Shane BarnhillMonday,26 November 2012

The Snap:

There have been countless reviews written about the new Microsoft Surface RT tablet. A couple of the more thoughtful, complete reviews are by Joshua Topolsky of the Verge and MG Siegler of Techcrunch. If you’re thinking about purchasing a Surface RT tablet (not to be confused with the *still* unreleased Microsoft Surface Pro tablet), then you should read both of them. However, keep this in mind: Both reviewers are seasoned tech journalists who cover features and device specifications that would otherwise go unnoticed by most consumers. These reviews, like most, are written for gadget enthusiasts, more so than for average users who just want to play games, browse the web and use apps.

The Download:

Yes, the reviews from Topolsky and Siegler — and all others that I’ve read, for that matter — lack one critical element: the perspective of a child. And if you’ve ever seen a child walk into an Apple Store and interact with an iPad for the first time, then you understand what I mean. The best devices are compelling because of their simplicity. Even young children intuitively understand how to use them from the moment they first pick them up. Heck, kids in rural Ethiopian villages can not only figure out how to use certain tablets without any instruction, they’ve shown that they can hack Android within five months.

But sadly, such simplicity is lacking from Microsoft’s first foray into tablets. At least that’s the verdict from my five year old son, who came along with me to test out the Surface RT over the weekend (for the sake of his privacy, we’ll just refer to him as “Mister S” in this article).

My lasting impression, then, from my hands-on time with the Surface RT, has little to do with the device’s innovative touch cover, the frustrating sparsity of the Windows App Store, or the bold design of Windows RT (more on those later, however). Instead, I was struck by the number of times that Mister S interrupted me to ask for help: “Dad, I can’t get back to the games section. Dad, I’m searching for games, but can’t find any. Dad, what’s wrong with the Internet on this thing?” It went on and on, and he rarely made it more than 5 minutes or so without requiring some form of help.

I find a child’s perspective in this case much more telling than a techie’s. Because, let’s face it: Instead of storage capacity and hardware design, most consumers just want devices that are: (a) easy to use, and which, (b) feature a large number of popular apps.

And my thoughts? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned for Part 2 of my review, which I’ll post in the next day or two. But as a spoiler, here is how Mister S summarized his experience with the Surface RT: “It’s good. I could play Angry Birds Star Wars on it. But it’s not as good as an iPad.”

Do you have a Surface RT? If so, let me know your thoughts about the device below.

Hat Tips:

The Verge, TechCrunch

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  1. […] Part One of my review of the new Microsoft Surface RT tablet, I described how a child’s perspective can be particularly insightful regarding the usability […]

  2. […] Child’s Play: Hands On With The Microsoft Surface RT: A review of Microsoft’s first foray into tablets from a child’s perspective, because […]

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