Today, the Microsoft Surface tablets became available for pre-order. Or at least, the WinRT ones did. The pricing for the accessories is a little confusing but it looks like you can get a 32GB model without a black touch cover for $499.00, a 32GB with touch cover for $599 and a 64GB with a touch cover for $699. You can also drop another hundred or so and get a type cover which looks more like the hard plastic bluetooth keyboard accessories you can get in iPad cases like the ones you find at Brookstone and other shops like that.
So, do you want one? Should you buy one? I can’t answer that, but I can give you a little bit of a warning that people familiar with Windows might not be used to seeing – this tablet will only run a very small subset of applications. Remember that WinRT is actually different than Windows 8.
The WinRT tablet mentioned above is only capable of running applications available through the Microsoft application store and only capable of running those that were written using the WinRT SDK. This means that you’re not going to get backwards compatibility with desktop windows applications. Microsoft is giving you a free copy of Office “RT” because, well, without that free copy you wouldn’t be able to read or write word documents, powerpoints, or anything else because WinRT won’t run the traditional version of Office. In fact, WinRT won’t run the traditional version of anything.
You should be thinking of WinRT’s view of the world the same way iOS sees the world. If it wasn’t written for WinRT, it won’t run it. The same way that the iPad and iPhone don’t run Mac applications, no matter how much it looks like they should.
If you like the WinRT (formerly called “Metro”) design look and you want a tablet for Internet browsing, for e-mail, and for office docs, and you aren’t picky about which games you want to play on your tablet, then you’ll probably be fine with a WinRT tablet. However, if you want something more substantial and you need the ability to run Windows “desktop” applications, then you’re going to want to go with alternatives like those you can get from Asus or you’re going to want to wait for the Surface Pro models, which are Surface laptops that are running full versions of Windows 8, which can run traditional desktop applications.
The real question for developers like me is: will the Surface Pro be better than competing models from Asus?