"The built-in front-facing camera for Skype is angled so that it’ll work great when the kickstand is open, but again, only for Danny DeVito, or maybe for people who want to show off their chests in Skype."
"The Touch Cover is one of the Surface’s biggest innovations. I thought I would hate it, but I didn’t. It’s not like typing on a completely flat surface: each “key” is raised slightly, so while there isn’t any mechanical feedback, it does feel a bit like a keyboard."
"The Type Cover (the one with real keys) just works. I’ve got big hands that often struggle on undersized keyboards, but I can type very quickly on the Type Cover."
"He showed me Office, which was almost unusable: it was extremely sluggish, and touch targets were tiny and difficult to hit."
"So quickly, in fact, that I can outrun Microsoft Word on the Surface. I get the feeling that the Surface RT’s CPU or Word code just can’t keep up with my typing. Here’s an example video:"
"The standard gestures don’t help, requiring many in-from-the-edge swipes that not only aren’t discoverable"
"After waiting over a minute for the machine to boot and launch the mail app, I got a blank gradient screen. User interface 101: if the app needs to be set up on the first launch, offer to do that, please. Folks from Twitter suggested that I swipe out from the right side and click Accounts"
So, can we conclude that these observations might be real (V. 1) problems without resorting to ad-homs regarding the author?
I'm on the Word team in Office and I'm coming into this thread incredibly late, but FWIW the slow typing on ARM was something we couldn't fully address in time for the preview release. Word RTM (ARM and x86/x64) has much better performance.
One of the challenges we had was that for a large majority of the product cycle we didn't even know about the Surface. We were looking at ARM early on, but the hardware we had was prerelease hardware from MSFT partners that had varying levels of performance.
Even now we don't know a whole lot about the Surface. It's a little frustrating, since we (Office) hit RTM we're eagerly awaiting the point at which new Surface RTs will have Office RTM baked into them. The preview release is seriously many many months old from the RTM release, and it's painful to think that this is what customers are going to see from Office when they turn on their shiny new device.
This type of issue would be identical across NVIDIA based ARM PCs and large numbers of the reference platforms were available at the same time they have been available to external developers.
Developers on the Office team (and Word team) that needed to contribute to the ARM focused work had access to the tools and hardware needed, including Surface specific hardware. There was no shortage of knowledge, hardware, or communication.
I was also a little skeptical but I was pleasantly surprised by how natural and easy it felt.
by the way, it is even worse with Powerpoint. every few lines typed i had the screen go white to redraw the whole UI.
When there is no communication, then the users are left to imagine all kinds of wild theories of what went wrong and why. It is a waste of time for all involved.
Not sure where you're going with this, but given the amount of effort and ambition around the Surface, I would say that Microsoft is absolutely serious.
As for Word, there was a limited number of things we could do and fix in a finite amount of time. Trade-offs need to be made.
> there was a limited number of things we could do
No one is blaming you or your team. I'd blame the lowest person in the company who had the ability to install beta versions of Office on beta versions of Surface.
Effort and ambition, together with $4, will get you a double latte at Starbucks.
To beat Apple, you are going to have to take the next step: competence.
When the board fires Ballmer, that will be the signal that Microsoft is ready to get serious. Until then, it's all just talk.
Thanks for making the point. I had hoped that by recording videos of the problems, I wouldn't get attacked as just making off the cuff observations. Readers can see the problems for themselves. Still getting attacked by the fanbois, though, and that's a little disappointing.
But outside of that niche group I think your videos very well demonstrate the issues in a fairly indefensible way. The save issue in particular is the worst as you never treat people's files/work with that much disregard.
However, given that your problems other than the kick stand are rather odd bugs specific to you (haven't seen anyone else have the problems you had with Mail and saving in Word) would you not consider perhaps getting the device replaced over straight up returning it?
As for Word being slow...I agree that is inexcusable. If I were you I probably would have tried getting the free update to the final version from Windows Update to see if the problem has been fixed.
