out, some early reviews are already out on the Surface RT and in some cases from these controlled visits to Redmond. The results from most of these are contrary to what happened with the One X, and this time, exactly what I expected. The Microsoft Surface RT is sadly just a crossover SUV, and there are lots of reasons why this concept has historically failed, so let’s go through them:
It’s not a good tablet
One of the biggest reasons why the iPad has been so successful is because it focuses on just being a tablet. It’s a consumer product that was designed with the sole purpose of consuming content. The reason why both you and I are appalled by this idea is because we are power-users. We visit Pocketnow specifically because we don’t only consume content as a habit. Sadly, you and I make a very small portion of the market. The other 80% of users only buy a computer to do some Facebook, FarmVille, email, browse the web and the iPad was designed for them, not for you and me.
The Surface RT is not a good tablet. One of the primary principles that make the iPad so popular is how it feels in the hand. It seems illogical for Apple to stick with the 4:3 aspect ratio on the iPad, but the purpose is for you to hold the tablet with one hand in landscape and not feel tired. Sadly, even if the Surface RT is a bit thinner than the iPad, it has sharp borders. It also has a 16:9 aspect ratio that makes it heavy to hold in landscape.
It’s still boring
Another of the principles that makes an iPad popular is 250,000 apps made specifically for it. Apple was very smart when they launched it. You could run iPhone apps during the period of time that developers would port their apps to extend to the iPad. As a result, even though the experience was initially choppy, you could at least do more with it than browse the web and view the built-in icons.
The Surface RT can’t run existing Windows Phone 7 apps. And so far, I’m not even sure if it’ll be able to run Windows Phone 8 apps with so much secrecy behind the product. As a result, there’s really no benefit in owning a Surface RT and a Windows Phone 8 device. Surely the idea is that the apps are shared some day, but as it stands, you’re stuck wit flipping live tiles from side to side and using the browser. If you’ve ever used Windows Phone 7, you’ll understand why this is not a successful way to reach customers.
It’s not a good laptop
Another big reason why the iPad has succeeded is because it was never designed to be a computer. As Steve Jobs pointed a couple of years ago, computers are like trucks. They can do everything a sedan can, but they are also utility vehicles. A sedan doesn’t have the suspension nor the weight of a truck, so you simply can’t use it in the same way.
The iPad is a consumer product. It was designed to give you a more intimate experience consuming content, not creating it. Surely the Surface RT is bundled with Office and all, but can you and I power-users really substitute our computers with it? The answer is no. If I wanted to root my Android device with a Surface RT, I can’t. If I wanted to use any of my existing Windows apps on Windows RT, I can’t. If it’s not on the Windows Store, forget it, and as it stands, there isn’t much to chose from anyway.
That said, if I wanted to use the Surface RT as a laptop, I physically couldn’t. The name is clear: “Lap Top”. You can’t place it on your lap with the touch cover and the stand. You also can’t fold that touch cover the way that you can fold the smart cover to use the on-screen keyboard on your lap.
The bottom line
I’m sad to report that the Surface RT wasn’t designed to compete with the iPad. That’s actually a bad thing. If Microsoft would’ve been smarter, they would’ve remembered how their Tablet PC product failed. It was an underpowered laptop with a touch screen that was awkward to hold. The Surface RT is exactly the same thing. As a result, no Tablet PC was ever either a good tablet or a good laptop. This is the same problem with the Surface RT. The smartest approach was to make the Surface RT a tablet that was great to hold and with enough apps to entertain everyone.
Both Adam and I agree that the best thing to do is to wait for the Surface Pro. You’ll pay a little more money for the full-sized SUV, but you’ll get all the benefits that an SUV was designed for. You’ll have the complete Windows experience, and how you hold it will become irrelevant since productivity requires a desk anyways. It won’t be the best tablet in the world, but you can either bite the bullet and try to hold it, or you could buy a smaller 7-inch iPad mini or Nexus 7 that are both good at just being tablets.
What about you? Do you feel the Surface RT is a good tablet or laptop? These are just my personal opinions, but we’d love to read your thoughts on how this device could improve your life style in the comments down bellow.