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ZDNet, you’re baffled by the Surface RT? Then maybe you should read more and talk less

Excuse me for a minute but I’m sick of idiots.  It’s easier to write a hit piece and say Microsoft will fail or the iPad sucks than it is to educate yourself about a product and think about the larger picture.  I read this article from ZDNet’s  David Gewitz: 5 big things that baffle me about Microsoft Surface RT.

Let’s go through what baffles Gewitz because this is everything that’s wrong with tech writers:

Big Baffle #1: Who is the target customer? Here he argues that he can’t tell who Surface RT is targeted for, whether it’s students, small businesses or large enterprises. He asserts nothing but poses questions here and states this will permeate the rest of his issues. OK he’s said nothing so I’ve matched that. Let’s see if he assets any facts in the remaining 4 things that baffle him.

Big Baffle #2: Why would you ship a device not licensed for business use?  What he’s talking about here is the licensing behind Office RT, which is preinstalled on the Surface RT. Here’s what Microsoft’s site states about office RT:

As sold, Office Home & Student 2013 RT Preview and the final edition are not designed for commercial, nonprofit, or revenue-generating activities. However, organizations who purchase commercial use rights or have a commercial license to Office 2013 suites can use Office Home & Student 2013 RT for commercial, nonprofit, or revenue-generating activities.

Not quite baffling but ok – if you are a corporation or in a small business then you are violating the terms of use to use Office RT for that purpose. Let’s just eliminate Office RT from the Surface…pretend it doesn’t exist. What would that do? Right – make it on par with every other tablet on the market since the iPad and Android both lack Office.  Somehow he isn’t baffled by iPad sales without any licensing of Office but is by some licensing of Office for Surface RT.  Ok let’s keep going, maybe there’s something better here.

Big Baffle #3: Why isn’t it priced really competitively? This has been beaten to a dead horse but fine, let’s do it again. At $499 you get more memory than a new iPad as well as some hardware you won’t see otherwise (like a Microsd slot, USB slot,  VaporMG manufacturing, a kickstand that really makes sense, etc). You can at least say that it’s competitive in price to an iPad and that’s the best selling product in the category by a long shot. You don’t need to price it like a Kinde – that’s a bottom feeding product that is about being cheap, not functional and Microsoft is showing its hand – they want a market towards the top not the bottom. Gewitz says things like “We don’t yet know if the Surface RT runs Flash.” That’s just wrong. We know it runs Flash. How? Microsoft spoke about this explicitly. ”On Windows 8, Internet Explorer 10 on the desktop and Metro style IE use the same integrated Adobe Flash Player with no need to download or install an additional player.”

Bottom line is that you can’t convince me that pricing it competitive with an iPad means it isn’t competitive since that is the competition. See how that works?

Big Baffle #4: If this is a straight-up play to win back consumers defecting to tablets, why isn’t it more suited to consumers?  Gewitz says “I find it impossible to believe that Microsoft considers this a consumer play.” he asserts that without desktop applications then how can this appeal to consumers. I’m presuming that Gewitz has never used an iPad. Maybe he’s never heard of one, I don’t know. But that also doesn’t run desktop apps. See, what he’s missing is that there is a market for an iPad. Similarly, there’s a market for a Microsoft version of an iPad and by that I mean an ARM version of Windows 8.  Windows 8 is great and anyone that’s used it will tell you about how freaking powerful and battery sipping the thing is and there’s brilliance in the way its set up (all you need to do is play with it for more than 5 minutes and not be ‘confused’).  So why do I like ARM?  Again, you don’t need to think too much about this because Microsoft gives you the answer. Windows RT (based on ARM) provides you with better battery life and generally a thinner system that doesn’t require a fan to cool the CPU. They tend to be lighter and have better profiles because of this. But connectivity is a big difference. Windows RT provides “Always connected, even when in standby mode. Connected standby keeps apps up-to-date” whereas Pro provides “Connectivity off when hibernating/sleeping to preserve battery.” See, Windows RT is like your phone and its always gets emails even when the screen is off. Those same battery sipping features don’t apply to x86 CPUs so for Windows Pro you lose that when the device goes to sleep. So if you like the concept of an iPad but want the Microsoft ecosystem that’s in line with the way you actually live then the Surface RT makes total sense. It’s priced like an iPad but I get all of the Microsoft apps (Skype, Live Messenger, SkyDrive, IE with Flash, etc) so for someone like me it’s a great product.  It’s also cheaper then the eventual Windows 8 Pro tablet I’ll wind up buying that is twice the price (likely will put me near $1000 by the time it’s done…sounds expensive but remember the pricing for iPads and those are definitely less functional than a Windows 8 Pro laptop with convertible features).

Big Baffle #5: If it’s not suited to consumers, then why isn’t it perfectly tuned for business?  No this isn’t a strict business play. You have Windows Pro…uhm Windows Professional. You know, like for business use with desktop support. Again, let’s think about the competitor- right the iPad is similarly not fit for businesses by Gewitz’s definition because it also lacks desktop applications. Surface RT is not the strong business play. Surface Pro is, as are all of the Pro tablets/convertibles that are being released starting October 26.  Those cost about $200 more for similarly leveled specs. He’s missing the genius in what they’ve done by providing a consumer play and a business play that have the same look and feel. People can choose the product that fits their needs.

Windows RT is the strategy to get cheaper tablets out and over time the prices will fall as well to prices similar to Android tablets (but not necessarily Kindle prices as there’s no profit in a Kindle – more like a Note or whatever Android is pushing these days). Windows Pro will continue to be the business play. Consumers will learn about the difference between these products and figure out what they want. Consumers understand that Android tablets don’t run PC applications and they’ll figure out that RT doesn’t do it either.  Let’s not be confused by the short term and pretend it will exist in the long term.

Bottom line is that if you’re going to write to a mass audience then instead of being baffled go educate yourself and share knowledge, not nonsense. If Windows RT completely baffles you then pack up your bag and get out of tech.