Microsoft Surface RT – Review

Thanks to the awesomeness of working for Zynga, I was able to get a Microsoft Surface RT as a loaner.

I used to be a huge fan of Microsoft products until one fine afternoon a virus struck. Right in the middle of a huge ops crisis with me frantically trying to get control of an errant set of web servers, some virus took control of my machine. Frustrated, I came into work the next day and said “Give me a Mac”.

After that 3 year experiment, I am moving back. Mostly because I found myself using a UNIX box disguised as a Mac instead of a Mac. The original Mac experience was nice because shit just worked. But now, after many years of customization I have basically replaced every single piece of Mac software with some downloaded application. And now I am dealing with the incredibly complicated configuration system that is UNIX. For me, the promise of the mac of was a simpler easier to use more robust system and that is no longer true. Therefore, I might as well use a device I am more comfortable using. More concerning is that the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, views me as an uninteresting customer, preferring to sell tablets instead of making great laptop/desktop software..

So …

The Microsoft Surface RT is an interesting piece of hardware.

Screen

The form factor is unlike every other tablet. Following in the foot steps of Steve Jobs, the Android community makes Apple knock-offs. Microsoft chose to go different. The tablet screen is much longer than an iPad and much narrower. At first it was off-putting but it turns out that the form factor works great for surfing the web and for watching movies. Surfing the web is better because you see more of the web-site. As web-sites have gone from the page form factor to essentially an endless scrolling bottom, the long form factor is great. Watching movies is better because the screen aligns better with the 16×9 HD form factor.

Keyboard

The keyboard isn’t that great. But then again, unless it’s an IBM ThinkPad (not a Lenovo) the keyboard on all laptops etc suck. But it’s serviceable.

In use

Folks who claim you can’t put the device on your belly and watch a film are too thin. Fat Guys of the world rejoice, you can put the tablet on your belly with the kickstand and watch films… What is really cool is that you can use the kick-stand to watch a movie on your bed without holding the device…

I am finding myself using the device to surf the web, watch movies on netflix and talk on skype, and follow the world on Facebook…

Limitations

It’s painfully obvious that the device has an underpowered CPU.

It’s painfully obvious that if you have 1 neuron you’ll build an app for RT. If you have 2 neurons you will build apps for Windows 8 Metro. If you have 3 neurons, you will build an app for Windows 8… If you actually have a brain then you will build a Windows 8 app, that allow pieces of your app to be tiles on the Windows 8 metro interface. Evernote, honestly, does this best. If you are a windows 8 developer, use their product every day until you get what they did.

Conclusions

The digerati and the cognescenti are apple fan boys. The press is in love with Apple, mostly because their customers are Apple fans. And rightfully so. Apple has had an amazing run in terms of it’s products from the time jobs joined …

But… Microsoft Surface RT is an interesting piece of hardware. And the core problems with the device, a lack of performance and a lack of apps will be addressed by the Surface Pro. If the reddit thread is to be believed, then Microsoft has ways of addressing the battery power issues as well…

If you look around my office these days I see a lot of people running around with iPads hooked to keyboards… Which tells me MS is in the right ball park with their hardware…

Microsoft is an interesting company. With their cash reserves, and the sheer talent they have locked into their headquarters, they seem to be willing to lose money at rates that would cause other companies to panic to win in a market. Their first entrance into this market wasn’t a hit, but it wasn’t a miss. And the idea that a tablet is really just a different form factor for a laptop is looking increasingly prescient.

If I had some money sitting around I would buy a Surface Pro. Which is more than I can say about an iPad which I have never bought… (I own one because my wife loves them. She gives me her hand-me-downs…)

 

 

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