back to article How to relieve Microsoft's Surface RT piles problem

Somewhere in Redmond (at least metaphorically speaking) are several very large piles of unsold Surface RT tablet components. Why did the long-awaited and much-hyped ARM tablet running "Windows for ARM" Windows RT flop so badly, when ARM tablets running iOS for ARM from Apple are doing so well? It's not just the Modern Windows …


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  1. Piro Silver badge

    Nah, we're not going to like or have to like Metro.

  2. Jagged

    WinRT - to be pronounced like "inert"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      To Paraphrase Peter Cook

      WinRT - You fill me with inertia.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: To Paraphrase Peter Cook

        Windows ineRTia… I like it.

  3. Rampant Spaniel

    Well summed up.

    Making an entirely new, incompatible, 3rd ecosystem within MS was frankly retarded. You have none of the compatibility that would make it attractive to people with desktops. You have a decent interface for the format, but it isn't compatible with your actual mobile ecosystem.

    Will they ever grow out of believing they are the only choice and that they can dictate what we want. Apple and Google both have competent offerings. Why they he'll would we buy winnets? The biggest thing the could have done is app compatibility with desktop, the second was with mobile, they opted for the short bus approach.

    1. xenny

      Not entirely retarded.

      I think MS identified the near immunity of iOS from malware infestations as a key marketing feature.

      The only way they could see to achieve that. as well as the access to Office that they considered a USP was to produce the compromise that you see with RT.

      With this perspective, and if you then treat WinRT as an iOS competitor with the added bonus of 'proper' office (albeit with no macros, again to prevent malware), then it all makes a decent degree of sense, although it'd help if there was rather more in the app store.

      1. Rampant Spaniel

        Re: Not entirely retarded.

        Fair call, but couldn't they achieve that by evolving win phone? They forced Metro onto the desktop, they recreated a mobile phone os, then created a 3rd system for tablets. Neither Apple or Google (in the long term) found that necessary. I could understand them dropping the win32 option if they had kept compatibility with the phone apps. Whilst surface rt isn't terrible, it's up against very good competition, it's overpriced and it could leverage more of Microsoft 's core strengths.

        The most appealing tablets right now(for me) are the full win 8 ones with atom processors. Nokia have some great large screen phones on the way. There won't be much room left for winnets, even Microsofts own products will be eating its tiny market share.

        1. John P

          Re: Not entirely retarded.

          I think a lot of it comes down to internal politics, the original idea was that you would be able to "write once, run anywhere" but it didn't come off in the end.

          I can't remember where I read it but I remember an article that suggested Steven Sinofsky and/or the Windows team refused to work with the Windows Phone team, so they both went their separate ways and we end up with the massive missed opportunity that we now have.

          Imagine if Windows 8 had been released and suddenly you could write apps that worked on Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Windows RT with little to no change. It may not have changed the perception of the interface itself, but I suspect a lot more developers would've given it a go and the story for the Windows Store would be vastly different to how it is now.

      2. Tom 7

        Re: Not entirely retarded. @xenny

        " (albeit with no macros, again to prevent malware)"

        Thanks - made my day

        nearly ruined my keyboard collection too...

      3. Chika

        Re: Not entirely retarded.

        Actually, the idea that WinERT could be immune to infestation because of its ARM use isn't new. RISC OS, for many years, was touted by some that it was also immune.

        To a certain extent, it was. Not because of the processor, but because the OS was hard coded into ROM chips. But then this didn't stop virus code being inserted into application files and other volatile system bits that were stored outside the ROM. This would have potentially got worse as more of the OS was stored in disc based modules loaded into memory on startup or first use except for the second reason. Obscurity. Nobody could be bothered to write viruses for a system that was becoming less used.

        Given enough time and effort, WinERT could be hacked. Being ARM based is no protection. I suspect that the biggest protection could be the same as with RISC OS - obscurity.

        In other words, and paraphrasing Piccolo from DBZ; "The balls are WinERT".

        1. Richard Jones 1

          Re: Not entirely retarded. No?

          Given enough time.... Since no one wants a brain dead tablet which cannot really do anything useful with the supplied broken capabilities, why would anyone waste time writing code to subvert the useless thing? Actually there might just be a use for something like WinRT, if you have a wobbly table it might, just might be useful under the short leg.

          1. Asok Asus

            Re: Not entirely retarded. No?

            Not a bad idea. Certainly they're no good as boat anchors because they don't weigh enough, and welding a bunch of 'em together for anchors isn't worth the cost of the welding.

            The only problem I see with using them as leg adjusters is if they are too thick for a particular leg, but then I suppose a sledge hammer could be used to flatten 'em a bit thinner if necessary in such a case.

    2. Suricou Raven

      Not retarded. Strategic.

      MS has a problem: The market isn't growing much any more (at least in the developed world), and it's growing increasingly hard to get people to upgrade software. Just look at the problem they had getting people off of XP - and 7 is set to show the same endurance. It's 'good enough.' No expansion and no upgrades means no money for Microsoft, unless they can fundamentally alter their business model to be less of a 'boxed software' supplier and more of a service supplier. Apple pioneered the model, and MS wants in.

      Surface, Metro, the new API, the Windows app store, Windows Phone - these are all parts of the MS plan to do just that. Expand control over the devices their software runs on, and use this control as a means to extract money as a service provider. Just like Apple.

