Anybody looking to buy a used but clean and nicely-maintained Micrososft Surface RT tablet? Anybody? Please??
I didn’t think so.
After months of trying to convince myself that it makes sense to hang onto the tablet, I finally decided to put my Surface RT up for sale. Here’s why.
I bought Microsoft’s sleek tablet right after its release last fall. The relationship was rocky almost immediately; the early version of Microsoft Word that came pre-installed crashed and froze almost every time I used it. The problem has been resolved thanks to updates, but my first thought was: Really, Microsoft? You shipped a brand new tablet with a buggy version of your own software?
Internet Explorer, another Microsoft product, was next. The version of the browser that’s available on my Surface tablet just doesn’t cut it.
Example: I input Word text into CIO.com’s content management system multiple times a week for this blog. Then I select terms to tag each post from a set of drop-down menus. But the drop-down menus don’t drop down in Internet Explorer on my Surface tablet. So I can’t rely on it for travel, because I often post on the go, and I need the full functionality of a real desktop browser.
Next up, third-party apps—which, as a mobile-apps reviewer, was a primary reason for purchasing the Surface RT. I go to the Windows Store on my tablet several times a month to see if there’s anything new and interesting. But the vast majority of the apps listed when I check are of zero interest to me.
Right now, for instance, the new releases include “Basic English Cartoon,” a $7 educational game; a free game called “Save Your Friend With Hat”; an unofficial, Instagram-compatible app called “Lucky Instagram” (an official Instagram app isn’t available); “Typing Speed Test”; and “Learn English in 12 Days” (for just $14!). (Read “Looking for Valuable New Windows RT Apps? You’re Out of Luck” for more examples of boring apps.)
I can hear the Windows RT death drumbeat, and it concerns me. Microsoft recently slashed its tablet prices—the 32GB device I bought in October for $499 now sells for $349. Microsoft also announced a $900-million write off from its Q2 earnings to account for Surface RT “inventory adjustments.” Yikes.
There are plenty of things I like about the Surface RT: it’s light weight, has solid battery life, a beautiful screen and an optional Type Cover ($130), which happens to be the best tablet keyboard I’ve ever used. And working in Office apps on the tablet is great (initial snafus aside). Some decent third-party apps are available for Surface RT, but in my experience, many aren’t on par with their iOS and Android counterparts. And Microsoft plans to bring Outlook 2013 to the device soon—something the company should have offered all along. Better late than never though, I guess.
Ultimately, Surface RT just doesn’t make sense and never did. It’s confusing to potential buyers, it fragmented Microsoft’s entry into the tablet market, and it angered many of Microsoft’s long-time hardware partners. In hindsight, its release seems like a confused attempt by a company desperate to become relevant in the mobile market. (Don’t even get me started on the fact that Surface tablets offer much less user-accessible storage than advertised.)
Most significantly, Surface RT imposed limitations on the quality third-party apps that areavailable to users and reduced the usefulness of those apps and its own software. That alone is enough reason for me to cut my losses and sell the tablet.
At this point, I’ll be lucky to get $300 for my Surface RT on eBay. But that’s the price of early adoption, right?
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.