Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Microsoft's Sinofsky responds to complaint over Office 2013 on Surface RT (zdnet.com)
35 points by niggler 1818 days ago | hide | past | web | 57 comments | favorite

I had the same typing performance issue when using the preview version of Office 2013 that shipped with my Surface RT, updated to the RTM version today, and the typing performance is fine now. The characters even appear with a quick reveal-from-left-to-right animation now, that keeps up with my fastest typing speed.

Good to know the problem is gone.

How does the animation feel like after an hour of use?

I haven't typed in Word on the Surface for a solid hour yet, but it hasn't bothered me in the x86 version on my desktop over the month or two I've been using 2013 there. Like joenathan said, it completely blends into the background pretty quickly.

It's the same thing on the x86 version, I found it strange at first, after a couple of days its just faded into the background and I don't notice it.

Video of the effect here http://youtu.be/ddwo-AN2SmU

I find it still messes up my rhythm a bit; the distraction might be slowing my typing speed down during a burst. Is there an HCI principle going on in this feature or is it just eye candy?

From my searching I can't find any practical reasons for it other than eye candy. It seems the only way to disable it is via a regedit


It's ridiculous that a journalist writing technical blogs didn't even check that his Surface was fully patched. That's the first thing you should do with any system. I don't own a Surface so I don't know whether Microsoft told users to update their Surface shortly after starting it up, but they definitely should have so that these types of articles don't get published.

I just bought a Surface from a Microsoft Store today, and the store assistant not only told me there were updates available but showed me how to update it. So they're definitely making a pro-active effort to encourage people to update where possible.

I can easily imagine that MS store employees have been instructed to do this as a result of this issue. If that is the case, good responsiveness from MS.

Somewhat reminds me of the following story. Not exactly, but it is an interesting read anyway: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/25/charles_eicher_chris...

I imagine that if it's anything like any version of Windows to come out since XP, or possibly even earlier, that updates are one of the first things that are presented to you post-install.

It doesn't seem that this is the case this, its even obscured as an optional update. See the linked article for more information.

'Obscured' isn't the right word. It's business as usual for office (and other non-system) updates to be under the 'Optional' category..

One place to update apps on a system would be nice. I know windows as lots of legacy, but how many apps are optional system updates on windows rt?

They do it for the page views. Its really simple to come up with a snarky title and talk about things without doing any research. What is crazy is that the original author probably came up with the "Why I returned my surface" idea months before it was even released. If it was not because of the Office issue it would of been some other half-truth/fixable issue that he would call a "show stopper" and laugh while it goes "viral".

Honestly, no. I bought the Surface expecting to ditch my iPad. I wrote the post and left the house to go furniture shopping with my girlfriend. I was totally stunned when it made HN and Reddit - I don't write for hits or publicity.

You're probably correct and I absolutely hate it.

To be honest, this update was a bit hard to find. You had to go to the desktop Windows Update to find this update.

That does lessen the absurdity of it a little, but isn't Word a Desktop application so he'd be in the Desktop where he would be prompted for updates?

I didn't get prompted for updates at all. I did the Windows RT updates through the Metro UI, the app updates through the Windows Store, and there's yet a third place - Install Optional Updates.

While that does make sense, it's a little odd that there are two places to find updates.

No, what's ridiculous is that I would need to check for software updates for a brand new piece of hardware that's only been released for two days.

That's just piss-poor quality.

Anybody who shares their opinion should consider these points:

1. The office on surface is not the final version of software. It has RTM'ed so it should get updated with the final version pretty soon.

2. The fact that you have an ability to run a program like office on a tablet class hardware and ARM architecture is in itself a feat of engineering and Microsoft should get some credit for that here. I was dying to put this louis CK piece in the comments: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpUNA2nutbk

> The fact that you have an ability to run a program like office on a tablet class hardware

This is an extremely misleading statement. "Tablet class hardware" today is vastly more powerful than PC's several years ago which were quite happily running the Office of their day.

Furthermore, there is plenty of Office-like equivalents happily running on Android and iOS tablets today so the suggestion that "Office on a tablet" is some kind of revolution seems to lack substance.