I dunno. I guess I'm looking at it from a glass half full perspective because I like mine and don't experience the problems you do.
Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but IMHO one day is not enough to properly judge any piece of complex technology. I am writing this on my RT and I am very surprised with your post, specially when the word preview issues are easily fixed with a simple SW update that is coming soon, as Office is already RTM. A technologist would not ditch this beauty after a couple of hours playing with it, my $0.02.
When you say "the word preview issues are easily fixed with a simple SW update that is coming soon, as Office is already RTM" - how do you know they're fixed in an update that's "coming soon"?
I trust the Office team, and they have been very clear to call this a preview (it shows in the top of the document) so I expect some issues. I obviously can not know if your specific problem is already fixed in the RTM version (that released a couple weeks ago) but usually the Office team releases high quality products.
I did not experience your CPU/word problem yet, you asked for a video, and I posted it here:
As you can see, I enabled the new task manager, that is really cool and you can see how the Tegra 3 CPU (4 cores) does not even notice the typing, even with tons of spelling mistakes to force a worst case scenario.
It is really a pity you did not have it a bit longer, I have an Ipad 1st gen, a galaxy tab 10.1 1st gen (yes, I had it even before I could install ICS, my lord) and now a 1st gen surface and man, this device is impressing me so far. When I connected my Galaxy nexus to it and it opened the windows explorer so I could use it to transfer my videos to You Tube I realized how huge is having Windows in a Tablet, it is not a PC but boy is powerful, full USB not only client, but server support.
I tried to repro a worst case based on your info:
as you can see, 20 pages full of errors, spell and grammar correction enabled, writing in the first page. It clearly shows more CPU usage than the first test, but always below 40% for every core.
Please, note that I am not trying to say that you did not hit a bug or even a faulty device, just that I have not been able to repro it in my limited testing and so far the device is totally impressing me. I am even thinking to write a cool Hackers News app for it :-).
I am a really happy camper, today I tested the RDP connection to my main server and works really well, you can get real stuff done using remote desktop. I was sure I would need the Surface Pro and now I am not so sure as I can do heavy lifting with more battery life and lighter device (and I will always need a "real" computer in the home anyway). Surface Pro looks awesome for pen and I am a big fan of ink well done (need to test a capacitive pen with the RT but usually they do not meet my bar). In any case, I will surely keep my unit, I did not feel so happy with a new gadget since the ZX spectrum, my first HP48 (yes, I am that old) or the iphone. I was not sure after reading some of the early reviews but this device is a geek's playground, I will be discovering new tricks for a while, the connection to the XBOX is pretty cool too and seems to work fine for movie navigation but did not play much with it yet.
I see that you have updated your post with the update information, that was very honest of you.
Just wanted to let you know that, in fact, I had updated my Surface as soon as I got it just by searching for windows update in settings and clicking it (it was painless in my case), I even did it tethering with my Nexus. So my tests are using an updated device.
BTW, feel free to link to my videos if you think they can complete your post further.
You mean all those negative reviews that get upvoted to the front-page.
Thats what happens here, the positive reviews usually get ignored, get flagged, or die quickly. Unless it's an Apple product.
"Surface RT" is not "Surface for Windows 8 Pro". Windows RT is a stripped down version of Windows designed for lower power CPUs. It's also designed to be 100% Metro based. You can't install non-metro apps on it, you can't even buy Windows RT, it has to be pre-installed on each device.
"Surface RT" is a touch-based device for holding in your hands while surfing the net and using the typical social apps.
The use-case of an attached keyboard and the fully fledged Office app suite is not what this device is primarly for.
What makes this even worse, is that the preview version of Office is not yet fully reliable, has not been ported to Metro, and opens up in Desktop-mode. There are still bugs to work out.
While the guy gave a good review, it does not represent the typical use-case for Windows RT devices any more than the iPad would represent the use-case of a Desktop PC.
