Microsoft, The Web Is No Longer Good Enough; Windows RT Needs Apps And Fast

I loathe using some websites. Twitter and Facebook are horrific on the web when compared to their iOS/Android apps. I simply refuse to use Zillow’s website; I’ll wait until my kids are done with the iPad to look for our new place. The same is true for Tumblr and other sites. The mobile first strategy is in full force and Microsoft needs to hop on board.

With Windows 8, Microsoft is forcefully pushing the PC into the post-PC era. It’s a touch first interface with the Desktop mode allowing for a more traditional Windows experience. But if Windows is to succeed, apps need to be the top priority and as a user of the Surface RT, it’s clear Microsoft does not agree.

I’ve been using the Surface RT a lot more recently. I want to like it. I want to have it in my life. I’m a Windows guy and I just wish I had a companion device like the Surface to supplement my desktop. When traveling, I use a MacBook Pro and iPad. They’re a wonderful pair, but so far, I’ve yet to find the same sort of synergy with the Surface RT and Windows 8 desktop mainly because of the lack of compelling apps outside of Microsoft’s ecosystem.

Three months after launching there still isn’t a reason to buy a Windows 8 tablet.

Do you want these things on an 11-inch screen with a questionable keyboard?

Microsoft proponents will tell you that Office is the strongest selling point for Windows 8 tabs. That’s true. It’s the only reason I see as well. But do you need Office? Do you need a full-featured word processor or all-powerful spreadsheet editor? Do you want these things on an 11-inch screen with a questionable keyboard? If so, and I’m sure some people do, an Ultrabook would probably suit their needs better than a Surface RT — they better fit on airline trays anyway.

As it’s been explained countless times, the Surface RT runs Windows RT, a version of Windows written specifically for ARM processors. Because of this, standard Windows programs do not run on the Surface RT, or any other Windows RT tablet. You cannot install Chrome, Spotify, Scrivener, Steam or any other normal Windows program. Worse yet, the apps that are available in the Store are pure garbage compared to their iOS/Android counterparts — including our TC app. Even Surface fanboys on Reddit show the shallow depth of the Store’s library with this list of favorite apps.

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In short Microsoft has left the Surface RT rot by not supporting its ecosystem.

Access to the web is no longer good enough. “Pin any website to the home page to make it its own app,” says Microsoft. Remember who else tried that? How did that work out?

Access to the web wasn’t good enough when RIM launched the Playbook in 2011 without any apps. Instead the company touted its full-feature web browser. It wasn’t until nearly a year later the company made it easy to port Android apps that the tablet finally started to take off. Now, with BlackBerry 10, BB set out on a quest to launch the platform with as many apps as possible. BB10 launched last week with 70,000 apps. Windows RT is three months old and it seems that Microsoft is still behind in terms of app counts.

It’s been said that BlackBerry went to great lengths to get apps for BB10. We’ve heard that the company went as far to pay developers to port their apps (something that Microsoft has some experience with). We’ve heard from others that BlackBerry did all the work internally to port some apps. Ignore the methods; the company hustled. BlackBerry did what it needed to properly support its upcoming platform. A modern mobile system is only as good as its apps.

I’m not alone in wanting to like the Surface RT. Surface owners are going to incredible lengths fixing Microsoft’s underwhelming ecosystem. Hopefully Microsoft is watching the self-inflicted pains Surface RT owners are suffering just to keep their devices fresh.

Surface owners are going to incredible lengths fixing Microsoft’s pitiful ecosystem.

Surface RT users have taken to jailbreaking the Surface RT to supplement the OS’ lack of compelling apps. There is a community currently porting open applications to Windows RT — but these apps are not/will not be available through the official Windows Store. Quake 2, anyone? Worse yet, they’re classic Windows applications and not touch-first apps. This action will quickly lose its appeal as more and more owners grow tired of the hassle.

When a product has to be jailbroken, something is wrong. Apple quickly learned this. Hackers beat Apple to the punch and launched backchannel app stores prior to Apple itself. In fact, Apple has closely watched this active community and implemented many enhancements and functions first developed by these users.

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The iPad is a great device not because of the hardware. It’s special because of its access to new content. B&N was the first company to see this and developed the first generation Nook Color to be a portal to B&N content rather than a mobile productivity device. Others including Amazon, Google and BlackBerry followed suit. But Microsoft.

Listen, the Surface RT, and likewise, the Surface Pro, are fantastic examples of hardware. They feel like devices from the future with their full-size USB ports, microSD card slots, and, in the case of the Pro model, a Wacom active digitizer screen. But past the hardware, there is little reason to get excited because of the inherent limitations of Windows RT.

Microsoft has yet to get that the consumer electronics game is played with new set of rules. Hardware is no longer good enough. The web is no longer good enough. To be successful products have to provide consumers with a complete experience. That’s why every Apple mobile device since the iPod has been successful. That’s why Android is dominating the mobile wars. And that’s why until Microsoft can attract a large set of app developers to its Windows RT ecosystem, the ARM-based platform will go nowhere.