Microsoft is taking nearly a billion-dollar loss on its latest experiment in hardware futility, otherwise known as the Surface Tablet and Windows RT. Quick show of hands from Cringeville: Is anyone surprised?
Yeah, I didn't think so.
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RT was probably doomed from birth. Yes, maybe Intel was too slothlike in churning out power-efficient mobile processors, and maybe ARM chips were Microsoft's least worst option if it wanted to get some skin in the tablet game before it was game over. Still, a Windows OS that can't run 99 percent of the Windows software currently on the market is not what you'd call an intuitively great idea.
Personally, I think the biggest problem with Windows RT is the name. They should have called it Windows WTF. As in, WTF were they thinking?
ReTurn to sender
I've spent the last week playing with a Windows RT machine, the Dell XPS 10 with the optional keyboard. It's been kicking around Chez Cringe for a while, and I've been mulling whether to take it with me on my now annual jaunt to IFA Berlin (aka Pilsner-and-Sausage-Palooza), Europe's answer to CES. As much as I like my iPad, I can't get any real work done with it. I'd heard RT machines offer killer battery life, and I'm looking at 9-hour cross-Atlantic flight.
Ironically, it was at last year's IFA where I first saw machines running Windows RT. At the time they looked pretty promising. A device that could run Office apps and combine the strengths of both a small laptop and a tablet PC was certainly intriguing.
Did I say promising? I meant exasperating. Here are three reasons.
1. The thing is slow. Not Windows Desktop slow, mind you, but nowhere near as responsive as an iPad. I got plenty tired of watching that stupid dotted circle go round and round as I waited for apps to load. And the tagline "Windows RT: Now 27 percent less annoying than other forms of Windows" lacks a certain marketing appeal.
I am told by those in the know that Windows 8.1, whenever it gets here, will be much faster and fix a lot of RT's problems. Then again, we've heard the "x.1 release will fix everything" line with just about everything Microsoft has ever produced. After 35 years, it gets old.
2. Add the keyboard/extra battery, and the thing gets heavy. It's no longer a lightweight tablet with a keyboard, it's 4-pound netbook with a touchscreen. Unfortunately, the physical and onscreen keyboards were in a constant struggle for dominance. Depending on the app and where I tapped, the dueling keyboards would sometimes not allow me to enter anything at all.