That may be true, but it's a poor excuse. The basic function of a word processor is to easily generate formatted text, historically primarily for printing on letter-type paper, but that's maybe a bit less important today than it once was. Minimal functionality for a word processor is being able to render that text as fast as a human user can type it.
WYSIWYG word processors had this capability well over 20 years ago on CPUs far inferior to a quad-core Cortex A9 with a thousand times less RAM. For a major software company to fail at this in 2012 is inexcusable. If Tesla's new sedan had a top speed of 50 MPH, prospective buyers would say it's not ready no matter how cool its other characteristics are.
Of course, it is a preview edition of Word. Maybe the finished version will have acceptable performance. Until then, "it isn't done" is the only reasonable conclusion. Regardless of any other features, Microsoft has not provided the minimum viable product for a word processor.
 Note: not hyperbole. Two megabytes versus two gigabytes.
If anything, you were generous. You could run WYSIWYG word processors on a 512KB Amiga or Atari. Both with a single M68k CPU at <8MHz. Interestingly they were on the market at pretty much the same time as the secpnd generation ARM CPU's used in the Acorn Archimedes range, and while there were numerous discussions about which were faster, a 7MHz-8MHz M68k is at least in the same magnitude performance wise as an 8MHz ARM2 CPU..
(EDIT: Actually, there was at least one WYSIWYG word processor for the Commodore 64 too - GeoWrite)
Factoring in improvements in architecture on top of clockspeed increases we're probably talking at least a thousand times more performance per core for a Cortex A9 vs ARM2. And that's likely generous towards these old machines too...
(can you tell I'm frustrated that my phone and tablets (Android; not bashing MS for this) are more sluggish than my 1988 Amiga 500+)
I spent last night hacking on FrexxEd (Amiga editor; one of the authors went on to write CURL) and ACE Basic...
Heck, back in 1972, I was running, and writing, page layout software on machines with almost a million times less RAM than my current MBP. (16K 18-bit words vs. 16GB). And the editor had no trouble keeping up with typing, which was limited more by the 10 cps limit of the Teletype than anything else.
Back in the early 1970s Xerox PARC created a WYSIWYG text editor called Bravo. It ran on the Alto which had a maximum of 128K of memory. Approximately 3/4 of that memory was consumed just to store the bitmapped screen, so Bravo would have had to run in about 32K.
As a side note, Charles Simonyi (of Microsoft Office fame) worked for PARC at the time. I might be misremembering, but I think he had some involvement in Bravo.
I thought that but you do end up on the (severely restricted) desktop more often than you think.
>Surface RT" is a touch-based device for holding in your hands while surfing the net
Is this why every single marketing and promotional material shows it sitting on a desk with the connected keyboard? Is this why Microsoft made such a huge deal of the keyboard/screen workflow? (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mSckyoAMHg#!)
>The use-case of an attached keyboard and the fully fledged Office app suite is not what this device is primarly for.
Again, tell that to Microsoft.
Do you really think it's going to make you dance?
It's marketing. That's how it works.
Given the specifics on Windows RT, low power ARM based CPUs, etc ... it's not a desktop replacement device, though you can certainly hook up a keyboard to it.
If that's true, they are showing what it isn't.
> It's marketing. That's how it works.
I believe the technical term would be "deceptive marketing"
> Given the specifics on Windows RT, low power ARM based CPUs, etc ... it's not a desktop replacement device.
At least not while it's running Windows RT. Too bad it can't run anything else. Let's wait for Windows 9 and hope current devices can be upgraded.
Deceptive about what? They are competing with the iPad more or less. No one is saying this thing is meant for serious production of content, it's meant for consumption of content.
> they are showing what it isn't
You can still place it on a table and expect good results as long as you're not 6'3"; or have a higher table then the author's. You can still hook it up to a keyboard.
