I'm really digging my Surface RT. However, it's the hardware that makes it so compelling. It's compelling despite the software called Windows RT. But the hardware is so great that it's the first time I've used something that made me think I was using something from the future since my first iPhone. It's that good.
And yet, Microsoft -- the software side -- has failed in Product Management. Someone, pretty far up the chain there, is incompetent. There's no other explanation.
Below I will list a handful of oversights that are unnecessary, baffling and detrimental to the success of what they're trying to accomplish.
In no particular order:
- SkyDrive is not fully integrated. Surface RT has about 15GB of space. That means, realistically, you need to deal with your stuff in the cloud. And yet, I don't have an easy way to access it unless I use the SkyDrive app or if I essentially launch it from within an app. I can't, for instance, just have a music folder on SkyDrive that the Music app just looks at. Or a Video app. If I want to load a file, I'm going through the hundreds of gigs of SkyDrive stuff.
For example, I can't go and my Photos folder from SkyDrive to my Photos library. The integration is basically to just add SkyDrive as a drive to everything rather than letting me quickly get to stuff as if it were on my local drive.
- Skype. Microsoft bought Skype awhile ago. And yet, the RT version doesn't support searching -- like for contacts. That makes it very limited for heavy users. It's also strikingly annoying to use as it has the same annoying issues that it has on tablets where it seems to insist on downloading the entire conversation history before it gets you caught up. I'd rather they get the *latest* discussion first and then fill in the back history later. It diminishes its use as a quick and easy way to deal with instant messages.
- Basic Apps. Remember when every gadgtet/widget program always had the same 10 apps? At this stage, there's a half dozen "gotta have" apps for any tablet. They include: Mail app, Web Browser, A Music Player, a Video Player, Twitter App, Facebook App, Photo app, Map App, IM app. These are basics. And yet, let's look at them:
The Mail app is decent. But it relies on People and People doesn't have my contacts like it's supposed to so it's not working quite right.
The Web Browser app is great.
The Music player is hampered by the weird RT UI standards. Creating a playlist with it is a big pain. There's no cloud integration (beyond having a simple SkyDrive short cut if I want to load a file). It's just plain a pain to use.
Video player is the same as the music player with the same problems. Luckily, most people only care about videos from the net and in that area, the XBOX stuff is pretty good.
There's no include Twitter app and the ones out there on the store are quickly hitting their 100k tokens.
There's no Facebook app.
The Photo app suffers the same problems as the Music/Video apps. There's a SkyDrive folder. But the app is extremely difficult to navigate. I don't even know how to create an album. I'm stuck using the desktop Pictures folder except...there's no SkyDrive availability there. I hate to say this but this app is basically useless. Does Microsoft just hate folders / organization?
The Map App is pretty decent.
Skype RT is better than any version other than their desktop PC versions. Which means to say, it's still not very good. You can't even search for contacts which makes it very problematic.
These are the apps Microsoft should have had nailed. You could argue that the stock and weather apps included are decent. They are. But they're more like bonus apps AFTER you get the basics done.
- Weird UI choices. There is good UI and there is bad UI. Metro has some bad UI in it. The most obvious to me is that sliding from left to right takes you to the last app you used and sliding from right to left brings up the Charms bar. What a lost opportunity. Right to left should have taken you to whatever app you just switched to from that direction and left to right the opposite. That's intuitive. The Charms bar could easily have been placed as a button in the app preferences (which you get to by sliding from top down or bottom up). Alternatively, you could have given it its own gesture (like slide right and back to left immediately to correspond with the left and back to right immediately on the other side to bring up the window list).
Once you get used to using Windows 8/RT as a touch device, it's amazing how often the inefficiency of getting around apps comes up. It's baffling and reeks of some compromise due to infighting at Microsoft.
Just 4 things. All fixable. None of them technically challenging for Microsoft to have addressed long before Windows 8 shipped. And that's why I think it's incompetence at the upper levels of Microsoft. They clearly have the development talent. But the people who were supposed to have the cohesive vision just blew it here.
I think the outcry from early adopters will get these things fixed. But the tragic thing here is that they released something that, with just a bit of common sense could have been a revolutionary product. Surface RT / Surface Pro are MacBook Air / Ultrabook killers.
I can't imagine very many people who sit down and use a Surface device would want to go back to an Ultra book. The superiority is that great -- except for the fact that Windows 8 / RT have these glaring deficiencies that force users back to the desktop, using other apps, to get real stuff done.
BTW, this article was written on a Surface RT.