But uptake has slowed.
Surface 2 doesn't solve the problems that sank the Surface RT
Even with the Windows 8.1 upgrade, the new Surface 2 fails in all the same ways that the original Surface RT – you remember, the one that led to a nearly billion dollar write-down at Microsoft last quarter – failed.
The reviews are in for the new tablet, which goes on sale in stores tomorrow, and while most people applaud the hardware, most also deride software issues. (Ironic given Microsoft's 30-year history as a software company.) Those include glitches with the Windows RT operating system as well as a continued lack of apps that customers want and need.
Let’s start with the OS. I’ve been using the preview version of Windows 8.1 RT on my first generation Surface for a while now and haven’t run into glitches, but there are a few reviewers of the final product running on Surface 2 who did. Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff had a blue screen of death moment plus a few other problems, like the machine shut down all running apps when he launched Netflix.
The Seattle Times’ Brier Dudley also had some hiccups, including that his keyboard froze as did the on screen keyboard. He had browser windows close abruptly and occasionally apps would hang for a bit.
That’s not the kind of performance people want from Windows.
Plus, it’s not just the OS we’re talking about. Windows RT machines, like the Surface 2, can’t run traditional Windows apps. There’s been talk of missing apps since Microsoft launched Windows 8. But the issue is particularly glaring with RT. On the Surface Pro, people will at least be able to switch to desktop mode, like you can do on a Windows 8 laptop, to use any app traditionally built for Windows. Not so with devices built on the RT platform, like the Surface 2. Microsoft has included the core Office apps -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, plus added Outlook this time -- but that's it for the traditional Windows app ecosystem.
Engadget pored through the store and noted that while the app store feels fuller than it did last year, the selection is incomplete in almost every category. At ZDNet, Ed Bott praises the hardware but notes flawed or missing apps from big names like Twitter, Evernote, Dropbox, Spotify, Rdio, and Instagram.
With gaps like that, who would choose a Surface RT over an iPad or Android tablet, with their more fully developed app ecosystems? Microsoft is banking that some consumers will find the built-in Office apps a compelling reason to choose Surface 2, but that didn't drive sales for the first generation. What's going to be different this time?
Plus, Microsoft has scaled down Windows 8 for use on smaller tablets and is scaling up Windows Phone. There’s less and less reason for RT to exist. Slick new hardware, while nice, just isn’t enough to sustain the Windows RT platform.
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