      People will hate it, of course. And it'll lose a huge amount of money, at first. But Microsoft can afford to throw money at it for years - it's not waste, it's investment, supporting the unprofitable new ecosystem until it matures into something self-sustaining - and from there, matures further into their next cash-cow.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Suricou Raven. The tablet market is still evolving rapidly. Lower cost devices help but also the higher performance premium end - Apple now have 64 bit with 4 core, enhanced GPU in the pipeline for 20nm and the option of raising their game by promoting larger entry level storage.

        This gives tablet vendors a couple more years driving rapid obsolescence until tablets reach the 'good enough' level found with notebooks nowadays. A three year old iPad 1 is now useless to all but the most enthusiastic fan with limited use scenarios and this trend will likely continue for 2-3 years.

        But not forever, Microsoft have a limited window to establish their new ecosystem and can't afford to keep making so many mistakes.

      2. Splodger


        MS will if anything INCREASE pressure to adopt Win8 and its ilk.

        For example, I believe the next DirectX will be a Win8.1 and Xbox One exclusive.

        I for one will resist any attempt to be locked in to their walled-up vision.

      3. John Sanders

        So let me recap.

        Microsoft produced a crippled ARM tablet so they could have a product that can compete with the iPad and Android tablets.

        They used Windows, but they restricted it so 3rd party software doesn't run. This includes viruses and bloat ware crap that infects lots of regular Windows PCs. (Imagine the embarrassment of MS if the tablets could catch a virus, Apple and Google will trounce them with marketing)

        So the only advantages MS has (general purpose, Win32, freedom to develop whatever you want, freedom to distribute) are gone.

        Most people do not like the product.


        Besides this Microsoft's concern with market growth are their own doing, they pushed everybody out of the market, and forced everybody to develop free (as in cost and as in freedom) alternatives.

        They made their bed, and they should lie on it now.

        1. Richard Plinston

          > Microsoft produced a crippled ARM tablet so they could have a product that can compete with the iPad and Android tablets.

          I think that it went more like:

          Microsoft produced WindowsOnARM so that it could wave 'loyalty discounts' (removal thereof) at its OEMs to prevent them make Android tablets, and more importantly, Linux based ARM servers.

          This worked with HP who decided that dumping WebOS was cheaper than losing discounts on _all_ products.

          But then MS had to make some ARM products.

          Meanwhile several companies decided that they had sufficient alternatives to tell Microsoft that if the loyalty discounts were lost they would stop making Windows PCs and make Android, Chrome, Tizen and Ubuntu products, which they now make alongside Windows.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Black Helicopters

      "Making an entirely new, incompatible, 3rd ecosystem within MS was frankly retarded. You have none of the compatibility that would make it attractive to people with desktops. You have a decent interface for the format, but it isn't compatible with your actual mobile ecosystem."

      Depends on what your' goal was.

      Obviously for showing the latest Windows version running on a non x86 architecture it's a failure.

      But maybe that's the point

      Microsoft and Intel remain a deeply dysfunctional relationship. "Proving" ARM hardware can't host Windows ("See only Intel hardware can host a Microsoft product") is a nice helpful gesture for their old pals.

      Paranoid. Moi?

  4. Mystic Megabyte


    Judging by the amount of MS shills posting FUD on various Linux and IT forums I would say that they're getting desperate. As for me, I would not have a MS RT tablet as a gift.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shills

      So let me get this straight: The people who like the thing that you don't are shills, however you like the thing that they don't, but I assume somehow that's ok?

      This really strikes me as "yours is rubbish", "no, yours is rubbish" levels of argument.

      1. Bill Gould

        Re: Shills

        So because I dislike Linux because for me it is absolutely useless (gamer) I must be an MS shill according to the OP.

        I concur with your summary AC.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Shills @Bill

          You need not be a MS shill, just part of a system where one supplier can control a market, compelling ordinary people like yourself to defend the indefensible. Microsoft want you to not have an alternative.

          There is no reason why Linux cannot become as good or a better gaming platform than Windows. It's only market penetration that make gaming companies develop on Windows. It's possible that the Steam effort or Crossover may just change things.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shills

      I have one here, given to us by Microsoft, and no doubt counted as sold in their numbers. it gathers dust in the corner.

      This who mess is why the tech savvvy consumers avoid Windows Phone, Surface, Xbox and all the other failing Microsoft product lines.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Shills

        Let me guess, you're not a shill either?

        I also note the way that you congratulate yourself as being smart, based on your choice of hardware/software defined by your opinion, neatly suggesting that anyone who disagrees is not qualified to comment. Well done, a mature and intelligent argument that wouldn't disgrace a primary school debating society.

        Oh, hang on, the other one, it's sill: "your stuff is rubbish", "no your stuff is rubbish".

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Shills

          Why is so much of the muck-slinging, accusing everybody of being shills, being done by AC's.

          Really, folks. If you want your comments to be taken seriously, at least post them with an identifiable handle, even it it is not your real name!

          In case you forget, it's not possible to differentiate one AC except by content.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: Shills

            "Why is so much of the muck-slinging, accusing everybody of being shills, being done by AC's."

            If they posted drivel under an identifiable handle, people might block them and then they wouldn't be famous on the interwebs. (Thought experiment: what would the forums look like with all the AC posts blocked? How hard would it be for El Reg to enable this so that we could try it out?)