You can even run Office on it, it's just that you'll need to update the "preview" version of it to fix a couple of bugs.
> Let's wait for Windows 9 and hope current devices can be upgraded
"Surface for Windows 8 Pro" and other OEM like devices are coming out. I think that will be the real test to see if consumers adapt a Windows 8 tablet device. Give it 6 months.
Wat? Wasn't this already answered?
Is this why every single marketing and promotional material shows it sitting on a desk with the connected keyboard? Is this why Microsoft made such a huge deal of the keyboard/screen workflow? (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mSckyoAMHg#! )
> You can still place it on a table and expect good results as long as you're not 6'3"; or have a higher table then the author's.
Wat? Are you seriously saying that your nature-provided human height is the problem? Let's get a little real here. Can you imagine the product meetings when they reviewed the stand: "Great! We cover 80% of the market place, but no marketing with any NBA players!"
That you even had to clarify that, on a tech site like Hacker News, speaks to what a marketing and product-segmentation disaster Surface is. So tell me - which one do I buy to get Office? That I can run office means I can run Windows 8 applications, right? It has an x86 chip in it, right? Or is it ARM? There IS one that is x86-based, right?
I predict brisk sales, and even brisker returns.
You might want to tell Microsoft's marketing department that because the seem to have different ideas from you.
It may not be the One True Purpose (tm) but Microsoft is pushing it one of the biggest features. On Microsoft's store page for the Surface (http://surface.microsoftstore.com/store/msstore/Content/pbpa...), Office is even listed at the same level as the OS! The feature list, where each has an accompanying paragraph: the case (VaporMg), kickstand, touch cover, ports, Windows and Office, and the cameras.
"Surface RT" is a touch-based device for holding in your hands while surfing the net and using the typical social apps.
The use-case of an attached keyboard and the fully fledged Office app suite is not what this device is primarly for.
I think I'm beginning to understand why there's so much excitement over the Surface. It's because the Windows world doesn't have Ultrabooks.
Or rather, up until recently with the Xenbook and the Carbon, all of the ultrabooks in the Windows world have been really really bad. But I don't think that the market has found the Xenbook and the Carbon yet. And maybe there's a general belief in the Windows world that you don't have to pay for quality - I think all of the Microsoft faithful here are hoping that Microsoft has given them a $500 Ultrabook, which of course they haven't.
Look at the iOS6 maps stuff and the flaking etc... Not to discount them in general but everyone that looks at my phone always comments about its weight first. I think humans focus on their pain points over the good in general.
Just trying to point out we notice the problems more than the positives. I need to stop by ye olde apple store and get some cables, think I'll jaunt over to the ms store and have a look at the surface too. Hopefully the sales guys don't pounce.
It's maddening because I don't want an iPad. An iPad doesn't fit my requirements, one of which is side loading. It can't share data between apps easily either. Android has intents, which are nice, but I would absolutely love a tablet that could switch to full blown OSX, has a USB port for mouse and keyboard. A true laptop and tablet combined.
That would be a device I might be interested in. An iPad is not a device I am interested in. So you might understand why "but iPad!" comments are annoying to me.
Too big? Too bad - that's a laptop. Not enough battery life? Too bad - that's a laptop.
They're a bit pricy but I've gotten the chance to see the pre-housing crisis models (the company/management group was insolvent for a time) were very solid. The Wacom digitizer is really good for artists too. if they came out with an Air version I think they'd have a rather hot product..
Thus I really like the ideas behind Surface, though Windows isn't ideal for working with unix, which I need for my job.
(I love my Cintiq, but I'd love it more on a retina MBP screen.)
and where did you get that from?
Developers never really cared about netbooks, and these devices, either with ARM processors or with Atom, are only at that level. So most Windows apps will struggle on these machines, while most apps on iOS or Android will be a lot faster on the same processors, because their low-end target was something like a 600 Mhz ARM11 CPU.
