Microsoft Surface RT review

Updated: A piece of engineering brilliance, but can the Surface with Windows RT satisfy the needs of a business user?


The drawbacks

So we come, naturally, to the drawbacks of the Surface with Windows RT. And there's no denying that it has quite a few.

The key drawback, from a business point of view at least, is its operating system. While the use of Windows RT brings battery life advantages over full-blown Windows 8, not to mention the inclusion of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

As Windows RT runs on the ARM architecture and not Intel's x86-based technology, the Surface RT does not natively support legacy apps. This means users can't install any third-party software on the desktop and plugins such as LastPass for IE won't work. The only way users can add new software is by downloading apps via the Windows Store.

There are workarounds though for IT admins. If your company has developed its own software, they will be able to load up devices with applications through a process known as "sideloading" a special product key will be required to activate this feature.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Businesses which upgrade to Windows Server 2012 could also theoretically run virtualised versions of Windows 7 legacy apps such Adobe Photoshop or CAD software via the Remote Desktop app. Although this gets around the need to install software directly on the machine, you'll need a fast internet connection to take advantage of so it's not ideal if you're constantly on the move. However, the Surface RT is also a Wi-Fi-only device at this time, which is another limiting factor.

IT admins may not be keen to deploy Surface RT devices as they cannot join a domain or be managed this device as part of your existing infrastructure: the Surface with Windows RT needs to be treated as any other tablet or phone. It's a mobile device that sits outside your network, sharing files cloud services such as SkyDrive.

Perhaps the biggest drawback is the omission of Outlook. Users must rely on the bundled Mail and Calendar apps: these can access your Exchange-based information, but it's a far cry from Outlook in all its splendor. Third-party apps may arrive that solve this problem, but we haven't found one yet.

App quality

This leads us to another issue: the Store and the lack of high-quality apps suitable for businesses. As we write this review, there are 108 apps listed in the Business section. Of these, most are amateur efforts or have only the most tenuous link to business. We haven't yet found a single one that we'd recommend.

Things do improve when you head to the Productivity section, where useful apps such as Goals and OneNote MX make an appearance. But if you compare it to the Apple App Store, with its myriad of high-quality apps geared to time management, say, it comes up a long way short.

Microsoft Surface RT - Apps

There aren't many business apps available at the moment, and the lack of Outlook client is one of the major omissions

This could be a temporary problem, and Microsoft undoubtedly is working hard with partners to increase the number of top-drawer apps that are available, but it's something to be aware of if you're thinking of buying the Surface for professional use in the near future.

Featured Resources

Application security fallacies and realities

Web application attacks are the most common vulnerability, so what is the truth about application security?

Download now

Your first step researching Managed File Transfer

Advice and expertise on researching the right MFT solution for your business

Download now

The KPIs you should be measuring

How MSPs can measure performance and evaluate their relationships with clients

Download now

Life in the digital workspace

A guide to technology and the changing concept of workspace

Download now

Most Popular

operating systems

17 Windows 10 problems - and how to fix them

4 Nov 2019
Business strategy

The pros and cons of net neutrality

4 Nov 2019
Domain Name System (DNS)

Microsoft embraces DNS over HTTPS to secure the web

19 Nov 2019
social media

Can Wikipedia founder's social network really challenge Facebook?

19 Nov 2019