Posted by Matt Egan 30 September 2013
What's the point of Windows RT? 5 reasons the Surface 2 will probably suck
I want to like Windows RT, but it's just not fit for purpose. The Surface RT is simply no use: here are five reasons the Surface 2 will suck (and one of them is it's not the Surface Pro).
Microsoft, and Microsoft alone, is persisting with Windows RT. As other hardware manufacturers have shamefacedly dumped Microsoft's ARM-based OS, making their excuses about it 'being them and not it', Microsoft hasn't got the memo and is persisting with Windows RT. Pride can be an expensive thing.
I need to make a couple of things clear here. I wish Windows RT was great, I like Windows 8, and I think the Surface Pro *is* great.
An ARM-based version of Windows would be a truly game-changing innovation for reasons of battery life alone, but Windows RT is not that. We're stuck with Intel for now, and Intel is making such strides on battery life that it is soon to become a moot point. Meanwhile Windows 8 is stable and fast and offers additional features and functions that can simply be ignored by those who want plain old Windows. And the Surface Pro is the most portable power PC you will ever own. You can't compute with it on your lap, but surfaces for the Surface are not exactly in short supply, in my experience. See also: Windows 8 smartwatch: what you need to know about the Surface smartwatch.
The Surface RT is not in short supply either. It's portable, but hobbled with the less useful half of an OS it is not useful. And the Surface 2 will not solve that or the lack of popularity, despite impressive hardware.
The biggest upgrade on the Surface 2 tablet is its new 1080p display. With a resolution of 1920x1080, it's a significant upgrade over the original Surface RT's 1366x768 screen. Not that the Surface RT's screen was ever the problem.
Microsoft says the panel itself is optically bonded to the surface of the screen, aiming to improve sunlight legibility outdoors. The 10.6in, 1080p screen should also mean a significant improvement in displaying crisp and clear text, a major criticism of the original Surface - but not a problem for me.
Microsoft has also improved the kick stand, a hardware design almost Apple-like in its simplicity and elegant usefulness. That should be a good thing but, again, it doesn't stop the Surface 2 from sucking. Here's why:
5 reasons Surface 2 will suck
1. It's not Windows, but you might think it is
Let's leave all pretence aside: Windows RT is not Windows. It looks like Windows, and has some of Windows capabilities, but it's not what your average punter would expect from Windows. And that is a problem. Unlike many I have no problem with the Modern UI and Windows apps. But that's becuase they are an additional skin to the Windows OS on which I run all the software I need.
Something that looks like Windows but on which I can run exactly none of my Windows software is next to useless. Actually, it's worse than that, because many people will consider RT devices without realising the full implications.
2. No-one will write software for it, sell media on it, make third-party hardware for it
Of course you get a 'full' version of Microsoft Office 2013 RT. But that is not entirely a full version of Office, and it is about the only useful software you can find. As for hardware accessories the Touch and Type covers are amazing, but they are expensive and you won't find the price coming down any time soon.
Unfortunately, they are all there is. Third party hard- and software makers are just not interested in a niche that is getting more nichey by the day.
The Windows Store remains resolutely bereft of great apps and games, and it's not the best place from which a UK consumer can source music and movies.
Without third-party support, or the ability to run traditional X86 software Windows RT is just a pretty environment within which to web browse and send emails.
3. It's not even Windows Phone...
So you have a slab on which you can do, well, not a lot. The least you would expect would be that it could connect you to the web all the time so you can get on with your hobbled web browsing and emailing. Unfortunately, that's not the case. The Surface 2 will lack cellular connectivity. It requires Wi-Fi to get online.
Windows Phone may not have great third-party support, but it does portable connectivity well. Windows RT can't even help you check your email on your commute.
4. So it should be cheaper
Kudos to Microsoft for recognising in its pricing that Surface 2 will not be a challenger to the best Android and iPad tablets with their rich app- and media support, or the best Windows tablets with their access to proper software. But even at this price a device that doesn't do anything is not cheap enough.
The Surface 2 starts at £359. That puts it in the mid rank of tablets. It's too expensive because the hardware is no better than - say - a Nexus or even Tesco Hudl tablet, and it doesn't offer access to either Google Play or Apple iTunes and App Store.
5. It's not the Surface Pro 2
The Surface Pro 2 will set you back at least £719 inc VAT, but in my view is well worth looking at. It has all the benefits of Surface 2 and those of a full Windows PC. Indeed, if the performance has improved from the original Surface Pro it will be the best portable power PC you'll ever own.
A device on which you can run any Windows program with performance that you would expect from a £700 PC or laptop. With a keyboard and display it could easily be your home- and/or office PC. And presuming that the battery life is up to snuff it could also be your daily traveling companion, used as either tablet or laptop.
At half the price the Surface 2 will have almost none of the usefulness, and that makes it worth next to nothing and bound to suck.