I was referring to ARM as the architecture. Should have been clearer

Sorry, but I still dont understand your point. Dual/Quad-core ARM chips of today running at 1.5Ghz blow away x86 based PC's from several years ago (I don't know exactly at what point) that ran Office XP quite happily.

To give you an idea, the system requirements of Office XP was "a Pentium processor with a clock speed of at least 133 megahertz (MHz)".

Besides, tablets are doing amazing things today, are we really saying an Office suite represents the pinnacle of computing power?

In case you are not trolling, time to educate yourself with the difference between these two architectures: http://www.brighthub.com/computing/hardware/articles/107133....

Surprise, if you copy an old mac app on your iPhone it won't run!

No, please, why don't you educate us all as to the deficiencies in ARM over x86 that make porting an x86 application to ARM some incredible achievement?

You seem to believe that ARM performs quite poorly compared to x86 (assuming similar clock speeds). Could you explain why?

It seems like if something could run on a ~166 MHz Pentium, it shouldn't be a surprise that a Tegra 3 (probably 1.5 Ghz or more) can run something similar. And older versions of Office ran on much less.

Even then, Apple put Pages on the iPad 3 years ago, so that should prove word processor like software could run acceptably on an ARM. The Surface is clearly much more powerful than an iPad 1.

and the updated office runs on it beautifully. So what is your point again?

He was just responding to your comment:

> The fact that you have an ability to run a program like office on a tablet class hardware

Well, current ARM platforms vastly outstrip the performance requirements of, say, OfficeXP so "tablet class hardware" means nothing.

So the question is why do you find it impressive that MS got Office working on SurfacePro? In fact, it would be surprising if they couldn't. Sure, if they were emulating x86 code on ARM then it would truly be impressive for it to perform as well as it does. But this should be a straightforward port.

In fact, here's Win95 running on an N900 (5 year old ARM hardware emulating an x86) http://talk.maemo.org/showthread.php?t=42195

"A program like office" (office itself) ran on less capable hardware than the tablet in question for 15 years or so. I'm not really seeing the achievement here.

Right and those office like apps are toys. Not a real productivity application. There were touch screen phones before iPhone and search engines before Google. I am not saying Office running on ARM is in the same league but there is no denying the first class engineering there.

Office XP was a "toy"? Office 2003? The SoC in the Surface is as capable (and in many ways more capable) than the commodity computers of that era.

At what point exactly do you believe office stopped being a toy?

Aren't we talking about the architecture here? Surface and the software on it is ARM architecture. Something that Office never ran on before. These are significantly different architectures and just because the graphics or processing capabilities are same does not mean it will run right?

Besides the version that was tested with was a beta. The final version of office runs smoothly on the device. So what is your point? RTFA!

Correct. The architecture is different, and software written for x86 will not "just run" on ARM.

However, porting a userland application to a new architecture of roughly equal capability is not a major engineering accomplishment. There is significant work to be done in the compiler, in the OS kernel and libraries, and I don't mean to detract from that at all. Well-written application code (especially code for productivity apps that generally doesn't make heavy use of processor-specific features like vector ISAs) should require minimal change.

My point is simply that office should not tax the capabilities of the SoC at all, and that getting it to run isn't a major feat of engineering in itself; no limits are being pushed here. I'm not saying that Microsoft hasn't done a good job, or that Office sucks on the Surface. I'm just trying to have some perspective.

I'm prepared to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt here, and suggest that Office is a bit more complex than your average user-land application. I suspect a lot of the code is either quite old or low-level, to a much larger degree than a typical app. It's not just Microsoft - think about how long it took Apple to migrate iTunes from Carbon to Cocoa, or Adobe to get 64 bit PhotoShop on the Mac.

The limiting factor in both Carbon -> Cocoa and 64-bit Photoshop was porting to a completely different API layer, which turns out to be vastly more invasive than changing architectures. Even for very complex userland programs, changing architectures typically doesn't require changes to more than a tiny fraction of the codebase (unless one is porting to something truly exotic, but ARM and x86 are really quite similar from that perspective). You end up spending a few months chasing down bizarre bugs, but the actual scope of the changes is always fairly small.