Very knowledgeable opinion sir. This is indeed true. Us as windows developers are required to add a sleep statement every few lines of code so as it not make it appear responsive.
Also, most devs probably build for the average performance, so say something like an old Core 2 Duo laptop, and if their app there has a 10% CPU utilization, it might have 30% CPU utilization on Atom, or more, which means on ARM chips, especially the mid-end to low-end ones, the same app will use the CPU a lot more. Apps designed for mobile are meant to use 5-10% of those ARM CPU's from day one.
A sleep() statement?! Novice! That won't even busy-wait! I like to loop around for a few thousand times writing nonsense to dummy variables. I earned those time slices - no way am I going to just give them back to the OS scheduler.
OTOH, I do a lot of Linux development on an Atom netbook.
So if that's really the case, maybe they are selective with it. Maybe they don't apply the same rigor to their own apps, which would be a shame since you'd think they have to set an example.
In my opinion, that is unacceptable. If MS couldn't optimize apps that ship with Surface, they shouldn't have released it.
They don't have time for that. Now there is only iPad with significant sales number. In 6 months Android tables will start to sell in significant numbers.
In 12 months opportunity to conquer world market with new tablet OS will disappear.
If Microsoft thinks that it can release a product with software that's not ready for release on just price parity with the market leader, they're delusional.
Apple spent the better part of 2011 (ie, last year) proving that iOS doesn't need a daddy OS around anymore - why is a USB host feature in a tablet meaningful for users? So that I can upload my picutres? Why not I just stream them to your photostream? or push them into your google drive or dropbox?
History repeats itself faster than ever.
Except the whole article was written about the Surface RT, and there are only a handful of first party desktop windows app allowed.
Every other app you ever install will be made brand new to support the new tablet ecosystem which will certainly target processors such as the one on the surface rt.
I think as people begin programming for Windows with an actual RT instance to test on (for example, the Surface), apps will become faster and more efficient. Personally, I haven't seen a problem with this as of yet; but, I haven't used that many apps in the store, just Netflix and MetroTwit, FreshPaint and a couple of others.
Disclosure: MSFT Employee
Why would you return a device after 24 hours of owning it? Do you not expect any learning curve here? This is pretty much a Mac user attitude. Macs and IOS have very dumbed down interfaces. That works well for many people who want to check their email and surf the web without having to learn anything at all. The productivity that can be realized with a more complex (or one which requires more learning) interface can rarely be achieved following this mantra, but it is good for Grandma and aunt Hilda.
The camera angle is off only if you put it way too close to yourself or are extraordinarily tall (the first clue of obvious sabotage and misinformation). I would have preferred a variable angled kickstand too, but then all I would hear is complaints about it not being strong enough.
Your complaint about the word slowness WAS somewhat valid (has been fixed and updated now), but already knowing that this was a beta product before even buying the device - did you really not expect any problems with it? Your overly dramatic video is like pointing out that the sun is hot (beta software has bugs duh - thus the word beta). Anyway - how about updating to the final version that come out today (unless you already returned your tablet).
Your complaint about After waiting over a minute for the machine to boot and launch the mail app is clearly grasping at anything to bash over the head of Microsoft. First off - how often do you reboot a tablet? For me it's about once every two months so this is a really minor issue. Secondly, you are counting the time it takes you to slowly hunt and pack your password (REALLY?) thirdly - It is clear that either you did a factory restore of the device. (WinRT apps are very slow to open the first time. Mail opens up in about half a second for me after the first launch and configuration) or you have a lemon. BTW I just timed myself and I can boot up (yes from a powered off state), log in - and open Mail in 38 seconds on MY Surface tab.
It is funny to read the YouTube comments of your videos and read things like "I have never experienced that problem" and "Like trying to access Google Docs with a Hotmail account. People need to start using their brains or stop trying to bash unnecessarily when we know the true problem." and "Turn off smooth typing, stop using word beta, and use the tactile keyboard." and "I played with one of these at Microsoft store and it worked much better than yours, did you mess something up on it already?"
