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March 12th 2014 10:23 am

How would you change Surface with Windows RT?

At the tail-end of 2012, Microsoft launched the Surface with Windows RT, a gorgeous, homegrown tablet that was meant to be a productivity-focused alternative to the iPad and Android tablets. Unfortunately, the device didn’t sell anywhere near as many as then-CEO Steve Ballmer had predicted, which some believe is what caused him to lose his job. However, the Surface has lingered around, and we’re sure many of you bought one when the price was cut. The question for you all to answer now is: what about it would you change?

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I recently bought a first gen Surface RT on eBay with a touch cover because it was only $150 used and seemed like a better, lighter alternative to a Chromebook (still can run some native things like Office, which I use.) And I wanted to try one out.

Background on me: I'm a Computer Science grad student. Grew up with a Dos/Window 3.1 PC. More recently, I've used Apple/Android devices full time, but kept up with Win7/8 for IT / Certification reasons.

My thoughts on Surface with RT:

Honestly, I'm surprised how much I like it considering the flack it's gotten.

Most of my Windows 8 interface gripes have been fixed in 8.1. Surface's design and build quality are amazing. Nothing to change there. I wish the ARM SoC had better performance, but that's not Microsoft's fault. (Plus they did upgrade it for Surface 2)

Office and other native experiences are just as good as on a desktop, especially with a type cover. Far superior to my Android tablet(s) for document creation.

My biggest problem is lack of touch apps. I would, without hesitation, buy a Surface RT 2 and use it full time as a laptop/tablet hybrid if it had app parity with Android. Even the 'metro' style apps like Lastpass and dropbox that are available have pretty shoddy construction. Win 8 touch apps often lack the full feature set of their iOS or Android counterparts. I don't know if that's a problem with the Metro SDK/Platform (Haven't looked at it. And I know I shouldn't call it Metro anymore, but whatevs.) or if developers just don't think the platform is worth the time.

If I were MS I would actively pay companies a retainer to build and maintain Win 8 touch counterparts that rival Android iOS versions. That's a dangerous precedent. But it's the only way to keep this thing from further withering on the vine imo.

It pains me because when done right, I think the Win 8 touch UI can actually be more intuitive than iOS and Android.
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You're last three thoughts are shared. I do believe the UI was at a half hatched state, makes me wonder what the teams are doing each iteration :/ Then again, I've never been on a large OS team, so I can't think o the challenges, but progress always seems so... slow.
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Add a Pen Digitizer, Better CPU, and Better Screen Resolution.
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That's pretty much the Surface Pro
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That's exactly the Surface Pro. So what he means to say is, make the Surface Pro cheaper.
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This would not be a Surface Pro, but a Surface 2 with a Snapdragon 800 or better CPU and Wacom Pen Digitizing Technology. It would still have Window 8.1 RT and the Office Suite installed, no fans and longer battery life.
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Bought a surface RT at the price cut. After using it, I would've paid full price for one. The only thing I would change about the tablet itself would be the google support. If this worked with my chromecast, this would be perfect enough. Everywhere I go with my surface, I have my HTC One to supplement, so it's fine.

This product has a big advantage in the productivity department against other tablets. But it's at a drastic disadvantage against a laptop. I don't agree with the marketing strategy and I dislike the creative direction in their advertisements. If I could change anything else, it would be re-thinking their creative strategy from the beginning. A product launch that big for Microsoft deserved more than a music video based on the "click" the tablet made when the keyboard snapped on and kickstand.
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Isn't an iPad or an Android tablet also at a drastic disadvantage against a laptop?
It makes sense that the Surface RT would also share the same.
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Until Microsoft creates software that complements a tablet's touchscreen advantages, instead of porting PC programs for use on a tablet, tablets will always be second banana in productivity. Meaning, sure, it's a MORE productive tablet, but it's still a fairly incapable work machine.

So when you're marketing an entire device on a doomed platform, the product will eventually fall. They needed an idea that has more legs that a lot more people could relate with.

When developing technology and a marketing plan, they really need to tune themselves into real world needs rather than just product benefits. I'm not sure many iPad owners sit back and think "Damn, I really wish I could get a lot of work done on my iPad." And in most cases, the iPad doesn't even really leave the home; It's most often used as a second screen while watching TV.

