Windows Surface RT tablets will only be able to run apps downloaded directly from its Windows app store. Photo: AFP
The similarities between Windows 8 and Windows RT are only skin deep. But don't worry if you can't tell the difference between them: it would appear that many Microsoft representatives can't either.
If you've been seduced by the marketing and are about to part with $499 for a Microsoft Surface RT tablet, wait. Not because Apple is about to release a new iPad, but because if you were planning on transferring your existing PC programs, apps and games over to it, you are going to be in for a shock.
Windows Surface RT tablets will only be able to run apps downloaded directly from its Windows app store. Therefore if it's not on the list -- if a developer or organization hasn't ported its software -- you can't have it.
With less than a week until the tablet's official release and despite a multi-million dollar advertising campaign, Microsoft is yet to address this issue or the growing confusion that is developing because of it.
Google+ and other social networks are a-buzz with this confusion, much of which has been caused by the fact that Windows 8, Microsoft's upcoming operating system, and Windows RT, the stripped-down version on RT tablets, look and feel almost exactly the same.
This buzz is being amplified by an investigation by The Verge (currently being ‘liked' and retweeted around the globe) that not only highlighted this problem but, following calls and emails to Microsoft sales reps, showed that the company itself couldn't explain the differences. Many failed to mention even the simplest of differences -- that the Surface RT is an app-only device.
Microsoft has pledged to clear up any confusion that has been caused and although the launch isn't until October 26, stock shortages are already being reported due to the volume of pre-orders in the US in particular. It's very possible that many of these pre-orders have been made by people unaware of the tablet's limitations and who presumed that it would work perfectly well with their existing Windows devices, apps and software.
Microsoft will be releasing a range of Surface Pro tablets in 2013 and they will run the full version of Window 8, meaning full compatibility with legacy software, but for potential Surface RT owners, the choice of applications is currently limited to a pre-loaded version of Office (which is not licensed for business use) and a selection of 1,033 tablet-compatible apps as of September.
Microsoft has pledged to hit the 100,000 app mark by February 2013 but that could prove to be a very long wait for early adopters. And even then it's not clear if Apple will be creating an iTunes app or if companies such as Adobe will be developing Flash or Photoshop products for the operating system.