Windows Surface RT tablets will only be able to run apps downloaded directly from its Windows app store. Photo: AFP
Ahead of its launch, Microsoft's new tablet has been criticized by reviewers for its lack of available apps -- and therefore uses -- compared with its closest rivals.
The first in-depth reviews of Microsoft's Surface RT tablet are in as the company prepares to officially launch its tablet, the Surface RT, on Friday. Reviewers have praised the device's appearance and the quality of the hardware but have been more than critical of its Windows RT operating system and in particular, its lack of available apps.
The New York Times' David Pogue was critical of the touch cover keyboard and of the fact that the only software that will run on it has to be bought from the Windows Apps Store where choice is limited: "For example, there's no Facebook, Spotify, Angry Birds, Instagram, Draw Something or New York Times app. The total in the United States is about 3,500 apps so far; many are bare-bones or junky."
Wired's Mathew Honan said: "The 720p HD cameras -- front and rear -- are junk. There's no other way to put it. The camera has a significant lag time when you're taking shots, and the image quality looks about like the last photo you snapped with your Razr V3. It should be, however, fine for Skype. Just don't expect Nana and Papa to be able to see their little grunions clearly."
Joshua Topolsky from The Verge was impressed by its look and feel but felt that it wasn't a better tablet than an iPad or a Nexus 7: "Even though it has a very unique and useful interface, and lots of hooks into Microsoft's ecosystem, it still lacks the polish and apps of those two devices. Is the mail client better here than the native mail client on the iPad or Nexus? No. Is the browser superior? Well, it's an excellent browser, one of the best I've ever used on a mobile device -- but it's not wildly better than the iPad or Nexus 7 offerings."
Microsoft has been criticized heavily this week, both by technology bloggers and on Twitter and Google+, for apparently misleading potential Surface RT customers. They claim that the company hasn't made it clear that the operating system on its RT tablets is very different from Windows 8, or that it will only support apps downloaded from the Microsoft apps store. Existing Microsoft applications or compatible software cannot be installed on the device, which could prove to be a problem. Whereas there are currently 275,000 iPad apps in Apple's App Store, Microsoft only boasts 3,500 -- though it has pledged to have 100,000 available by February 2013. That could be too long to wait for many potential Surface RT owners.