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: Shills @Ken

              But that's the point. Nobody can become famous posting as an AC. They just merge into the crowd.

              I'm not saying that the Reg should remove the ability to post AC, hell, I use it myself when commenting on something that may upset someone in my acquaintance. It's just that I'm so pissed off trying to work out who is who when they are making such cowardly accusations.

      2. GitMeMyShootinIrons

        Re: Shills

        You lost me at "tech savvvy consumers". I know quite a few (none of whom would use such marketing drone speak to describe themselves) very clever people who happily and enthusiastically use Microsoft products over alternatives for very rational reasons.

        Let's take a look at Xbox. Not exactly a failure. I do believe they've sold quite a few and they aren't nearly as disreputable on the DRM front as Sony. Windows Phone? The Nokia line up is solid, with growing sales while the OS is much leaner than Android and has more flare than iOS. So what that the App store isn't as big - 250,000 fart apps, Angry Birds rip-off and obscure social apps isn't anything to be proud of.

        I think Surface is probably the only one I can agree on. This was a bad misstep. They should have scaled up Windows Phone OS, not scaled down Windows 8. An already large x86 ecosystem on one side and a shared ARM derived eco-system (for phones and smaller tablets) makes more sense than three separate ecosystems, where MS have ended up.

        1. Levente Szileszky

          Re: Shills

          "Let's take a look at Xbox. Not exactly a failure."

          Hah, GREAT POINT: Xbox in its entire existence STILL DID NOT GENERATE A PROFIT in total, thanks to MSFT's utter incompetence in advanced consumer electronic hardware design (remember the original Xbox, basically a shitty PC with a low-end Nvidia GPU, jammed into an ugly plastic box?), which caused BILLIONS of losses thanks to 360's RROD replacements.

          "I do believe they've sold quite a few"

          Oh they did, a LOT - and yet they ARE STILL IN THE RED in total... what does that tell you about their incompetence and effectiveness? It's breathtaking , this level of utterly clueless mgmt.

          " and they aren't nearly as disreputable on the DRM front as Sony."

          You mean after they were forced to perform a complete 180 when they announced they will kill the used game market by not allowing trades/change of ownership? :D

          "Nokia line up is solid, with growing sales"

          You are funny with this marketing BS... in reality Nokia is still LOSING MONEY, even despite BILLIONS MSFT PAID TO NOKIA to keep them afloat as the single WP handset vendor - and now they were forced by their own Trojan horse to buy it out, once again, to keep at least one brand behind WP.

          Sales are growing in the lowest price bracket, with ASP lower than even Android ones - that's why Nokia is still losing money, grabbing market share for MSFT by losing money? Sure, and Nokia said 'hey, fatty, then buy it and finance it yourself, you fool!" and that's exactly what happened.

          "while the OS is much leaner than Android"

          You mean in terms of users, apps, devices, options, support, variations? Sure, I agree - but, surprise!, that't not a good thing actually...

          and has more flare than iOS."

          Looks ugly as hell, just like iOS, you mean? I agree but it's a subjective thing, y'know...

          1. Levente Szileszky

            Re: Shills

            PS: just want to add that while XB1 finally looks like the first decently designed Xbox as far as hardware-software goes it still seems to be hindered by some weird decisions eg going with a measly 32MB fast embedded RAM + 8GB lousy GDDR3 system-wide memory adds a lot of complexity and limits performance for no reason compared to Sony's straightforward 8GB system-wide fast GDDR5 modules, not to mention Sony's 50% higher compute unit count in the GPU etc etc... again, something that once again smacks of a classic Ballmerian 'it's good enough'-type of beancounter argument.

  5. Tom7

    Three out of Four Reasons

    The fourth, of course, is that it costs £360. That's £40 more than a Nexus 10 and at least £100 more than a Galaxy Tab 3 10.1. Microsoft still doesn't seem to have learnt that you can only charge a premium if you differentiate on features or fashion, both of which it has signally failed to do.

    1. VooDooTooDo

      Re: Three out of Four Reasons

      Funny that the SurfaceRT I bought last week from a UK electronics chain cost £259 including the Touch Type cover. I am actually quite impressed with it as I use it instead of lugging a laptop around onsite to download drivers or patches for machines that may require them as well as to generate invoices using Office. I wouldn't be using a tablet for coding or photo/video editing. I can RDP into machines with it as well.

      1. Richard Plinston

        Re: Three out of Four Reasons

        > Funny that the SurfaceRT I bought last week from a UK electronics chain cost £259

        That is because Surface RT is the obsolete model (replaced by Surface 2) and MS took a $900million writedown and put them in the bargain bins before they had to write off another couple of billion.

        > as well as to generate invoices using Office.

        That is a business use that is specifically disallowed by your license for Office RT Student and Home edition (or preview). You need to purchase a commercial license for that product.

        (which is another reason why it didn't sell).

    2. mmeier

      Re: Three out of Four Reasons

      The fifth are Atom based W8 tablet pc. Similar weight, size and endurance, not that much more costly but vastly more useful since they are full sized x86 units with all the software.

  6. Favic

    The problem is the analysis

    Can you run Mac OSX apps on an iPad? No, and it's not a problem for anyone.

    Can you run apps which doesn't come from the App Store on an iPad? No, and it's not a problem for anyone.

    Can you ditch iOS and install Ubuntu mobile on an iPad? No, and it's not a problem for anyone.

    So, please, tell me why these are the root causes for the failure of Surface?

