Windows 8 Surface – to RT or not to RT

Posted by admin on June 21, 2012
Apps, Development, Games, PC, Web, Windows Phone, Windows Phone

Huge news from Microsoft this week.

And awesome presentation, up to the point that no information was leaked before the actual events, especially in the case of the Surface tablets, kudos for that. There was also lots of solid information about Windows Phone 8, but I will get to that in a later post. On this one, I would like to focus on the Surface tablets (codename: Hero).

Awesome design, awesome hardware, an awesome OS (and yes, I have been using it myself for a few months now – as a matter of fact, I am writing this post on a Win8RC tablet) and choice. And when I say choice, I don’t mean Apple kind of choice, which spells 32GB or 64GB, 3G or not 3G. I am talking about real choice.

At the moment, there are two Surface tablets that are going to be designed, build and sold by Microsoft themselves.

The first one, Surface RT, runs the Windows 8 RT version while the second, Surface Pro, runs – you guessed it – Windows 8 Pro. What is the difference between the two versions I hear you ask. Well, hardware wise, Surface RT is thinner, lighter, cheaper and runs off an Nvidia SoC, probably Tegra 3. It also has less storage. Surface Pro runs off Ivy Bridge i5, which means speed and power.

But the most important difference is the OS.

Surface RT can run only software written specifically for Windows RT, through the Windows Store. This makes it more of a consumption device, directly competing with the iPad, but in a much nicer package (in my opinion). If it can compete in prices, Microsoft has a winner in their hands. Another important bonus is that Surface RT comes with the latest Office suite built in, that runs on a normal desktop mode, with a keyboard and mouse if you so wish.

That is a killer feature for many.
Surface Pro can run all the software that are in the Windows Store as well as all software that Windows 7 can, including all games etc. This is a huge thing, since it’s a no compromising experience, and having used Windows 8 on pre-release versions for some time now, I can tell you it’s awesome, since they are even lighter than Windows 7 to use. This means, you can do actual work with one of these things, it’s not only a read-my-email-surf-the-web-tweet-what-I-had-for-breakfast-and-play-some-angry-birds device like all of the tablets, iOS and Android alike, out there today. Visual Studio? You got it. Photoshop? Illustrator? Flash? With a built-in double digitizer (touch and stylus with multiple pressure levels), this is an invaluable tool.
Both tablets feature the awesome cover that doubles as a touch keyboard and touchpad. Awesome stuff there.

What will I get?

It’s a tough choice. I need a few tools that I think I would not find on Windows RT, like Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Visual Studio, so I am a bit biased towards Surface Pro. On the other hand, if I was not looking to replace my current ultrabook (a MacBook Air) but I was looking to replace my iPad instead, I would go for a Surface RT, because of the characteristics it has, lighter, cheaper and with most likely better battery life.

What would be really amazing for me personally, since I mostly do Metro and Windows Phone game development these days, is if we could have a Visual Studio version for RT (VS RT?) that would compile only for these platforms. Since drivers are going to be common to all Windows platforms (including Windows Phone 8 as we learned today), it would be awesome to do Windows Phone and Metro game development on a light, silent, long battery life tablet, with a normal keyboard and mouse. That would be just awesome.

Is anyone from Microsoft taking notes?

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