Microsoft's Surface RT: Tablet or more of an Ultrabook?

Microsoft’s Surface RT: Tablet or more of an Ultrabook?

Here I am back again after the longest absence I’ve clocked yet since this site was launched almost 6 years ago!

So how about that Microsoft Surface RT? I played around with it at the Microsoft Store and here are my initial thoughts:

Pros:

1) It’s pretty responsive. I like the very smooth and fluid UI and rapid touch response. There’s hardly much latency.

2) There’s plenty of refinement in the UI; I personally like just being able to start typing the name of the application I want to run to have it show up in a real-time search. Very useful for a short-cut way of navigating around the device.

3) I don’t necessarily like Metro for phone-sized screens, but with the Surface tablet, it looks pretty decent. There’s enough room for live tiles to provide useful information without the user feeling like screen real estate is being wasted.

4) The touch cover I don’t care for, but the type cover is amazing! The keyboard is as good as a Macbook Pro. I didn’t feel any slowdown as my fingers raced across the satisfying keys.

5) The apps provided are pretty good, including Internet Explorer. The mail app is not enterprise ready and may not have all the power features you would like, but pretty decent for a consumer tablet. Skydrive integration is excellent and possibly my favourite app so far! You can truly keep stuff in the cloud and get access to it in a jiffy. The online versions of Microsoft Office, topics for another future post, are phenomenal! Much better than Google docs in every way!

Cons:

1) The vertical orientation is awkward; the aspect ratio is just not right and I don’t see myself using this as a portrait mode magazine or ebook reader. A huge downside from my perspective.

2) Windows desktop legacy mode and no apps other than Office to run on it? I know some folks have¬†criticized the inclusion of the desktop as the UI doesn’t adapt well to a small touch device, but if MSFT had to do this, it would have been best done by providing apps to justify the desktop. As of now, this makes no sense at all.

3) If the device can’t really be used in portrait mode, aren’t we really talking about a laptop here? The touch cover is present in every marketing image provided by Microsoft. Is this really a tablet? Or something closer to an Ultrabook? I am still not sure. Did I mention the portrait mode sucks?

4) There are very few apps. This is a problem now, because Windows Phone 7 has been around long enough. Microsoft has had 2+ years of Win 8 development time to use to convince major developers to port their applications to the new platform. Most are in a wait-and-see frame of mind. This is disconcerting, specially from a company that has built its empire on developer participation.

5) This is too expensive. $499 for the device, plus $130 for the type cover. You’re talking Ultrabook prices without the RAM or internal storage¬†expandability. Hmm. Is this really worth it? It would make sense if I could hold it in portrait mode and not buy the keyboard at all. But I can’t.

Net-net, I wouldn’t buy the Surface as my only tablet. Really. I want to, but I just couldn’t. Microsoft needs to re-examine the aspect ratio fiasco in portrait mode and do a much better job convincing (bribing!) developers to port their apps to this device. I don’t think they have too much time to fix these issues before Surface RT is written off by its potential users.

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