    I see it truly as a marketing problem, but not related to the abilities of the tablet, but for the expectations it generated. When people are led to see it as a PC they expect it to do what a full fledged PC can do, which is absolutely wrong. Microsoft got this one wrong. Had it just called the OS differently, without it even supporting windows phone 8 apps, I'm pretty sure people (and the "smart" analysts) would be focused on what it can do more than other platforms, especially in relation to productivity.

    Furthermore, it makes complete sense to ditch win32 altogether, since that's the only way of leveraging a new generation of apps. We cannot be tied to 30 years old code / principles and every push in the direction of evolution should be praised.

    1. APJ

      Re: The problem is the analysis

      I agree to an extent. There's probably a branding problem between the Surface (RT or 2) vs Surface Pro (2). But I'd argue that the Surface RT (especially the latest version which is a lovely looking thing) compares favourably to the iPad with some advantages (Office) and some disadvantages (the app store for Windows is still a pale comparison to the Apple one, but things have improved very significantly in the past 12 months).

      I've been using v1 and v2 Surface devices for home and work and really like them. I do not find myself wishing I could install Photoshop on the RT devices and also don't find them any more limited than I do the other vendor devices we have knocking around here.

      The major advantages I find with the RT devices (along with all the other WIndows SKUs) is that they're multi-user, so the family all have their own logins, the Family Safety stuff is good for the kids, as is the picture logon, the kids can pull free apps and games out of the store where they are age appropriate, but anything outside that needs my authorization, the battery life is good, the devices feel robust but are lightweight, and the Skydrive integration works really well for syncing profiles and data.

      YMMV, and I accept the developer challenge with x86, ARM, WinPho, etc. but these things seem to be improving and in the meantime these things don't impact me particularly severely.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: The problem is the analysis

      Exactly. The problem is the word 'Windows'.

      The average punter will expect to see what runs on his PC to run on his -RT. It won't and they return the device.

      Apple uses different branding for OSX and iPads. Far less chance of confusion.

      I'd love a Surface but only to run Linux on it. Not Ubuntu mind you but IMHO a proper distro like Debian or Fedora. In my eyes, there is a lot of similarity between Microsoft and Canonical. Both of them are trying to put their ONE brand everywhere. It will IMHO be doomed to failure.

    3. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: The problem is the analysis

      "So, please, tell me why these are the root causes for the failure of Surface?"

      Because Apple created an app ecosystem around iOS which made comparisons with OS X irrelevant. No iOS user expected to get a cut-down Mac. What they got was a pocket thing/slab which looked lovely and did a lot of obviously cool stuff you could impress your friends with.

      This worked brilliantly when apps were still a novelty.

      MS started WinRT with Windows branding - hence the Win in the name, which I'm sure some marketing droid in Redmond thought was clever - and then said 'But you can't actually do any of the things you expect from Windows.'

      WinRT is like a car with three wheels removed. It goes in circles and makes a horrible scraping sound, and the only answer to 'Where do you want to go today?' is 'Nowhere.'

    4. fandom

      Re: The problem is the analysis

      You forgot one rhetorical question:

      Can you run iPhone apps on an iPad?

      Yes, of course you can, anything else would have been retarded.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The problem is the analysis

        Not all of them banking apps for example require a mobile phone sim otherwise they won't work.

        Also the rhetorical question would work if iPad apps worked on iPhones but because they don't your point doesn't either.

        1. Mephistro

          Re: The problem is the analysis

          "Not all of them banking apps for example require a mobile phone sim otherwise they won't work."

          "Eats, shoots and leaves"

          On a more serious note, that's caused by a physical limitation, similar to trying to run a GPS app on a device that lacks a GPS receiver, or a FM radio app on a device without radio hardware, or trying to run a full fledged photoshop like app on a device with a tiny screen. What we are discussing here is a set of artificial limitations imposed by MS on their devices.

        2. Rampant Spaniel


          Congratulations! You missed the point by so far you might actually hit it in the ass going the other way.

          Ipads and Iphones use the SAME OS. There may be a few apps which do not work on one of the other because of a specific hardware requirement (just as some apps don't work on older generations of phones) but basically they are the same OS and apps written for one stand a very good chance of working on the other.

          MS could have used Winphone on tablets, they could have waited one generation of intel atom chips and used Win8 on tablets, instead Balmer glued a pooch under his desk for easy access the decided to create an entirely new, incompatible tablet OS. Yes it utilizes metro, which on a tablet or a phone is a decent UI. The problem is there are two mature and competent ecosystems already out there so there would need to be a very compelling reason to buy a different system. Full win32 compatibility would be one, even the ability to reuse winphone app purchases would be another (like you can on android and ios) but MS decided to shoot themselves in both feet whilst walking a tightrope. Now win8 tablets are beginning to make sense, winphone is gaining some traction, they are going to have to put winnets out of our misery. At best it will eat some win8 tablet sales where consumers get confused (and therefore end up feeling ripped off and buy apple or google next time), the reality is that they will simply can the platform in a few years. WinRT is being eaten away by WP phablets at one end and Win8 Tablets at the other end and there was precious little market for it in the first place.

