Microsoft is scheduled to launch the Microsoft Surface, its first own-brand tablet, on Oct. 26, during a special media event, where it will also be accompanied by the launch of Windows 8. Despite the countdown to the press event, many tech journalists have already gotten their hands on the Microsoft Surface.
Microsoft Surface reviews have generally been the same. Most reviewers say that Windows 8 is an impressive departure from the former versions of Windows, but that the new operating system fails to impress on Microsoft Surface since it's not a full version of the operating system. Because Microsoft Surface runs on Windows RT, users don't have access to the traditional desktop and many other features.
Nonetheless, all reviewers agree on one point: Microsoft Surface is a historic device because it's the first Microsoft personal computer ever. Since its inception, Microsoft was primarily a software maker. The company made a fortune by selling its software to as many hardware makers as possible. Since the mobile boom began, however, Microsoft executives have been looking for a way to reorganize the business strategy for assured growth over the next several decades. Microsoft Surface is the embodiment of Microsoft's new focus on all things mobile.
Technologists have been anxious to get their hands on Microsoft Surface ever since it was announced. Many were interested in seeing how well the tablet would transition between operating as a tablet and operating as a laptop. Reviewers generally found that the Microsoft Surface was unimpressive as a tablet because of its heft, and that the device was unimpressive as a laptop because it didn't run a full version of Windows 8.
"While Windows 8 is the version of Microsoft's new OS that has split personality disorder, the Windows RT-powered Surface truly is a tale of two tablets. On one hand, it is an engineering feat with a design that is novel and functional. It really is the perfect combination of a tablet and a notebook thanks to the Touch Cover and the Type Cover, and I felt right at home with the Surface the moment I turned it on. On the other hand, the software experience does not feel like home. It's new, and for many it will be scary," reports Zach Epstein of BGR. Epstein explained further that Windows RT was fun to use, but that the operating system needed more development behind it. Without the apps that can be found on other mobile operating systems, Windows 8 (RT or otherwise) would be left in the dust.
Gizmodo largely agreed with BGR. Here's what Gizmodo had to say about Windows RT: "Maybe the quasi-vaporware Surface Pro, which eschews Windows RT in favor of the real-deal Win 8, will make all the difference, opening itself up to the open seas of PC software (for several hundred dollars more). Maybe the app store will look different in a month, or a year, and have anything to offer. Maybe... But those maybes aren't worth putting money on. As much as it looked (and even felt) like it for a bit, the future isn't here quite yet."
Software was a major concern for most reviewers. "Many of the Windows RT apps I tried make smart use of the Windows 8-style interface," reports CNN. "Compared to the 275,000 iPad-optimized apps in Apple's store, though, there simply isn't much there. If Surface's earliest adopters are pleased with their purchase a year from now, it'll be because the Windows Store's offerings got beefier fast; if they're nonplussed, it'll be because the selection remained too meager."
David Pogue, the famed technologist from the New York Times, summed up the controversy better than amost anyone when he said the following: "And how ironic that what lets the Surface down is supposedly Microsoft's specialty: software," he wrote.
And therein lays the problem: Even if you're ever able to upgrade Microsoft Surface to a full version of Windows 8 (as opposed to Windows RT) in the future, it's safe to assume that the device will have already cost you a pretty penny, assuming that you also purchase the keyboard cover. At a price point above $700, you're better off purchasing a dedicated laptop or a regular tablet than the Microsoft Surface.
And if things remain the same, and you're only able to run Windows RT on the Microsoft Surface, the device is still a failure given the number of apps that are currently available for it. Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal aptly pointed out that there are no apps for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and many of the other most popular social media sites. As the Windows 8 release date nears, Microsoft better hope that the reception for its operating system is much better than the one it received for its first personal computer.