That's really wear UX comes in. You can't develop a product and tell the world to learn it. Developers need to learn the world and create a product that adapts to life seamlessly.
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Add Miracast support. I don't know why MS doesn't enable it. Hardware wise should be able to support it I think.
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Get more developers to support it.
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First of all the price is ridiculous for the rt version. No way it should start off at over $350 proud. Needs to be the save price as the iPad mini or other tablets on the market. Also it needs to come with a keyboard. It does not have to be a type 2 cover but at least a touch cover to start of with.

As far as the is go, get more developers to create more apps and go after the cream the crop developers and have them make apps that are on other platforms better on windows and work with very few issues. The lack of apps on the windows store is pathetic to say the last.
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Okay, so, you want a larger-screen device to start at the same price as a smaller-screen iPad? Where's the fiscal logic in that? The RT is already on-par, if not less-expensive than the equivalently-sized iPad; and even at that, it's got a larger screen, and is capable of multi-tasking, which the iPad cannot do. So, no, the price is not "ridiculous."

Also, the iPad does not come with a cover, or even a keyboard-cover for that matter. For the former, you get to pay Apple an additional $39, or $99 for the Logitech keyboard (if you by it from the Apple store).

There is a dearth of apps on the WP store, but it's not "pathetic," and the number of apps is improving every day. There are already apps for every major social network, Cloud service, oneline radio, photography (of which, Nokia provides a BETTER FREE app which allows you to change the focal point on the photo AFTER it's been taken, a la the Lytro camera which is made for the Mac). Furthermore, the Surface RT comes with Office already installed, FREE!

And before you start calling me a "Microsoft-fanboy," or a "troll," I'll give you a little background and tell you I worked for Apple Retail in a mall where there was a Microsoft store not 100 yards from our front door. I made an effort to get to know their products, and when I visited, they made an effort to ask me lots of questions about our products, and even came into our store to chat with me and have me show them things. Our professional relationships were not adversarial. We sent them business when their products would fit the customer's needs better, and they sent us customers when the reverse applied.

I personally have an iPad Mini (my 4th iPad, in fact), AND a Surface 2 Pro (my 2nd Surface). I use them both to this day, and love them both for the different ways I use them.
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If you're comparison is to a ipad mini or ipad, then i dont think it should come with a keyboard. No one expects the ipad mini or ipad to come with one, then you really can't expect the Surface 2 to come with one. Everything else is valid.
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From hardware side, lack lte/gps, need HDMI (not special video port and convertor), usb3, a better (standard) power port, and can charge from usb port. Much faster CPU/GPU/Harddrive.
From software side, support more standard hardware (e.g., dvd writer), allow 3rd party driver (or at least allow hardware company submit their driver to windows update). Support anyconnect, silverlight, allow multiply skype account, different file associations when open a file from desktop and morden UI mode, can install apps on SD card (these are not only for winRT).
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HDMI doesn't need a special converter from MS btw. Its $6 here www.amazon.com­/Micro­-Cable­-Microsoft­-Surface­-Compa...
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If I knew that, I could save several dollars... Whatever, even it's kind of standard (but not popular), I feel this type of connector is just too loose that even if I move the Surface slightly, it may get disconnected.
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I agree, but I feel you're highlighting the problems with WinRT in general. If the Surface Pro was the price of the RT, then everything you listed would essentially be possible.
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Win 8.1 Pro still suffers many of the software problems I listed, except hardware driver, anyconnect, and multiple Skype account (but need kind of heck).
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For surface 3 and pro
- make windows lite instead of rt, make desktop mode an app like. The less a user need to use desktop mode the better.
- support your own app with full touch interface and small screen support, look at office, its just not sync with your own metro theme. Opening these old app make us feel going back to the old windows feeling which is outdated.
- good camera across both versions, how can MS advertise ppl snapping photos and make editing for work, but give crappy camera to support it. The less files transfer from different devices the better.
- digitizer for both version, and make digitizer a standard to all convertible tablet. Our hands do not have buttons, but the pen does, so make work and more option for it! Look at samsung notes series, its not hard to see the possibility with a pen.
- make a semi-silo to keep and easy to take out of the digitizer.
- GPS, period.

- increase height on the surface. Doing presentation with this have too many black area tat cant be used due to the ratio.

