Should I buy Microsoft Surface now, or wait?

When rumors leaked of the prices for the Microsoft Surface around October 18th, I wasn’t thrilled. It was a little higher priced than I had originally hoped, but I had been setting aside cash with every intention of getting one “no matter what.” The thing is, I’ve known what I was getting in to. So here is what you need to know.

If it looks like Windows 8, and moves like Windows 8… it may not be Windows 8. Microsoft’s Surface that was made available in October is technically called “Microsoft Surface with Windows RT.” This device, while touting a full desktop-like experience, is limited to running apps from the Microsoft Store, found on the Start Screen. While I have no doubt that an eventual “Jailbreak” will be developed, there will still be problems with application compatibility. It is important to understand that the Microsoft Surface, and, in fact, any Windows RT tablet, can not run your traditional 32 or 64-bit Windows applications. The ARM processor requires software developers to do things differently than they would on traditional x86 architecture. Just the way your PC and your Mac can’t run the exact same programs, the same holds true for Mac OSX and iOS, Android, and even ChromeOS… each one requires special attention. Windows RT is no different.

What does this mean for you? A lot of applications you know and love aren’t going to be available. Are you a business person who needs Quickbooks? Too bad. Are you a gamer wanting to play some Diablo III? Outta luck. Need to Sync with iTunes? You’re out of luck.

This is where Microsoft has failed, this time around. While Windows RT shines with hardware compatibility, the software is clearly lacking. So eager to get people to buy their products, they haven’t made clear the distinction between Windows RT and Windows 8. And I don’t anticipate your normal big-box retail sales-person to be the one correcting you. What I describe above? Knowing that a lot of familiar programs just won’t run on Windows RT? THIS is the crux of the problem. No, don’t ask. Don’t even give me, “yeah, but what about… Outlook, Publisher, VPN Clients, Peachtree, Firefox, WinRAR, ┬ÁTorrentNO. They just don’t run. You need to know, without a doubt, that the Surface RT is designed to compete with the iPad and Android tablets – it is built new from the ground up. As such, it’s going to take time to get good applications, and that time is something many people don’t want to give up, waiting.

Surface Pro – a Microsoft made Windows 8 Tablet, NOT a Windows RT tablet, is supposed to be released this January or February. As of right now, there’s no such thing, especially not one directly from Microsoft. So if you’re looking to replace your laptop? Hold on. If you’re looking to have a nice portable and well-rounded alternative to an iPad? Look no further. If you’re hesitant, you should be. I would wait for the Surface Pro in the Spring – but start saving now, it will undoubtedly carry a 4 figure price tag.

Microsoft Surface with Windows RT: A Huge List of Impressions

When I unboxed the Surface RT, it was a thing of beauty. I clicked my Touch Cover on and away I went. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to adjust to typing on it. So let’s start there.

Touch Cover – within minutes I was tapping away, nearly full speed. Now, I will admit I have already acclimated myself to the smaller typing space of a netbook, but it wasn’t the space I had been worried about, it was the lack of a spring-feedback key-press. It turned out, I was ready for the change. Continue reading “Microsoft Surface with Windows RT: A Huge List of Impressions”

Is Microsoft already experiencing too much Platform Fragmentation?

There it is. Hydro Thunder Hurricane. In the Windows 8 app-store. For $9.99. When I first mentioned that Hydro Thunder would be coming to Windows 8, I thought it would possibly be free, for me, because I had already purchased both the Xbox 360 version of Hydro Thunder Hurricane, and the Windows Phone 7 version of Hydro Thunder Go. But, alas: it’s not free to me.

I am logged in with my same, unified LiveID, but if I want to play Hydro Thunder Hurricane on my Windows 8 PC – I’m stuck shelling out yet another ten dollars. I’m disappointed. But what is going to hurt worse? I have this sneaking suspicion that any apps I buy in the Windows RT store will not translate to buying the same Windows 8 “x86” app. We’ll find out this weekend, my Microsoft Surface RT tablet should arrive in the next few hours. It will be a tell-all moment for just how much app-purchasing I’m going to be doing in the new Microsoft ecosystem.

If I buy a Windows Phone 8 and none of the apps are compatible with my RT Tablet, and none of those apps are compatible with my Windows 8 app-store purchases… just what was the point of the app-store? Locking users in to only making purchases from one place? Then requiring them to pay for the same thing three times? I understand that there is bound to be some fragmentation – not all of the platforms can do the exact same things – there need to be certain limitations. But to offer the same application on multiple platforms but to charge for each one? That will infuriate many, many people. There will be a backlash if that is actually the case. But today is just Windows 8 Launch Day, October 26th, 2012. Maybe I’ll be in for a pleasant surprise. Time will tell, and I’ll be sure to write about it when I find out more. Just look for all of my Windows 8 related articles in the Windows 8 Archive.

Microsoft Surface RT review buzz

As the first reviews of the Microsoft Surface RT tablet start to shuffle in, I’m disappointed by the reviews and the reviewers themselves. While many of the reviews compare various tablet products directly, as they should, some of them look at the surface as a laptop replacement device. To be clear, the Surface RT has no illusions of its role as a tablet with a keyboard added for convenience. If a reviewer is expecting a “Surface” that is a replacement for a netbook or a similar product, they should be waiting to review the Surface “Pro” to be released in the first half of next year.

Beyond that, the sheer volume of Apple-biased reviews are somewhat painful. Nitpicking things like font-choices on the interface, rather than just admitting they like the product. If it had a different brand name behind it, the same reviewer would be gushing over it. I understand they really want to be unbiased, but they just aren’t. I can tell that I won’t be. I, myself, gush over all things Microsoft. I have since I was in high school, and although my friends wanted to be the Mac guy or the Linux guy, I had no hesitation about being the Windows guy. I was the one who had no problems with Windows ME, and the better part of a decade later was an early adopter of Windows Vista. But does that mean that I can’t load up a web page or a video on Netflix and compare the two images side by side? Absolutely not!

If the iPad 3 simply looks better to the naked eye, I’m going to tell you so. I’m not going to defend my side by talking about clear-type and DPI. But so many of the reviews I’ve read say things along the lines of “yeah, it looks good. But if it looks so good, why will the “Pro” version have a higher resolution? Why isn’t this resolution good enough?” They stop before they actually admit whether or not the Surface RT looks comparable or even better than the iPad 3.

And I can’t wait to talk about sound and various use cases (propped up with the kickstand, held in the hand, with the Touch Cover folded back, etc…). I have major issues with the sound on the iPad 3 – it is an extremely high quality speaker, pointed in entirely the wrong direction. I have such big problems with the iPad’s sound that a actually backed a Kickstarter of a product that hopefully you can buy in some stores soon, called Foco, which is a small pad which redirects the sound on the iPad 2 and 3 to the front.

Now, I haven’t received my Surface RT, yet – in fact, I haven’t even received confirmation that it has shipped, which is a little worrying. I can’t help but thank that perhaps a few of the people who supposedly preordered the same as everyone else got a little preferential treatment when their tech-pundit names showed up in the order lists. True or not, that’s fine, I’m a little jealous and a little anxious. I can wait my turn. When it does arrive, you can expect some first impressions as well as some good quality time spent comparing the Surface RT tablet and the iPad (3rd generation / 2012 edition, The New iPad, whatever Apple wants you to call it today).