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Todd Klindt's home page > Todd Klindt's Office 365 Admin Blog > Posts > I don’t hate the Surface RT (and you shouldn’t either)
June 20
I don’t hate the Surface RT (and you shouldn’t either)

Low expectations have been very good to me. I've said for a long time that any success I've had can be attributed to low expectations. We've all heard the phrase, "Under Promise, Over Deliver." That's all about setting expectations low, so you can come in just over them and look like a star. Low expectations can definitely work in your favor. Conversely, high, or incorrect expectations can kill you. And that's what brings us to Windows RT.

You don't have to look very far to find someone, a blogger, a journalist, a hair stylist, that has something horrible to say about Windows 8. Myself included. Windows RT has gotten an especially bad rap. Any time Windows 8 thinks it's having a bad day, all it needs to remind itself is that no matter how bad it gets, it always has it better than Windows RT. Until a couple of weeks ago I was onboard. I made cracks about Windows RT right along with everyone else, I'd kick sand in Windows RT's face. Then I got a Surface RT…

Here's where expectations come in. I'm late to the RT game. Windows RT has been out nearly a year at this point. There's much less confusion about it now than there was initially. To me, Windows RT is a tablet OS, analogous to iOS on an iPad or Android on any number of tablets. I've had a number of Android tablets, so that's what I compared it to in my head. Another expectation I had was the price. Normally the 64 GB Surface RT that I have sells for $599. I paid $99 for mine at TechEd, and it wasn't out of the back of a van in an alley behind Bourbon Street.

So I walked into this thinking, "Is this Surface RT worth $99 and is it a capable replacement for my Asus Transformer Android tablet?" If the answer to both of those is a thumbs up, then I like it. If either is a thumbs down, then I have some thinking to do. Turns out the answer was a resounding, "Hell yes!!" It is definitely worth the $99 I paid and it definitely is better than my two year old Android tablet. And to make things as cliché as possible, I'm even typing this blog post on my Surface RT. Though in the spirit of honesty, I used a regular USB keyboard for a lot of it. I only have the Touch Keyboard, and it's not the best for typing long tomes like this one.

I think the Windows RT platform would have been a lot more successful if Microsoft had done a better job positioning it and setting peoples' expectations correctly. There's a lot of confusion about what Windows RT is, and I think a lot of people don't understand why they would choose a Surface RT device instead of Surface Pro. This is all Microsoft's fault, and it's a big part of RT's lack of adoption. They need to be clear positioning RT against iPads and Android tablets. For instance, I was on Twitter, espousing my love for my Surface RT and Harold Gale (Twitter | Blog) and I started chatting. He didn't share my unbounded love for Windows RT, and he sent me a link to this Microsoft document that explains a bunch of the limitations of Windows RT. There's a whole list of things, then there's this list of features at the bottom that aren't included in Windows RT:

  • CD and DVD burning
  • HomeGroup creation
  • Document services, which includes integrated tools for faxing and scanning
  • Location-aware printing
  • Network location aware service
  • Domain join
  • Windows Media Player
  • Windows Journal
  • System image restore
  • Sticky Notes
  • Offline files
  • Sync Center

As I read through this list, none of these things bothered me. I can't imagine anyone's ever said, "This iPad is crap, it can't burn a DVD!!!" or "This Android tablet is worthless without location-aware printing!! I'm going back to pencil and paper!" Yet for Windows RT, these same things are considered limitations, even by Microsoft itself. Expectations are all wrong. And while I don't have Windows Media Player specifically, I can play my MP3s of accordion hits, and watch all my downloaded videos of cats in funny hats. And who even knows what Windows Journal is. Is that made up?

Because of this confusion, the Windows RT platform, and by extension my poor, lovable Surface RT, are held to expectations they just can't meet. These incorrect expectations are killing it. Windows RT is a great tablet platform and it's going to be even better when the Windows 8.1 updates come out in the fall of 2013.