- HD and QHD for 3. RT's 1366 x 768 make us laugh, whom ever agreed on this spec is simply out of touch. Good screen is easy to win the hearts of the reviewers and professionals, and many does follows base on these reviews.
- Launch your products worldwide within a time frame! Surface 2 just launch few days ago in my country on March, and Sp2 has yet a confirmed date (147 days late till today). This is terrible and poor marketing across many countries, we felt cheated buying an old product, since SP3 will probably be launching around OCT-NOV 2014. If MS is going to launch SP2 in MAY 2014, I would suggest you to side step sp2 and just launch sp3 in my country on time.
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For me, I want a larger screen (especially for a Pro), more apps (there's no bloody Xfinity app), an HDMI port (hardly anywhere I go has mini hdmi inputs), and more cases/color choices.
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I would make a 13 inch one, with a bezel as small as a few millimiters on all sides, and no Windows logo button. And it would have LTE connectivity. Also I would change Windows so that the taskbar always shows, even in fullscreen Metro apps, that way i never feel lost, and I can switch between apps real quick. I would get rid of the live tiles and the 2-color icons.
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1. Better keyboard (cover): the first one broke too easily and it did not react the same on all keys

2. Better / lower pricing

3. Better / more optimized OS: Windows RT was a terrible idea and we all know how this worked out for Microsoft

Generally Microsoft still has lots of work to do in order to make using Windows on a tablet pc intuitive. So far users still need to adapt to the OS. In my opinion this should not be the case. Android, iOS and Ubuntu all offer better user experience on mobile devices. If Microsoft can fix that in future versions of Windows and if they can make sure the hardware offers better build quality and pricing they may actually succeed. Right now These devices are destined to inhabite shelves...
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Being an early adopter, I picked up a 64Gb Surface with touch cover as soon as they were available in the UK. I really liked the idea of a device that could be used for productivity and content consumption and, on paper, the Surface really seemed to fit the bill.

Initial impressions were good. The Surface was great to hold and felt really well built. It seemed fairly quick relative to my (then) laptop (although slower in general operation to my iPad 2). Battery life was excellent and the ability to plug just about any USB in and have it immediately recognised was one of the key features for me.

Here's what I thought let it down:

1. The Windows UI web browser (IE) was terrible. Okay, it was fairly quick but the favourites management was awful. I ended up having to use the desktop browser most of the time. All of my browsers have the same folders in their bookmarks toolbar (Shopping, Forums, Travel, Business etc) but the fact that the Windows UI version of IE had no bookmark folder support nearly drove me mad. Wouldn;t have been so bad had there been alternatives but I read that limitations in RT meant that there wouldn't be any.

2. After having been exposed to both the Apple Store and Google Play, I found the Windows app store to be woeful. Not only with the amount of apps, but more importantly, the amount of *useful* apps. The store was just littered with useless apps that just indicated to me that there was little or no quality control going on with app submissions.

3. Restricted desktop mode. So I understand that we couldn't expect an OS designed to run on ARM cpus to run x86 apps. However, having a desktop mode still promised so much potential for people to develop their own apps that would run under this mode on RT. Sadly, that wasn't to be the case (although unofficial hacks and workarounds were available) and aside from the built-in apps (notepad etc), the only usable additions were the included Office apps.

Ultimately, when the Atom-based tablets running full x86 Windows 8 started appearing, I felt that this was the death-knell for RT. Promising a similarly long battery life and none of the above restrictions (although Win UI IE was still junk), I couldn't think of a single reason to stick with what felt like a hobbled device.
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  • Easier to engage power connector
  • Volume rocker slightly further away from the headset jack
  • Improve the speakers (the Surface 2 has some real audio issues with streaming content)
  • Get rid of the small black plastic antenna cover (if that's what it is), it cheapens the look of the device
I have both an iPad and Surface RT, another family member has a Surface 2.

I like both the iPad and the Surface, I find I tend to use the surface for news tracking (with the built in app) and watching media content (given its microSD card slot and expandability), I use the iPad for email and random web page reading.

Some of the software on the Surface can be a little rough around the edges at times (video playback controls and the email tool (not Outlook) come to mind). I don't tend to use Apps so the huge Apple appstore makes little difference to me, if I had to live with just one device I think it would be the Surface mainly because of the functionality it gives me (Office, touch cover, integration with OneDrive (I have 45Gb of space), kickstand etc).

