Breaktime Blog: What Lies Beneath (the Surface)?

 

I really wanted to be able to write something positive about my experience over the weekend with a Surface RT… Back when it launched I was a little cynical, but my inner geek has always been difficult to suppress (yes, even Apple stuff – I do like the look of the iPad Mini…), so it was exciting to be able to spend a few days with a new toy. But…

  • Like many others, when I got the tablet back home, the wireless access was patchy at best. I managed to download 1 app, everything else, along with updates, failed.
  • It feels biiiiiiiiig. If it had appeared pre-iPad then that would be fine, but expectations have already been set.
  • It’s not a problem unique to Surface, but (when the wifi did work) app availability is poor – Surface was announced in June, how could MS not swing official Facebook and Twitter apps? This problem exists for  Windows 8 generally, but frankly my experiences with the iTunes store are far from encouraging. I don’t get all the excitement over ecosystem size, I’ve never had a problem finding apps for Android!
  • RT has the desktop… WHY? I understand why now – while I was trying to sort the wifi, looking up the wireless connection properties dropped me to the desktop and showed the standard Windows connection properties box. Even on a dedicated tablet system desktop Windows shows its face and it’s completely incongruous on a touch-focused device.

All that said – it’s big, but it is nicely made and it’s a nice screen. As a longtime user of MS keyboards and mice I’m not surprised – for a software maker they make great hardware.

I’ve been trying to imagine where the Surface (both RT and Pro, when it makes an appearance next year) might fit in my gadget repertoire and simply put, I don’t know. Between a MacBook Air (with Windows 7!), my venerable HTC Flyer and an Android smartphone there isn’t a Surface-shaped hole in my life. I think this is going to be one of Microsoft’s two big problems with the push for Windows 8 on tablets – they’re too late. Apple got there first and continues to set expectations, Android manufacturers are trying to compete with sheer numbers and is scoring the occasional hit (see the appearance of the iPad mini!), but Microsoft have come late to the party with hardware that doesn’t compare well to the competition.

And they have a second big problem to deal with – software – a problem I think they also have with Windows 8. But that’s a blog for another time.

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