There’s been some confusion floating about regarding the operating system on Microsoft’s Surface device, of which the $499 version running RT has sold out on pre-sale already. What’s that, you ask? Windows RT? Doesn’t Surface run Windows 8? Yes and no. Microsoft has started training employees on the difference between the two, but many consumers are still confused.
The current version of Surface runs Windows RT, which is a version of ARM-optimized Windows 8 that has been stripped down, and is not compatible with older Windows programs. A version of the Surface tablet that runs Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro will be released in the relatively near future, and will be compatible with current Windows software. As you can imagine, this is a huge deal for the average consumer, who will likely look at the Surface tablet, see a Metro screen that looks like Windows 8, and assume that their favorite programs from yester-year will run on the device.
In a statement Microsoft gave CNET, the company said: “We are working to ensure our store teams provide a great experience to our customers purchasing Surface or a new Windows 8 PC…by GA, store associates on average will have completed more than 15 hours of training on Windows and Surface.” To further help consumers, Microsoft also has a “Help Me Choose” page on its Surface website, which explains that Windows RT works exclusively with Windows Store apps.
Still, the average consumer is going to assume by default that Surface is running the same Windows they’ve known their whole computing life, and that it will run the software they already use. Unless Microsoft highlights the differences between RT and 8 in a way that is both front-and-center and easy enough for the non-tech public to grasp, it risks having a lot of disappointed buyers whose enthusiasm for the new gadget turns sour as they realize that it’s not all they were hoping. This could then have a big impact on the success of the Surface Pro, which actually will run Windows 8.