          They aren't creating a market, they are trying to fight their way into a mature market and seem to be going about it entirely the wrong way. They failed to leverage their advantage in x86 compatibility (Apple proved with rosetta what could be done if you really wanted to) and they actively handicapped their product because some manager decided he didn't want winRT being a threat to WP or Win8. Net result, billion dollar losses and a product that is DOA. There aren't many second chances in this business, even good companies \ products fall (webos, crackberries). The sooner MS drops their arrogance, realises what they can do well and plays to that the sooner they will do well. They can throw all the billions they want at winRT for as long as they can afford, but that won't change the fact that their are better options out there, already established and taking their business.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The problem is the analysis

      You can run iPhone apps on the iPad. Why not wp7/8 apps on the RT?

    6. Richard Plinston

      Re: The problem is the analysis

      > Furthermore, it makes complete sense to ditch win32 altogether, since that's the only way of leveraging a new generation of apps. We cannot be tied to 30 years old code / principles and every push in the direction of evolution should be praised.

      Exactly, which is why people have bought Apple or use Linux, or ChromeOS. They have ditched win32 entirely.

    7. Blitterbug

      Re: 'it makes complete sense to ditch win32 altogether...'

      I can only assume from this slightly deranged assertion that you're not a commercial programmer...

      Without going into the boring detail, I'll just say: Because speed.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The problem is the analysis

      @Favic - You missed a point here - Lots of people are claiming that (always others, not them) are confused by the fact that you can't run standard Windows apps on Windows RT.

      I have never heard anyone suggest that I may be confused by the fact that I can't run iOS apps on my iMac.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft Piles?

    Piles? - Only one solution... stop sitting on the bloody tablet !

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: Microsoft Piles?

      Just announced, All New Windows ANL Doughnut, the end of Windows Piles!

  8. saif

    Problem with being third to market

    Essentially WinRT tries to reap the benefits of an iPad like system with its walled garden and locked down hardware. But there is the problem - iPad being first to market (ok I am not inclding desktop tablets that Winodws had but never took off) with innovation has inertia. iPads premium price allows some competition from cheap android. With neither inertia nor competitive pricing a third entryinto an ecosystem just can not succeed.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Those things won't fix it

    Those three points are techie and the tablet market is mainstream which is not techie and very few people really care about it.

    What Microsoft has is a communication/misconception problem. The biggest complaint for the RT models is that they don't run desktop apps and you rarely see people complaining Chrome doesn't run Android apps or that iPads can't use OSX software and iPhones can't use iPad apps because the differences are easily understood and sufficiently explained.

    Microsoft need to ditch the name, it doesn't differentiate the products enough and will always lead to comparisons. Rename it something like Windows Express (WinEx for short), it'll bring comparisons to Outlook Express which will at least set an appropriate level of expectations.

    The licencing costs need to be brought down or made free. Nobody's licencing, Nokia might as well be Microsoft at this point. Licencing it under the Android tax value would help getting the OEMs back on board as WinRT is just too expensive compared to other tablet OSs and even Windows8 given the restrictions.

    Microsoft need to advertise and educate on why WinRT's App Store is sufficient for tablet use and why customers don't need (want is something else) full Windows8 on a tablet.

    Most importantly just clear stock, the longer the original Surfaces stay in a storehouse the longer it remains a failure. Give it one last Christmas push and knock it down to £179/$199 and £230 with cover and take the loss. At least that way people will have them, get used to the interface and increase the user base sufficiently enough that it will get app developers interested, thus bulking out the App Store and making the Surface 2 and 3 that much more marketable.

    1. John P

      Re: Those things won't fix it

      Agree with everything there.

      I'd not touch Windows RT at it's current price but if I see a Surface RT at firesale prices ala HP Touchpad, it would definitely be worth a go.

    2. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: Those things won't fix it

      Or even better, they could actually deliver what people really want, rather than having to 'educate them' on what they haven't realized what they want but that a conglomerate of middle management and marketing bods would prefer they want.

      You point on pricing is correct. I'm not sure I agreed with their idea of making a significant margin on their gen 1.0 surface products. You could buy android and apple tablets with a higher spec for the same or less. When you are after market share against two mature competitors there is some mileage in forgoing immediate profit to carve out your share of the market.

      Edit: Just to clarify, I'm not saying they should price it at predatory levels, just closer to normal oem levels rather than appleesque 35% margins.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A developer perspective

    I've several apps built around the OpenCV imaging library. The open source C++ compiles for ARM on Android, iOS as well as x86 OSX and Win32 but has yet to get a WinRT port or integrated .Net/C# wrapper.

    Microsoft could financially support porting this and other open source projects to WinRT and that way encourage a large number of application ports to the WinRT API. For some reason the company seems to prefer to spend 100s of times more dollars on advertising to try to make up for the lack of apps rather than doing something about it. Typical large company thinking with a closed approach to what constitutes marketing.

    If there really is a pile of aging Surface RT tablets how about getting some into the hands of developers. You'd have to be nuts to buy a Surface RT now Surface 2 is out even if you like the RT concept. I may release a couple of Windows Store apps next year in which case I'll need a Surface or Nokia tablet for testing but no way will I support the slow original Surface RT unless somebody gives me one. I can't be the only developer wondering how to sugar coat next years 'your computer is obsolete' message,.

    Personally I'd extend WinRT to allow desktop (windowed) apps and fill in some holes in API support rather than offer full Win32 on ARM but one way or another there needs to be a better way of supporting multitasking solutions for which the current split screen suspend/resume 'Metro' model simply doesn't work.

