This week is the eighth anniversary of the launch of the Microsoft Surface. I thought it would be interesting to read my three part review of the original Surface RT review. Back in October 2012 I unboxed my first Surface device the Surface RT device and over since then I have used various Surface Pro, Surface Laptop, Surface Go and now the Surface Duo.
Looking back at my review of the original Surface RT, I was seeing it as a companion device to my existing PC and a replacement for my iPad. I was impressed with the form factor, the removable keyboard cover and having PC benefits like USB port on a tablet.
When you look at a Surface Pro now you can see how Microsoft have refined the Surface design over the years. The kick stand is now flexible rather than a fixed position, the Surface Power connector is now magnetic, and the devices are lighter and thinner.
The Surface RT launched with Windows RT. Windows RT was based on Windows 8 running on an ARM process with Microsoft Office included and additional apps available from the Windows Store. Back in 2012 this seems like good ideal and in many ways it was. Windows RT on ARM gave you improved battery life and fan-less design something an Intel device couldn’t do for a few more years but without backwards compatibility of existing Windows apps the Surface RT was doomed.
At the time I didn’t seem like much of an issue not being to install existing Windows application. I used it for browsing and writing, the RT did the job perfectly for me but I did comment that Microsoft need to work on the inbox apps and to get 3rd party apps into the Store.
All the apps work pretty well, some like the mail app need more development and hopefully Microsoft can keep developing them and not just leave them to stagnate as they have done in the past. They need to do that to be able to compete with iOS and Android.
When it comes to apps there may not be as many apps in the store as there are on other platforms but there are some good ones. Skype, Netflix, lots of twitter apps (but I can’t find one I really like yet) , Amazon Kindle, Evernote, ebay and lots more. There are lots of apps that still need developing but the potential is there.
Where the Surface RT failed was you couldn’t install standard Windows applications on it, you were dependent on the Windows Store, the store didn’t take off and this killed the device. You couldn’t install Google Chrome or iTunes and that was the number one reason people returned their Surface RT. Using it as a companion device this wasn’t an issue for me but people trying to use it as a two-in-one the lack of store apps was a show stopper.
It’s funny to see Microsoft are still wrestling with this issue on Windows 10X and still working on Intel emulator on the ARM powered Surface Pro X.
Here was my conclusion:
So is the Surface a replacement for an iPad? Or a laptop or an Ultrabook? Well it’s a bit of all of them and how well it would work for you depends on what you’re going to be doing with it.
After using it most of the week I have found it almost replaces my iPad and it almost replaces my Macbook Air. There are some apps that I use on the iPad that are not in Windows yet like Dropbox (coming soon) and Sky+ that I would miss if I stopped using the iPad. As for my replacing your laptop it would depend on what your essential apps are. If there was a good audio and video editor I could leave my Macbook at home when I go on trips like CES but they are not here yet and I wouldn’t expect to run applications like Visual Studio on it.
In the end I still had to use my Macbook for development and audio/video editing. The Surface RT almost was the perfect device for me and eventually a Surface Pro 3 replaced the Surface RT and the Macbook. I haven’t used a Mac since them.
Now Microsoft have an entire range of Surface devices from the Android powered Surface Duo, the budget Surface Go up to the Surface Studio range. Would we have the amazing range of Windows convertibles, two-in-ones and laptops we have now without the Surface range? Probably not.
Fun fact Microsoft Surface was actually the name of the big table top devices Microsoft worked on a few years before hand.
Here is my rather shaky unboxing video of the Surface RT: