Paul McDougallEditor At Large, InformationWeek
Editor At Large, InformationWeek
Microsoft Surface RT Best Tablet Ever, 'Reviewers' Gush
"I sold my iPad," gushed a buyer who identified himself or herself as "ExIpadUser." "I hope to retire my Kindle HD as soon as Microsoft publishes enough apps in the store." A reviewer going by the name "HighTechLover2" was even more effusive: "Best tablet I ever saw in my life!!!" he, she or it proclaimed.
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Numerous analysts have reported that Surface RT is not meeting Microsoft's sales expectations. But it seems to have won over the hearts and minds of Best Buy shoppers. The 32-GB, Touch Cover-included version, priced at $599, averaged a near perfect score of 4.9 out of 5 stars from 20 reviewers. Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas should have been so lucky. The $499, 32-GB version (without Touch Cover) averaged 4.7 from 11 reviewers, while the $699, 64-GB version averaged 4.5 from six reviewers. The only downside one buyer could think of was, "My fear of dropping it."
[ Will Microsoft introduce more hardware products beyond Surface? CEO Steve Ballmer suggests it's likely.]
You can forgive the Best Buy reviewers for their lack of nuance. Of those who critiqued Surface RT, the vast majority had previously never reviewed any other products, and most never had a Best Buy user's profile until last week, when Surface first went on sale at the store (mousing over a reviewer's handle provides this info).
"Coty 09," whose activity on the Best Buy site dates back as far as Monday, had this to say: "The Surface RT is a great product that is easy to use and is built very well. This will be great for work, school and play." Who talks that way? Marketing people, according to The Consumerist's list of "30 Ways You Can Spot Fake Online Reviews."
It was never Microsoft's intention to sell Surface at Best Buy, at least not until after the holidays. The original plan was for the tablet to be available only through its online store and the handful of brick-and-mortar locations it has opened around the country. But meager sales apparently led to Plan BBY.
In addition to Best Buy, Surface RT is also available at Staples. Staples customer reviewers -- all four of them -- appeared equally impressed with the device. The $499 version had drawn 5 out of 5 stars from two reviewers as of early Tuesday, the $599 version got 4.5 from 2 reviewers. The $699 version had no reviews. Four reviews after almost a week of availability suggests Staples isn't likely to sell out of Surface RT any time soon, but at least those who bought appear to like it.
Surface RT runs a pared-down version of Windows 8 known as Windows RT. The OS, which runs on ARM-based chips, is not compatible with standard Windows applications. It only supports software pre-installed by Microsoft or apps downloaded from the company's online Windows Store. That limited functionality, according to a published report this week, had one Dell exec urging Microsoft to ditch the Windows brand for RT devices, for fear it would confuse customers.
Surface Pro runs full-blown Windows 8, and it's also compatible with legacy Windows applications and Microsoft's full-range of security and management products. It will be available starting in January, according to Microsoft. Whether it will land in Best Buy, Staples or other major retailers, the company has yet to say.