The most embarrassing part FOR YOU must have been when you made such drama over repeatedly not being able to log into SkyDrive with your non valid third-party email address (PEBKAT LOL). There are several commenter on that video saying that they never had the problem. BTW neither have I (We just use the proper Account and it works - you should try it). Do you try to log into Google docs with your Yahoo account also?
There are clearly a few quirks that Microsoft will no doubt be putting out updates for in the near future, but really all this drama is clearly manufactured. The mail and word issued have already been addressed and updates have been made available for them.
If the best that your nitpicking and dramatic expression could do is point out mostly user errors and bugs that have now been fixed. I would take this "review" as a good reason to buy this device.
You asked, "Why would you return a device after 24 hours of owning it?" Because I was frustrated with it. I know this is going to sound corny, but I want my gadgets to surprise and delight me. This one didn't.
You said, "The camera angle is off only if you put it way too close to yourself or are extraordinarily tall". I'm 6'3", which I wouldn't call extraordinarily tall - for example, my business partner Jeremiah is taller than me. I put the Surface as far back as I could and still comfortably touch the keyboard and display.
You said, "Your complaint about the word slowness WAS somewhat valid (has been fixed and updated now)". Thanks, I appreciate the honesty. Unfortunately, the way to get the update is to go through a search, pick a non-default option, and refresh it. That's something we can't expect end users to do. I did the updates through the Metro Windows UI - repeatedly - and it wouldn't have even occurred to me that there were three different ways to get updates. Two I can kinda sorta get (OS and apps) but three, no.
You asked, "First off - how often do you reboot a tablet?" I travel a lot (5 flights in the next 2 weeks) so I have to do it pretty frequently.
You said, "It is clear that either you did a factory restore of the device. (WinRT apps are very slow to open the first time." No, that happened every time I tried to open Mail, but I bet this isn't happening to you because maybe mail only has to be configured once. Every time I opened it, it still wasn't configured. It probably has to go through some kind of long start to set things up, which it didn't do since it couldn't figure out where my email was.
You said, "The most embarrassing part FOR YOU must have been" - no, actually, the most embarrassing part has been having to spell things out for the fanboys. My email@example.com account is indeed a Live account. It's how I access all Microsoft services - MSDN, TechNet, Outlook.com, Messenger, etc.
A good reviewer does not seethe drama all over - he states the good and bad points without being overly dramatic or going over long poorly written scripts. He does not write a review in the midst of being pissed off. This explains your emotional outbursts and bias/drama in the review and vids - but does not do service to your credibility.
I felt like I was watching an election video when I watched your YouTube vids. Just a one sided mud sling. I was embarrassed for you just watching them.
I understand being frustrated but 24 hours? You need to learn a little patience. When I started using IOS and OS X (for iPhone Dev) I hated it for weeks. I had all sorts of issues. After learning the ins and outs though, I generally have mostly favorable things to say about it.
I don't know about the camera thing. How tall is your desk? I am 6' but I know the average person is something like 5' 9-10". Strange that I have not had or heard much on this issue for others.
I don't understand your issue with updating Word - It is a simple update.
I don't know why you reboot your tablet on flights? I fly a lot too but why would a flight mandate that you power off your tablet? Please explain your logic here.
For the Mail Setup and SkyDrive problem I can only guess because again, I have not had nor heard of others having the problems.
I just feel like for whatever reason you had a bad experience and wrote a seething review in the heat of your frustration. I think that if you had my (or many others) experiences, your review would be much different. I don't know why your experience differed so much from mine and others - either you got a lemon, messed up the tablet somehow, or are a troll. IMO, your emotion/dramatics would suggest the latter.
Edit: Come to think about it - I hope that update was explicitly stated. Wouldn't want my hardware to perform system critical updates disguised as a simple application update.