I do like the kickStand on the Surface 2, it's a minor detail but useful at times.

I also rather like Windows 8.1, it took some getting used to all the gestures but now I find things like split screen, app switching etc very intuitive. Like Windows Phone I also appreciate that I have live data both on the login screen and also on the metro tiles.
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I especially vote for your comment about volume buttons. I always press them accidentally.
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I tested a Surface Pro and loved it, but two things kept me from supplying my department with them:
  1. No LTE. We need LTE to operate as we worked outside
  2. No GPS. We need a GPS to use ArcGIS and other mapping features.
If those two things would have been implemented, I would have bought 12 of them for our department. What a poor choice by MS to not include 2, such basic, items! We ordered iPads instead.

For personal use, if it had WMC on it, I would buy one. I have a WHS and a Win7 HTPC that I use to record HDTV over ClearQAM. If I could stream that to a surface, I would buy one for home use.
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LTE is now available in the newest models. I don't know about GPS.
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I agree with those sentiments, I have a surface pro 2 and I would've liked to have seen LTE and GPS. But if you consider it from a different point-of-view, that the SP2 is an Ultrabook in tablet form factor, rather than a tablet with ultrabook guts, the lack of both becomes, well, kinda more bearable. Most laptops and ultrabooks don't have those things, not yet anyway.
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I feel like RT 8.1 helped the RT out a lot, improving performance overall. The RT sometimes felt a bit sluggish at first, but is a lot better now in terms of Window's performance..

I would like a "Developer Mode" or something that allows the user to run any apps they like on it... including any recompiled ARM desktop programs.

The screen is nice, but it feels a bit low-res.

More developer adoption I feel would help with any other application shortcomings.

I got a Surface used and I like it a lot more than I thought I would. It feels very versatile and makes a good productivity tool with the desktop, full USB, and type keyboard. The touch interface can take some getting used to at first, but is powerful once you get used to it.

I see why many people didn't buy the RT, but it is a solid tablet and doesn't deserve all the criticism it has gotten, especially since RT 8.1 has smoothed out many of the rough edges when RT 8.0 first came out.
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I'd put in a Bay Trail processor and make it a low-cost version of the Surface Pro, with full Win8.1.
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Very good. The thing was that back when the Surface was released there was no Bay Trail. Now that there is they should just dump RT and ARM. Intel finally has their act together.
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dell venue pro?
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I like my Surface RT. Three things to improve the Surface.

Hardware: Improve the quality of the micro SD slot and increase RAM to 4 GB Max

Connectivity: Have Mobile Data options as most other tablets do

Software: open it to more Windows compatible applications; if you can use it in Windows on a laptop or desktop PC safely and legally, then you should be able to use it on the Surface. PDF Editor applications would help, alternative media players such as VLC, alternative browser options such as Google Chrome to use with Google Chromecast
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Re Software: You do realize that using an ARM chip prevents this right?
Maybe you should just get the Surface Pro?
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Ryrynz: it's not just the arm chip that restricts this. Microsoft only allows signed apps conforming to the touch interface to run on the Surface RT. You cannot make a desktop app (like let say Notepad) and get it approved for the store. That's a Microsoft policy, not anything having to do with ARM
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I can totally understand the focus that they had put on to the Surface brand. A Windows tablet that focused hard on the tablet side. The hardest sell for me with the Surface RT was that it didn't run a real version of Windows because of it's CPU.

The biggest disconnect of today's portable market is that they only run applications designed to run on it's OS. This meant that a lot of the programs you'd expect to have on a Windows OS didn't work. The Surface Pro was great but it's price was way out of reach.

Eventually though with the price drop during the holidays for the RT version, I picked up one for my girlfriend. To say that I was actually impressed with what it can do was bashed to pieces by what it couldn't do. We got it so that she could have some thing close to a laptop for her classes. A lot of these classes use this online classroom thing called Blackboard and it was a terrible experience in the Internet Explorer that comes installed. Flash elements, Quicktime, and many other plug-ins that would be a snap to install on a normal version of Windows 8.

The biggest thing that I would have changed would have been to abandon the CPU and RT all together and instead used a true x86/x64 CPU and Windows OS.

