How would you change Surface with Windows RT?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
- 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.
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...
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.
- 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 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.
- No LTE. We need LTE to operate as we worked outside
- No GPS. We need a GPS to use ArcGIS and other mapping features.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.