When Microsoft was forced to write-down $900 million for the current Surface RT inventory not sold, there were rumors that Microsoft was done with the RT version of Windows 8. And, even more industry folks and vendors suggested that Microsoft should be done with Windows RT because they were. But, that's not the case – and, I'm glad.
For me, despite a couple differences, the Surface RT is a much better tablet device than the Surface Pro. And, to be honest, Microsoft has done a much better job producing solid hardware than any of their partners. So, I'm actually glad to see vendors dropping out of the Windows RT race, leaving Microsoft to stand alone with a solid tablet. Yes, I still maintain – even after using the Surface Pro exclusively since February – the Surface RT is the better tablet. In Surface Pro vs. Surface RT: An honest comparison, I go over all the reasons why. You may agree. You may not.
Microsoft is currently building second revisions of their Surface tablets and announcements around these updated releases may go live around the time Windows 8.1 is released publicly. I'll go over what I believe will make the Pro more successful in another post, but in this article I'll focus on Surface RT v2. Keep in mind, the Surface RT is a TABLET - the Pro is a laptop replacement.
To me, there are three main features that will make Surface RT v2 a success: Speed, Space, and Price.
The one big differentiator between the Pro and the RT is speed. The processor in the RT unit is underpowered causing Metro-style apps to lag and load slow. Since the RT runs a version of Windows 8, those working with Windows 8 on monster, powerhouse systems (like me) notice the performance drag easily. Compared to an iPad, the RT speed is fine, but when compared to some of the newer Android tablets, the RT seems to run more like an old Texas Instruments calculator than a modern gadget.
Windows RT is a much lighter weight operating system than Windows 8 Pro and it should be noticeable. With the right processor apps will run as snappy as on the Pro and, frankly, should run better.
On newer PCs, space is not an issue. Most PCs come with 100's of GB of hard disk space. Sure, the Surface RT is not intended to a massive PC replacement. But, space does help, considering how Microsoft has partly positioned the Surface RT as a media device.
Each time I travel, I load up the Surface with movie rentals purchased through Xbox Video. In Surface Pro Tip: Avoiding Hotel Movie Rental Charges, I show you how to setup the Surface Pro as a streaming device for any television, but this applies to the Surface RT, too. The main problem I have with this setup is the limited amount of space available on the Surface. I lost count, but there's thousands of apps available in the Windows Store and a lot of times I load an app and leave it. When I start downloading Xbox movies to the Surface, I have to spend quite a bit of time removing those forgotten apps to clear up space for the media. For long travels (a week or more), having more than 5 movies on the Surface is almost too much for it to store, so I'll watch a movie and then delete it.
I don't know if you've noticed, but if space is limited on the Surface, it runs slower. So a quick tip: if your Surface tablet isn't running the same as when you purchased it, check to see that you aren't close to running out of storage space.
While storage space is not a primary key to a successful RT v2, it's definitely welcome and will ensure a happy consumer. Running more apps and storing more media (video and audio) without requiring the consumer to constantly manage storage space will take a chunk of consumer stress (and post-purchase complaints and negativity) out of the equation.
Yes, you can add additional storage space to the Surface RT by inserting SD cards, but right now, Windows 8 doesn't handle the additional storage media appropriately without having to perform some crazy workarounds.
If there's anything we've learned in the past couple years in the tablet industry is that price-point is the most important selling factor. In What Selling Out the Surface RT Really Means, I talked to this issue and I hope that Microsoft has learned from their first go-round. No matter how good the hardware is, it simply will not sell at a sticker price over $500. Microsoft recently announced a permanent price drop for the Surface RT v1 bundle to help clear their stock. A Surface RT v1 32 GB with a keyboard is now $399. At that amount a v1 is priced just right – until v2 is released. When v2 is released, it should come in at that same price, and the v1 bundle should be dropped even further. That way potential buyers can choose between an older model with a slower processor, or pay a little more for a newer model with better performance and more storage.
When v2 is announced, the price better be in line or even this gadget freak will stick with v1 for quite a while.
Surface RT v2 will reportedly provide additional enhancements, but not much. Most of the updates will be in the spec sheet category instead of anything hugely monumental. And, of course, Windows 8.1 for Surface RT will bring usability and feature improvements galore.
Some will argue that the ability to run legacy apps is an important factor for the second version of the Surface RT, but I don't agree. The majority of the people that suggest that haven't used Windows 8 or a Surface RT tablet at all. The Surface RT is not a laptop replacement like the Pro. Surface RT is a tablet designed to provide much more functionality than an iPad, yet compete directly against Apple's limited, consumer device. Don't expect the Surface RT v2 to be anything more than that, either.
Curious about my thoughts on how to improve the Surface Pro v2? Check them out here: How to Make the Surface Pro v2 a Success