  11. RobO

    Stupid decision not to allow 3rd party apps

    I own a surface RT tablet and are moderately lukewarm about it. I can understand Microsofts reasons for not allowing 3rd party apps on the platform: If all and sundry could install traditional x86 programs recompiled for ARM then the lack of CPU horsepower would inevitably dissappoint people as they realise the Surface RT isn't geared to be a number cruncher. They might also find their battery running low very quickly. And programs that have not been vetted can of course contain virus.

    On the other hand there are plenty of essential 3rd party Win32 programs that are lightweight and do not drain the CPU (until the release of Windows RT 8.1 these could be installed with the jailbreak if they were compiled for ARM) such as the SSH client Putty. Allowing the presence of such programs suddenly makes the Surface RT interesting from a business perspective as the tablet then could be a light-weight or mock-up workbench in the absence of a laptop or a desktop PC. Not permitting the many Win32 productivity 3rd party programs on Windows RT merely renders the Surface RT into yet another media consumption device with few unique selling points that stands out from the competition.

    If MS wants Windows RT to succeed it must court their huge base of experienced and until now loyal Win32 programmers and allow them to compile and distribute their programs to the Windows RT platform. This should be without requiring them to purchase expensive developer license and also by not requiring applications having to be distributed through the windows Store.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stupid decision not to allow 3rd party apps


      As I write on my desktop computer (3 year old quad core i7, Win8.1) I've over 20 main application windows on my Windows desktop including two Visual Studio instances and three Word documents. Plus a similar number of web pages in IE and several WinRT apps in Metroland. Task Manager reports 2-3% CPU usage with an occasional leap to 8%.

      Not exactly a battery draining scenario for a modern power managed CPU, ARM or x86. Sure there are some inefficient power grabbing applications for Win32 as well as malicious programs so there is a case for a curated route for desktop application distribution but generally there seems no technical reason to banish desktop applications from Windows RT.

      Sinofsky seemed hell bent on alienating Windows developers but now he's gone, its still not too late for a change along the lines you suggest before we all give up on the platform.

  12. Bronek Kozicki

    Windows RT ...

    .... is Microsoft's attempt to break out of ghetto of legacy Win32 applications.

    I think they perfectly realize that Win32 has fallen victim of its own success, and want to create an alternative ecosystem for the new breed of applications that would work on tablets (and possibly on desktops, too). There is so much cruft in Win32 , that this cannot be done on this platform, thus Microsoft tries their best to promote a new one.

    They are desperate to get hold of tablet market, because otherwise they know that Windows will slip into irrelevance. Apple has demonstrated that some tablet buyers do not care much about the price nor closed ecosystem, and Microsoft just wants to tap the same market.

    I will not speculate whether this is good or bad strategy; only that from their own point of view anything that gives them hope to survive "dawn of desktop" must seem like a good one.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Windows RT ...

      Problem is, they created 3x ecosystems, all incompatible with each other, and each a barren wasteland.

  13. Michael Shelby

    SecureBoot is not the problem

    I'm pretty sure that no one has ever said, "I'm not buying a Surface because I can't install Android on it." If punters want Android, they'll buy a slab built for Android.

    And why would MS ever allow SecureBoot to be disabled? The potential increase in hardware sales (which I think is nil) would be overcome by the loss of Windows Store App sales. I thought the goal of locking down the hardware was to sell more software?

    1. Ramazan

      @Michael Shelby: Re: SecureBoot is not the problem

      I'm not buying a Surface [RT] because I can't install Debian on it.

  14. Stoke the atom furnaces


    MS should put RISC OS on it.

  15. Steve the Cynic

    Emulators, and history, and stuff...

    Article: "it came with an emulator to run 16-bit x86 code on DEC Alpha, MIPS, PowerPC and SPARC"

    I remember an interesting point that this caused.

    Context: it is early 1998. Windows 2000 is visible on the far horizon, but it is still called Windows NT 5.0. Windows 98 is in late beta.

    My employer (a British A/V supplier) is building up to releasing the first CD-ROM packaged version of its software, which will have installers for Win3.*, MS-DOS, Win95 (and Win98 when it comes out later in the year), and many flavours of WinNT3.*/4.0.

    The question: given that we can ignore DOS because it doesn't do autorun of CDs, and given that autorun.inf doesn't have per-platform sections telling what to run, and given that some customers run Windows NT on Alpha, MIPS, and so on, how do you build a single .EXE for autorun?

    Answer: you build it in Win16 and mark it as usable on Windows 3.1(0). Win95/98 will pick it up and run it natively. WinNT on x86 will pick it up and run it "natively" on WoW32. Win3.10/3.11 will be able to run it manually. MS-DOS will be able to run the same setup.exe if you build the MS-DOS installer in the real-mode "stub" part of the NE-format executable. OS/2 can run Win16 applications through its API emulation layers.

    And Win NT on MIPS, Alpha, and friends will run the Win16 application through the x86/16 emulator.


    Of course the structural difficulties of x64's compatibility modes mean that this no longer works - WinXP/Vista/7/8/8.1 on x64 do not run Win16 applications except in VMs - but equally the demise (for practical purposes) of Win3.* means that Win32 is a satisfactory API to target.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How about renaming Windows RT to


    That could give customers the right level of expectations

    They could have a campaign sticker - 'borks for sure' for any windows app you try to run on it

  17. a53


    Seriously, why would anyone willingly buy an MS product ?