Hopefully reading this blog post has changed your mind about Windows RT and you'll give it a fair shake.



Edited 6/21 to fix typo in the penultimate paragraph 


Terry Cornwell

Couldn't agree more Todd.

Microsoft seems to have focused on the "what we can't do" rather than "what you can do" which, Apple have excelled at.

I've personally held off the RT/Table adoption at the moment. I'm waiting for the 8.1 release to come along so I get Outlook RT which I think is another thing Microsoft really messed up on.

If they change their message and start telling us how the RT can solve everyday problems rather than presenting us with problems then I really think they have a platform that could make a sizable dent in the tablet market place.

 on 6/21/2013 8:34 AM

Re: Terry Cornwell

Hi Terry,
I agree. They should spend less money marketing "the click" and more money marketing what it can do, and maybe subsidize the price some. That really does matter.

Todd O. KlindtNo presence information on 6/21/2013 8:44 AM

Not So Fast

Rewrite that blog post as if you'd have paid the same price the public pays.

See, here's my problem with what Microsoft is doing: they're giving Surfaces to friendly people at cut-rate prices in exchange for good press. As a result, bloggers like you write upbeat, positive pieces, and when people scan the post, they think, "Hey, it doesn't sound so bad. I'll go buy one and try it." Then they amble down to Best Buy and spend $500-$600, and they have a distinctly different experience.

Professional technical reviewers never base their review of a device on their free/discounted price for the gear. They understand that they're being given the device either for free or for a cut rate, and that the blog post they write is targeted at the PUBLIC, not at other people who happened to get in on that insider deal.

You're not writing for TechEd attendees. You're writing for the reader, and you're doing a disservice to the reader when you say "and you shouldn't either" in the title.
 on 6/21/2013 8:49 AM

Re: Not So Fast

Thanks for your comment. I would never consider myself a professional technical reviewer. I'm just a nerd that likes gadgets and shares that sometimes with his friends. I can see your point though that maybe my opinion might carry more weight than my mom or my neighbor. I know you personally had a bad experience with the Surface RT. You got it right after it came out and you paid full price for it. I got it nine months later, after several important fixes, and for 1/5 the price. Our experiences are bound to be different.

I'm transparent about all that in my blog post. I mention the street price for the model I got is $599 and that I got it for $99. I also mention that the price figured in directly to how I evaluated the device. I feel I was completely honest and forthcoming. The reader is completely informed of the situation. Hopefully I wrote the article well enough that they actually read the whole thing.

Your view is that I shouldn't have written the post saying I didn't hate it because I bought it for $99, since the average reader is going to pay more. The problem is that I didn't pay $599 for it, so I'm not sure how I'd feel about it if I had. I could guess. I could make up how I'd feel about it at $599, but that seems dishonest to the reader too. So what's my only option, not say anything at all? That doesn't seem right either.

I think it was smart of Microsoft to put RTs in the hands of the faithful at TechEd. They should have done more of that in the beginning. They needed to essentially launch a new platform and that's always tough. They should have gotten them into more people's hands. You're right, the firesale at TechEd is the only reason I bought one, and the only reason this blog post exists.

I read your review when you posted it last year. It was intelligent and well thought out, as all your blog posts are. If you read through it now, most of the issues you had (Word, mail, low volume), with the exception of the stand, have been fixed. So the Surface RT I have now, has all the things you liked, and only one of the things you didn't like. Sounds like they listened to you. :)

Thanks for your comment. Good discussion. Now I've replied I'm going to go screw up a SQL instance with SharePoint.

Todd O. KlindtNo presence information on 6/21/2013 9:19 AM

Brent Ozar (see, I understood "title" this time, freakin' SharePoint)

Todd - I understand, but look at the *title* of your blog post:

"I don’t hate the Surface RT (and you shouldn’t either)"

Those two phrases are completely, 100% based on the price of $99. That's the TITLE, man. Here's the titles I'd suggest instead:

At $99, The Surface RT Makes Sense
I Love The Surface RT at $99
If You Can Steal a Surface RT, You'll Like It

Then take the last line of the post:

"Hopefully reading this blog post has changed your mind about Windows RT and you'll give it a fair shake."

