I've been a little hard on Microsoft lately, and with good reason --
the company had to make an embarrassing public reversal when the Xbox One turned
out to be the most anti-consumer device any major electronics company has ever
revealed, and the preview to the update to Windows 8 does very little to fix
what the majority of the public hates about it.
And now, my hand is forced again. It appears Microsoft's Surface RT tablets have been selling so badly that the company is dropping the price. Bloomberg News reports that Microsoft has gone through only one-third of the 3 million Surface RTs it built for last October's launch.
The formerly $499 32GB model is now $349, while the 64GB model has gone from $649 to $499.
I'm really starting to feel bad criticizing Microsoft over and over, so I won't dwell on what this means for its attempt to get into the tablet business and keep up with a shifting market.
Instead, I'll investigate whether the RT is worth buying at the new price.
First off, I honestly like how the Windows tile screen works on Surface. The gestures that are annoying with mouse controls on a desktop become usable and even satisfying on a touchscreen.
But keep in mind that while it looks like the RT is running Windows 8 with its colorful tile screen, it's really not. Windows RT can't actually run anything except apps downloaded from the Windows Store. This confusion with the full version of Windows may have been part of the problem.
So how many apps are on there? Approximately 100,000, Microsoft announced earlier this month. That's an impressive feat, likely achieved in part by having the apps shared by the full Windows 8. But it's still nowhere near the nearly 400,000 apps available for the iPad.
Speaking of iPad, RT is now cheaper than all available iPads except the $329 iPad Mini, and that model has half as much storage and a smaller screen. So the price helps in this case.
That said, if you're just looking for something cheap and decent for email and Web surfing, the Kindle Fire HD with the 8.9-inch screen costs $269 and works just fine. The 7-inch model only costs $199.
All in all, the RT is still hard to recommend at the new price, unless you happen to really like Microsoft's tile interface. If you're curious, go ahead and try it for yourself at Microsoft's pop-up shop at Woodland Hills Mall.
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