October 22, 2012
Get Ready For MS Surface And Windows RT
This is the week when the world changes for Microsoft and its customers. Windows 8 and the Microsoft Surface “tablet” start distribution this Friday. There is excitement in the air and press over the event though coverage of the development of the new version of Windows has been decidedly mixed. The touch oriented version of Windows 8 sports a new interface that has seen good reviews on tablets but is seen by some as a detriment on a desktop machine with a keyboard and mouse.
I’m not going to rehash whether Windows 8 is a good or bad move from Microsoft. My feeling is that the company is right to design an operating system for mobile devices as that is where the consumer market is obviously headed. It’s not a question of whether Microsoft made the right move as much whether the design and approach of Windows 8 is right.
The success of Windows 8 on traditional computers with keyboards and mice will only become apparent once the general public has a chance to use it. Articles in the tech press are loaded with comments for and against features in Windows 8. I tend to discount those to an extent as a majority of readers there work in technical industries. My suggestion is to try it out for yourself and see how you like it.
With that, I want to clear up some confusion about what Microsoft is distributing this Friday. There are two types of Windows and two types of Surface tablets. The iteration that appears at the end of the week is the tablet that runs Windows RT which is not a full version of Windows. While it will sport a desktop, it will not be able to run any legacy applications that are not preinstalled by Microsoft. These will include a version of Office RT that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, but not Outlook. Microsoft wants users to use the live tile version of the mail app instead. There will be no option to install programs to the desktop side of Windows in Windows RT.
For those wanting that capability, wait for the Windows Pro version of the Surface or other OEM equipment that runs full Windows. Microsoft’s version won’t appear until January at the earliest. These type of devices are expected to cost significantly more as they mimic the desktop experience in a tablet/laptop/ultrabook form factor. Microsoft has released pricing and specifications for the Windows RT version of the Surface. The device will cost $499 without a cover/keyboard and $599 with. A more tactile keyboard is available for $129 as a separate option. The summary specifications and a feature by feature comparison to the iPad are in a nice chart courtesy of PC Magazine. There is a nice article in SlashGear on how the Surface Tablet came to be.
Microsoft’s success is far from assured though I have no doubt Windows 8 will be a success in one way or another. The much hated Vista (let us never speak of it again) sold millions of copies despite being much of a joke in the technical community. Google and Apple both have new tablets in the offing. Google will announce the next generation of the Nexus 7 before the end of the month. Apple is expected to announce the iPad mini tomorrow. Amazon, of course, keeps speeding along with the Kindle. I expect Microsoft to have an impact in the mobile market with the Surface. I won’t predict success. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) is less sanguine. [MG]