I get that it was designed to be a tablet OS but it was also a complete waste of money and resources. Those resources could have been put to better use with developing ways to make Windows 8 a battery friendly OS on an Atom/i3/AMD CPU.
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Everything you've mentioned has been resolved in the Surface 2 Pro. It's an Intel-based full-fledged Windows computer that can function as a tablet as well.
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Not everything. As I mentioned, price point is rather ridiculous for some one who doesn't require a i5 CPU and Win8 Pro. Home edition and an Atom/i3 CPU would be a good choice with a good price point.
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My suggestion would be active stylus or pen support.
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I agree with that. More cross-compatability with the flag carrier would be nice, but sadly they have to keep costs down. The note series can afford to include a digitiser because they have the benfit of being a well-established Android tablet/brand, but the Surface's don't have that luxury, not yet. So they have to make them as cheap and well-built as possible to draw attention away from Samsung and Google. That said, the Surface Pro had pen support, and it can be bought fairly cheaply at this point, and of course includes full windows. I guess it's a toss up between price, weight, and battery life.
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SOFTWARE: My biggest gripe is with how they decided to combine the traditional Desktop and Metro Modern. This illustrates the disconnect between the two: there is no way to quickly see all programs running at any given time. You can have fifteen windows open on the Desktop, but on the Modern sidebar you only have one thing going: Desktop. Likewise, on the Desktop, you can have twelve apps running in the Modern sidebar but nothing shows on the Desktop.

HARDWARE: I'm disappointed with how much light leakage there was around the unit. I can easily see the bottom of the screen LEDs through the USB port and the headphone jack. Not a deal-breaker, but disappointing considering the otherwise decent build quality. That one-angle kickstand quickly became annoying too, but they've apparently fixed it in the SRT2 so I can't gripe too much.

MARKETING: Some blogger mentioned this somewhere, but I'd bet SurfaceRT would sell a lot better if they were pitched as Officebooks (a la Chromebooks,) machines dedicated to delivering Office, with everything else (web browser, apps, etc) as nice perks.
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Yeah, I used a Surface RT for about a week (borrowed from a friend, I gave it up because I had a PC and didn't really need a tablet experience - I got a Surface Pro 2 just this week and it's a whole different beast, but I digress) and I found that the software was a bit too schizophrenic for my liking. That's one of the problems with windows 8, I think. The x86 version is perfectly fine, since the desktop is used to run non-metro apps, but on the RT I think they should've ditched the desktop environment entirely and used ONLY the single/side-by-side app interface. It cuts down on confusion, and helps show off the major benefit of having such a powerful operating system. Samsung are STARTING to get it right, with their efforts at mutli-window on android.

WIndows needs to show potential customers that that can be done near-perfectly right now, and for around the same price as an Android tablet.
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Two words - another browser. It's just not going to garner the mass market of apps like Android and iOS, so Microsoft ought to kill it with kindness and let Google or Mozilla put an ARM-compiled Chrome or Firefox on it.

Another problem is an integrated Dropbox. Sure there is an app, but I feel like I am forced to use SkyDrive (OneDrive, whatever). I love that there are full featured Office applications on it - and that's exactly what I use Dropbox for storing.

Another browser and true Dropbox. Fix that and all other issues can be forgiven, IMO.
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What you're after is a Bay Trail version (low cost) of Surtface Pro as w4ffl3 suggested. This would give you access to everything your PC has.
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I bought a Surface Pro when it released and I love it. I would recommend to increase the screen size to 12” with same resolution. The current FHD with 10” make everything very sharp but too small to my eyes. (Maybe I’m getting old?). By increase the size of the screen would provide opportunity to have a larger battery with long lasting time.
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If you do that, you take it out of a "tablet" classification and put it into a "notebook/ultrabook" classification.
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I was really excited about the Surface, including Office seemed like a great move, then came the price. The rumors had suggested $300, I think they should have priced it that way to buy market share, they lost more money pricing it at $500 than they probably would have at $300 and didn't gain the adoption. I still went to try it though and found a few frustrations. For example, the kick stand, which seemed like a good idea at first turned out to be less practical in reality because it wasn't suitable for a lap (unlike a laptop or hybrid device (I strongly believe hybrid devices are the future)) and only having one angle was poorly planned. Mostly though the hardware was pretty decent, arguably could have used more storage, a higher resolution display, been slightly lighter, and had better battery life, but it didn't suffer the same way the Surface Pro did.