How? How are people going to get it for $99? Would you really recommend people go buy it at $500?
 on 6/21/2013 9:25 AM

I have a 32GB and getting a 64GB as well for development

These are the best mid range tablets I have used period. Sat next to the iPad, the Nexus and the Tab2.0 it was faster and the interface was far superior.

Now the number of apps are far less than it's rivals and it's price is higher but it is a far superior machine.

I would buy one at full price at the drop of the hat. But luckily WPC - awesome

I do have one down side, the camera isn't that great compared to the one on the ipad.. but it's not a camera so do I care? No it's better than adequate for webcam so who cares?

It has everything I need and more.
 on 6/21/2013 11:14 AM

Love my RT

I paid $719 for mine at the Microsoft Store here in Canada and I am very happy with mine.  I will be even happier when I get Outlook for the RT ;)
 on 6/21/2013 11:43 AM

Love mine at $599

I paid $599 for my Surface RT in January and love it!  But it seriously depends on WHAT you want to do with it that will determine whether you love or hate it. This is what I use it for:

* I take it with me to meetings and take notes with OneNote, which is synced to SkyDrive. When I get back to my desk, my notes from the meeting are already there.

* I work on PowerPoint presentations or Word docs while I'm at home or even on the road.

*I can hook it up directly to a projector in a meeting room and present PowerPoints, or I can even RDP into my laptop back at my desk if I want to show some code, for example.

* I can connect to our office network from home to do basic SharePoint configuration stuff, which saves a ton of time from booting up my laptop. I still have to boot up the laptop to do any kind of serious development from home though.

* I browse my RSS feeds and post interesting stories to the various social networks. It isn't any more difficult to do this from my Surface than my laptop.

* Every trip I've taken since I got it, whether business or personal, I've left my laptop at home and only travelled with the Surface. There has not been a moment yet when I wished I'd brought my laptop with me.

* And of course I use it to read email, surf the web, etc.

I will admit that the Facebook app and many of the other social apps are still pretty crappy in Win8. But I can use the Surface's browser for those or my iPhone. There are some really good apps that I use for managing my recipes/menu planning and workouts. Any apps that are currently lacking I simply create a shortcut to the website on my home screen and use the full browser version.

The other huge downside is that you can't install any programs on it (like you can in the Pro version). While there's not a lot of stuff I would install, it kind of irks me that I can't even install Chrome on it.

It's worth mentioning that I also have an iPad and since I got my Surface it's only used by my 7-year-old to play games (so if anyone got a request from me to play DrawSomething or anything else, that was from her).

So bottom line, if all you want a tablet for is to play games, surf the web, read email, browse the social networks, or you're really concerned about the number of apps you can get, then the Surface RT is probably not for you. But if you want to get real work done and use it as somewhat of a laptop replacement, then I would tell you to consider the Surface RT.

Wendy Neal (@SharePointWendy)
 on 6/21/2013 1:04 PM


Thanks for all the comments, folks. I appreciate even the dissenting views. :)

Todd O. KlindtNo presence information on 6/21/2013 1:29 PM

Still good at Full Price

Todd - thank you for the article, I thought you made your point very fairly and it was good summary.  I was actually pleasantly surprised, even at full price, with the functionality.  Yes, it's a bummer you can't install programs - but that's because of the chipset which also gives you much better battery life (i've used mine throughout the day at work on and off and still had some juice when I went to bed.

The Microsoft-haters will always find something wrong with Microsoft's products, but I think that for first foray they did a very good job.  With my Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 at home, and my Surface RT I really have a universal experience with all the functionality I am used to having (like office).

Thanks again!
 on 6/21/2013 1:50 PM
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