I would agree that Office is probably a beast to port due to its long history and large code base, but that still doest explain why it should be considered an achievement for Office to run at all on ARM. ARMs are in the same ballpark as x86, clock for clock. It's not like its a 50x performance difference.

Mythbuster's argument just isn't making sense to me.

It's not the difference in performance but having to compile against a different architecture altogether. These two are architecturally different and porting an old legacy app like office cross platform must not be an easy feat. I don't see examples of old apps easily being ported over across platforms.

The number one reason I see to pick Surface over an iPad is that it has Office. Many other reviews and commentaries seem to agree, and Microsoft has certainly made no secret of Office.

The idea of shipping a new platform, where Office is included and a core feature, with an unfinished copy of Office is crazy to me.

Bugs will be found, and I would fully expect that patches would come out in short order to address those issues. Bit allowing the device to ship with something labeled "preview" (Microsoft for beta) is a very odd decision.

I agree with other commenters that running office on ARM isn't an amazing feat. I ran Office 95 on a ~33Mhz 386DX. Office has have advanced since then, but still.

It seems quite probable the original article's author ran into some odd bug since I haven't seen that type-ahead compliant elsewhere. But the fact that bits of the out of the box experience seem to suffer so much on day one tells you a lot about where Surface was in its development cycle.

Why is Office (and some system settings) the only things that need/use the desktop in RT? Since 3rd party apps can't use it why not jut eliminate it? It's so odd that the flagship software doesn't it in with the Metro environment, often using classic controls like the touch unfriendly save dialog.

Surface needed to be Microsoft putting their best foot forward. It sounds more like it was rushed to meet some kind of ship target when it could have used at least a bit more polish.

"The idea of shipping a new platform, where Office is included and a core feature, with an unfinished copy of Office is crazy to me."

I've got a Surface box in front of me, and it definitely says "Includes Office Home and Student 2013 RT PREVIEW", with a footnote saying a final version of Office will be available to download in the future for free.

This was also pointed out to me in person by the assistant at the Microsoft Store when I bought it. On the one hand it would be quite nice to have a finished version of Office, but I certainly didn't feel misled when I bought it. Not that I disagree with you that Microsoft should have released a final version, but I guess the priority was to get something out ASAP.

To pose what will surely be a controversial question here: if Apple can get away with selling Siri as a core feature whilst it's in beta, why can't Microsoft do the same with Office?

It's nice to hear that MS is making the preview aspect clear to purchasers so no one is misled. That was a great thing to do.

I heard the Siri comparison brought up on a podcast I listen to (something on 5by5, don't remember which show). The theory they mentioned was that while Siri was certainly the feature they really marketed for that revision, it wasn't the core feature.

So a more apt comparison may be if the iPhone shipped with a buggy phone app that got updated day one, but that's not quite an apples to apples comparison. And Siri was a big reason people bought the 4S, just like Offixe is a big reason to buy Surface.

With Google, that's just their MO. They release early and often, that's just part of their experience. Apple (to my memory) hasn't done that historically, but seems to be going it more lately. Siri is the obvious example. OS X 10.0 could be considered a beta, but it didn't even boot by default on the computers it was pre-installed on. The new maps and Final Cut Pro x could be argued to be beta too.

I guess it's becoming more common, which is kinda sad.

"It has RTM'ed so it should get updated with the final version pretty soon."

This update is already available and will be pushed out automatically in November.

It's a feat of engineering to get Office running, agreed. That it takes a feat of engineering to get a word processor running on a platform with a 1GHz+ processor, half a gig (or more) of RAM, and gigabytes of mass storage, however, is somewhat depressing.

What was even more depressing was to see the resulting product. Apart from the speed issues, which seem to be resolved, should we really be cheered to see this bloated abomination run on yet another platform, to crank out more documents only readable by installing the same bloated abomination on your own machine?

The image that came to my mind on seeing word running in all its desktoppy glory was "a boot stomping on a human face, forever".

Error in the article:

Too bad, because he had already fallen in love with the software, going so far as to opine that the Surface RT "doesn’t just compete with the iPad – it bypasses the iPad in many ways that are significant and valuable for me."