  18. Anonymous Coward

    "Modern" apps? Pretty much a Fail.

    I've been using Win 8 for about a year now, and support several systems with Win 8. During that time, I've never spent more than a few, curious moments in the "Modern apps", even on a tablet.

    Any time one of our users accidentally stumbles onto a modern app, they call out for "help" immediately, completely surprised by the experience.

    We've basically used Classic Shell to shut the Metro Start screen and modern apps completely off from the user experience as much as possible. MS has a long way to go to integrate the modern apps experience into full use. So far from my experience, it's a complete fail on a PC or laptop. Reminds me of running old full-screen MS-DOS programs with mouse enabled.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Modern" apps? Pretty much a Fail.

      I find Modern apps designed for Win8 and not just ported from Android or iOS to be quite beneficial on a PC screen but I normally view things full screen or have two windows viewable at a time so of course it doesn't suit everyone.

      The main problem I'm getting is when the app wasn't designed with Win8 in mind so it feels slightly off, especially in games where it's ported straight from a touchscreen only device so gamepad and keyboard and mouse support just isn't there.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Modern" apps? Pretty much a Fail.

        One problem I have is the severely limited functionality in many of the Modern apps.

        For example, I do a lot of work with PDF documents, so I was quite curious about what MS would do with its full-screen PDF reader. But when I open a PDF, I only get about 5 tools - rotate, highlight, make a note, look a bookmarks, and whether I want to see one or two pages on the screen at the same time.

        The app isn't even as functional as reading a PDF on my Kindle, where I can at least look up words in a dictionary or online. Compared to a robust program like Acrobat Pro or even Acrobat Reader, the app is so severely light-weight as to make it almost completely unusable. And that's after Win 8 has been 4 years in development and a year in release! Why should I expect anything better in the next year or two?

        I love Win 8 - very fast, very stable, very secure. But the Modern apps don't seem to be good for much beyond the most casual reading experience. Like I say, MS should be able to offer at least as much functionality as an app running on my Kindle.

        And MS NEEDS to stick a minimize button somewhere. Our users are just completely lost in these apps, don't even know how to get out of one without assistance.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Modern" apps? Pretty much a Fail.

      Spot on. A lot of the dislike of Windows 8 is precisely the unintuitive nature of Metro. The iPad was a success as the iPhone was a success. RT has little popularity because of the experience users are having of Windows 8 on the desktop. Every mention of Windows 8 on this site and on many others brings up mentions of installing Classic Shell, or keeping with Windows 7, dragging out XP usage or chucking it all in for OS X and Linux. Why? Because 8 has been a disaster on the desktop, and a large number of people will do anything to avoid Metro. That's not a good omen for RT.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Modern" apps? Pretty much a Fail.

        @AC 17:51 - "8 has been a disaster on the desktop"


        I'll disagree on that point. Win 8 is reemarkably fast, stable and productive on all the desktops we are using it on. If you ignore the Start panel, install Classic Shell, and avoid the Modern apps, you've got the best Windows desktop ever, in my opinion.

        I reallly like a lot of the tools, like the new Task Manager with all its built in features. Saves me a lot of time digging through the Administrator Accessories like in all previous versions of Windows.

        And I don't find installing Classic Shell to be any kind of a burden. You can download and install it in about one minute. Its not like you could ever run Windows without downloading third party software like anti-virus programs, backup programs, CCleaner, etc anyway. Its just another tool you need, and the fact that its open source, community supported software makes it a huge bonus.

  19. Fiddler on the roof

    They just dont seem to get that what we want to use at home (on our desktop / laptops) is largely what we want to use in a hotel / on holiday/ on the train or at a friends house (on our tablets) which is also largely the same as what we want to use when we're out and about (on our mobiles). If you could move around in life with an approrpriately sized windows device that behaved (almost) the same as your main PC, everyone would be happy, except (possibly) Steve Jobs :)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not going to happen

    If Microsoft would not even give back a proper Start MENU in Windows 8.1 (only the grudging mockery of a Start button), what makes you think it would allow its Surface RT tablets to be jailbroken?

    Microsoft wants to lock everyone into the Microsoft ecosystem: Microsoft's app store, Microsoft's 'devices and services', Microsoft Office, Microsoft cloud, Bing etc. Letting people run their legacy win32 apps on RT is not helpful for this brave new walled garden.

    Also, we're not sure who the next Microsoft CEO is. If he/she is a nincompoop just like Steve Ballmer, then the end of Microsoft is near. Oh sure, the Servers and Tools division is still going to turn in healthy profits... but every other business is going to crash and burn, rendering Microsoft largely irrelevant and impotent.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Not going to happen

      "Oh sure, the Servers and Tools division is still going to turn in healthy profits..."

      Without all those clients, why run a Windows Server or write apps using the Tools?

      At this point in time, I'm tempted to say that the source code for the Windows Desktop is Microsoft's only significant asset. (Their management certainly isn't. I wonder just how many of the good developers they still have?) Office is replaceable unless you are a power user (and there aren't enough of them to keep the cash coming in) and I can't think of any other MS products with a near-monopoly market share.

  21. Stevie


    No thank you.

  22. Levente Szileszky

    "although we're all going to have to get used to it" - hell, NO, NEVER, NADA, NIL.

    You wanna bet? You will lose, big time.

    Write whatever nonsense you want but WE WILL NEVER GET USED TO IT AND NEVER LET THIS JUNK ONTO OUR NETWORKS WITHOUT PROPER BUILT-IN START MENU, period. And you can quote me on that, dear - so far most of you journos tried to sell it in a sort of sneaky 'let's trash it but you will have to get used to it' and I predicted that you will fail - and I was right, we HATE it.

    And I'm still saying this: NO WAY FOR THIS JUNK ONTO MY NETWORK WITHOUT START MENU - and it stands regardless how desperately you try to sell this shining example of f'n Ballmerian arrogance and incompetence.

    Go work for Ballmer, after his retirement but stop trying to kiss MSFT's ass so hard, seriously.

    1. Chemist

      Re: "although we're all going to have to get used to it" - hell, NO, NEVER, NADA, NIL.

      ""although we're all going to have to get used to it""

      Oh no - those days are long gone !

  23. Tom 35

    although we're all going to have to get used to it

    No we don't.

    I'm on Windows 8.1 enterprise right now. There is no Microsoft account. Classic shell so I never see the crap not-metro screen, and hardly ever see the slightly less crap start screen. App store? I think it's in there someplace, don't care.

    As for my Surface RT, Outlook is much better then the old mail app (not hard) for checking my work email, and the Netflex app works quite well. I would not pay money for one. If they unlocked the thing it would be a lot more useful but I'm not holding my breath...

  24. timhowarduk


    I think the problem is simple. Microsoft arrogantly believe that the general public will suck up the marketing without engaging their brains first. "We tell them it's great, and worth the money, and they will buy it in their droves" turned into "We tell them it's great and they respond 'you're having a giraffe, why on earth would I buy that?'"

    They also apparently fail to realize that if you are starting fresh in an established market sector you need to either undercut the competition and break even for a year or two to get a market share or have something truly amazing that will turn heads. They did neither.

    'High price' plus 'tiny app store' plus 'lack of binary compatibility with rest of windows world' was always going to equal embarrassing failure. Enterprises might have just been willing to compile their own apps for it but they closed that door too. Sorry MS. I suppose it might make a good frisbee....

  25. Shane Sturrock

    Transitive could allow them to run x86 on ARM

    Apple went through a transition from PPC to x86 with OS X and used Rosetta based on Transitive technology to do dynamic recompilation. Performance of PPC code fully emulated (such as a PPC compiled command line executable) was dire as I remember testing one and seeing it ran at about 10% of the speed of a native binary. PPC emulation was always hard - look at how well PearPC worked for example. The thing that made Rosetta work so well was that the majority of code that an application like MS Office:mac was running was actually calls to OS provided libraries and by recompiling those to native x86 and using Rosetta to recompile just the non-graphical parts PPC programs actually ran pretty well.

    Could x86 binaries run reasonably on an ARM compiled version of Windows using an equivalent of Rosetta? Sure, why not? Why didn't MS do so? Probably cost since they're already taking a bath on the devices but it seems that they would have had much more success if they had been able to bring all the Windows applications along for the ride and provide a way of dealing with multi platform 'universal' binaries like Apple. I wouldn't even worry about trying to run 64 bit x86 on ARM as there's still plenty of legacy 32 bit code out there but this is all academic. MS screwed WinRT from the outset.

    1. mmeier

      Re: Transitive could allow them to run x86 on ARM

      IIRC the Intel ships replacing the PPCs had more raw computational power (just like the 68k->PPC switch before). It is always easier to emulate a CPU on a more powerful/faster unit. Current generation ARM barely come up the CTrail Atom performance. And the CTrail is "adequat" for Windows not "blazingly fast", it is the CPU you choose if low weight/hig endurance are the MAIN criteria. So emulating a x86 on an ARM will likely be totally unusable even for simple programs

  26. Bod

    The only issues with RT

    Really the only issues with RT are...

    1. Price

    2. Not enough quality apps

    And that's pretty much it. If you have got your head around it not being 'Windows', just the same as all Android tablets are not Ubuntu or any other linux desktop distro and iPads are not OS X. Everyone understands this fine and they're popular tablets, so what's the problem here? Basically the above combined with the media generally slating RT for it not being Windows.

    Even compatibility with Win Phone is not an issue to the consumer, so long as they can get the apps that do what they want on the tablet version. Okay for a developer it needs a port, but even iOS needs alternate builds for iPhone and iPad, and while maybe much easier, it certainly is not the case with Android where fragmentation is vast compared to iOS and Windows devices.

    Myself, I want a nice tablet for a low price I can surf and send emails, plus a few funky apps. It doesn't really matter if it's iOS, Android or RT, and certainly doesn't matter if it's not OS X, Ubuntu(etc) or full blown Windows. So long as I understand that. Price and subsidies so you can pick them up for £100 to £200. Sorted.... except for the lack of apps.

    That said I do actually want something that will do spreadsheets properly in a productive way and is compatible with modern Excel formats. Turns out Office on RT pretty much does, minus macros. Though there's still a major problem that editing spreadsheets on a touch UI just isn't that useable.

  27. PeterM42

    I think it is fair to say........

    ......that Microsoft have completely and utterly LOST THE PLOT!

    My prediction is that Android will become the standard for phones and tablets, with IOS as a niche OS.

    The question is given that M$oft seem to have lost the plot with desktops/laptops, what will take over?

    Linux has not done it, so perhaps Android?

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