Software was a different mess with the interface being horribly designed. For example, the fact that you can only swipe windows in one direction so if you're going fast and miss the one you want you need to go through all of them again to get to the one you want. Or if you're wanting to switch back and forth between two apps you need to cycle through them all rather than being able to easily go back and forth. This could have been a simple fix, one finger swipe goes one way, two finger swipe goes the other way, there, simple. Then the poor use of space on the main screen with all this wasted space around the edges. The theory of tiles is a good one but less good in practice. what they should have done was really aimed to create a HUD out of the desktop and kept the taskbar as opposed to doing what they did. Another issue was the way right clicks were implemented with this charms menu or whatever it's called. The problem is simple, how do I know what I've got selected when I bring the menu up? The long hold concept used on other devices made way more sense. Then you had the inaccessibility of search. Search should have been front and center. Instead, it was burried deeper than it is in Windows 7, which was already too deep (it should have been built into the taskbar). Windows has a long history of search sucking, Google gets it right, Spotlight on Apple gets it right, I really don't understand why Microsoft with all their resources messes it up so badly. Another stupid UI design was the horizontal scroll rather than the vertical scroll of the menu screen. This is a very simple question of efficiency. Screens are wider than they are tall, ergo it's more efficient (reveals more information for the same amount of scrolling) if you scroll vertically rather than horizontally. Then there was the multi-tasking mess where you could only set apps to be 2/3 or 1/3 of the screen. I swore during the early versions you could flow back and forth to resize as you liked. Even with fluid resizing it wouldn't have been as good as actual windows because sometimes you want things to overlap. Those are some really simple GUI fixes that should have been there and weren't.

This brings us to the included software. Including Office was a good move, though it wasn't well designed for touch in spite of how many years to optimize it? More troubling was the garbage mail app they included as opposed to Outlook. It works like this, if you're going to release a product with a minimal software eco-system, you better make sure the stuff you do include is better than the competitors...ideally much better, in this case it mostly wasn't. Skydrive should have rivaled every other sharing service out there for the amazing integration, it should have included something like 100 GB with the ability to use storage directly from the cloud very easily to make extra internal storage somewhat unnecessary. Sadly, to this date Skydrive (or rather Onedrive) isn't priced the way it should be (Google Drive just nailed it with their new pricing plan) and skill isn't as good as Dropbox and company in many regards, completely inexcusable. They really needed to nail the essentials on this product and that means:

- Cloud storage
- Media (streaming, sharing, etc.)
- Office productivity
- Web browsing
- Photos and videos
- Social media

They didn't own any of those spaces and nor did they appeal to business.
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Battery...Battery...Battery!!!!!! I purchased the Surface Pro and took it back in 3 days. When I realized the battery only lasted 2.5-3 hours for casual use. Also, give it the same Windows operating system accross the board. Change the specs for the pro version or allow domain management, but don't take away the browser plugins and silverlight just because it's the cheaper tablet. I had to spend 3-400 more just because I needed silverlight to view my training videos. I would love to have another Surface if the battery lasted 6-8 hours and the functionality was there in the browser.
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Hola. Don't normally do forums, but this is an Interesting topic as I am currently contemplating the Surface 2 .

I am well aware of the all the online fighting and debacle between those loyal to a variety of brands, ones that I own or have owned. However, the online debates as to the pro's and con's of the Microsoft Surface, particularly the Surface 2 does not help in the decision making process, when doing the research on purchases. I have always liked the concept of the Surface, but it seems to have lacked popularity with some. I would, like many, want the hardware for the basic Surface 2, to be able to run a full Windows operating system, as close to the one I use on my desktop. Yes, there is the pro, but this is way too expensive. Is there is another solution which would not make the price point prohibitive? I don't know. Also, as well as the screen sizes available to date, would like to see a 11" or 12" variant. Also, the device to come bundled with a choice of keyboard at a competitive price on release, not later on as it is now (RT's in UK now have special offers).

So, that's my take on the Surface dilemma, and some considerations or possibilities. However, I have a question. I like the surface but, given it's history and the changing sales directions of Microsoft, not to mention the competition, and recent events. Should I buy a Surface 2 or is it a bad move? Honest objective answers appreciated, without the usual sales pitch for your own brand as I am keen but very cautious over purchasing the Surface 2. Thanks for reading folks, enjoy your day wherever you are. :-D J.
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