EDITORIAL: Surface RT — bag of suck?

When the original iPad came out, I said, “pass.” Not enough productivity for me. No Flash animations, no printer support, no front-facing camera. In fact, I thought it would be a total turkey. Well, I admit I was wrong. The story of why and how I was wrong explains why I may be right about Surface RT.

When I railed about the iPad being nothing special, friends said to me, “you’ve got to touch it.” What they were saying, what we’ve all seen in the intervening years, was how everything about the iPad was engineered so that the device got out of the way and just let you enjoy what you were doing. Sure, it had its flaws but the big picture was… well, the big picture — a large window into the online world without something like a keyboard or mouse to distract you.

They were right. After a trip to the Apple Store, I was hooked, but I did have to wait until I got that front-facing camera and a little bit of printer support, for no other reason than to save face. And I get it now. When I travel I bring an iPad for watching movies, reading, surfing and playing games. I still bring a netbook because when it comes to getting work done I do need to store files and type quickly. I’ve often wished for a device that was really the best of both. iPad keyboards are good, but it’s the storage aspect. In fact, if the iPad had a “Documents” folder that I could get to offline (instead of using Google Drive or Dropbox) it wouldn’t take much more.

So, enter Surface RT. A little more expensive than iPad, but could it be the device of my dreams? I scoured the reviews. The best one comes from gizmodo. They call it “technological heartbreak.” Instead of being the best of both worlds, they call it the worst. The touch cover isn’t intuitive, it’s heavier than an iPad 3, and unlike a laptop, you can’t actually lay it out on your lap and start working.

And, of course, it gives you all the bizarro colored squares of Windows 8 without the actual app support. Gizmodo calls the included apps “lite versions of something better.” The problem is, there’s nothing better out there. You can’t run your Windows programs on it, and the Windows Store is a paltry imitation of Apple’s App Store or Google Play. Maybe that will change but not fast enough.

So, unlike the iPad, which you have to touch in order to understand, it seems like touching the Surface actually breaks the spell and makes you realize how limited it is. It doesn’t bring anything to the tablet world that a netbook wouldn’t do better, and it doesn’t seem to inspire the irrational joy that iPads do.

Hey, I’ve been wrong before plenty of times. Still, I agree with the web sites out there that say “pass” on this one, at least for now.