Nitpick: He fell in love with the hardware, the software is the part he didn't like. That was his complaint.

And: No matter if an update was available on the first day. For a major release like that it shouldn't have come to this in the first place.

Note: Is HN being mentioned and linked on ZDNet such a big thing that it should be the title of the entry rather than what it's about? -> (referring to old title - title has been changed)

And: No matter if an update was available on the first day. For a major release like that it shouldn't have come to this in the first place.

I'm somewhat confused by this statement. I've rarely heard it applied to other companies. Siri being in Beta at launch was largely forgiven on HN. Even a substantial portion of HN made excuses for the new Apple Maps (which if it wasn't listed as a beta, clearly was).

Google's second most popular product, GMail, came out of beta in just mid-2009.

Lets be real. The update was available on the FIRST day. The freakin' first day and you're complaining that it shouldn't have come to this?

On a site where the near pillar of virtually every company is to ship something that, for all intents and purposes, is barely usable on day one and iterate like crazy, it seems like an odd statement.

I have to admit that I'm probably an odd beast in that when I get a new device, I actually install the latest software. Whether its a BluRay player or a computer. I get that most mainstream users won't do that, and I get that it was likely a mainstream blog, but I'd expect better of HN readers.

In fact I'd argue if you buy a device and it does not update out the box that's probably NOT a good sign of active development on it.

First of all:

My comment does not necessarily reflect the opinion of all individuals that gather here on HN.


Yes, i was a critic of Siri when it first came out and also of Apple Maps.


You might, and things like this happen with written text, over emphasize my statement. It was by no means meant as harsh criticism, but you can't deny the fact that it shouldn't have happened and that was basically all i said.

-) why do updates not appear for some users (it was not just him)

-) when it's being marketed with running Office and then comes along in this condition, then it certainly isn't perfect


When also keeping in mind, that:

-) the Hardware seems to be astonishing

-) Design, Input methods, everything gets positive reviews

-) this a big milestone for Microsoft, showing off not only a Microsoft branded device (not just some device where their OS is running), but also a completely new direction in which they are heading

then this was not at all a perfect start, no matter how you put it.

"And: No matter if an update was available on the first day. For a major release like that it shouldn't have come to this in the first place."

It takes time after Win8 RTM to get the image created and the hardware manufactured for the launch, and the Windows and Office teams obviously have different schedules.

The ship the device with a dummy application that downloads the latest update, or at least force updates on day one.

If the schedules are different, you plan for that. Shipping with a buggy core feature is not a good sign.

Google does that Apple has done that too. Get a new Galaxy tab and watch in wonder how many applications get updated over next few hours or so. What use is the ability to update software OTA if the users are not delivered quick incremental updates?

Thanks for being nitpicky about that. I went ballistic when I read that quote, and I've added a comment to Ed's post to have him clarify that. I fell in the opposite of love with the software. The hardware's awesome though.

Brent, if only you'd have bothered to check and for and install updates before writing such a diatribe, your experience would have been different... hope you are enjoying your surface now. I know I am.

Actually, I did check for updates as I explained repeatedly in the post. To get the Office update, you have to go to a different place - not the OS or app updates in Windows Store, but to Install Optional Updates. I wouldn't have thought to look there.

Windows Update has had 'Critical' and 'Optional' updates for years. Even novice users know that; it's RIGHT on the Windows Update control panel. And if there are no 'Critical' updates, the only thing that shows up are the 'Optional' ones. Moreover, usually only security-related or Service-Pack updates are on the 'Critical' list -- Nominal Office updates are almost ALWAYS on the 'Optional' list. Geek cred is slipping fast.

FYI: I wouldn't have cared and definitely wouldn't have submitted had the article not been a rehashing of the HN thread

Kudos to the journalist for linking back to the comments.

Very few loves writing documents on a tablet. Most love games, musics, books, videos. If MS focus on selling office on RT, it will be a disaster for the product, and for the company. For long documents it's going to be slow no matter how they optimize it -- we all know word is not that fast even in a desktop computer, and now they even have issues with a two-page document.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact