Hey Microsoft, Surface 2 is great, but clear up something please

The Surface 2 and the Nokia tablets are great hardware with a dim future -- but Microsoft could fix that.

Surface 2 is a stellar piece of hardware, but Microsoft needs to be more open about where RT is headed.
Surface 2 is a stellar piece of hardware, but Microsoft needs to be more open about where RT is headed. Microsoft

It might be a good idea now for Microsoft to be more public about the direction of its tablet operating system so consumers know what they're buying into.

I like the Surface 2 and the Nokia Lumia 2520. A lot. As hardware, they're two of the best tablets out there. Bar none (including iPads).

But Windows RT, as it stands now, is in no-man's-land. It's not the Windows 8.1 that comes on PCs and it's not Windows Phone 8.

And it's been that way too long -- since October 2012.

So far, the closest Microsoft has come to saying anything about what will become of RT are comments from Microsoft's head of devices, Julie Larson-Green, back in November.

We have the Windows Phone OS. We have Windows RT and we have full Windows. We're not going to have three. We do think there's a world where there is a more mobile operating system that doesn't have the risks to battery life, or the risks to security. But, it also comes at the cost of flexibility. So we believe in that vision and that direction and we're continuing down that path.

It's now three months later and, I would think, time to expand on this statement.

That's why I was hoping to hear more this week from Tami Reller, executive vice president, marketing, who spoke at a Goldman Sachs conference. But that didn't happen. Here's what she said.

Surface 2 -- we've been very pleased with the reception to that product. I would say that the customer satisfaction levels that we've seen in Surface 2 rival any other very popular tablet in the market. I think that's so important.

Terry Myerson and the OS group are really looking at how do we make sure we've got a world-class mobile operating system moving forward, and what will that mean for our tablet and mobile strategy? I think there's a lot of opportunities to do some things there that take that forward in an interesting way.

Pretty meaningless. And if you read the transcript (linked to above), you'll find that most of the responses were devoid of any real meaning (but then maybe Goldman Sachs is better at extracting meaning from corporate-speak than I am).

But that doesn't mean the supply-chain rumor mill isn't trying to say something consequential. This week Digitimes ran a story with the headline, "Microsoft to unveil new mobile devices running on integrated OS, say sources."

"Microsoft is expected to unveil an array of new mobile devices with display sizes below 8.5-inch running on an integrated OS derived from Windows RT and Windows Phone in June, according to makers in Taiwan's supply chain," the report read.

Of course, this may simply be gossip circulating among suppliers, that ultimately won't pan out.

But there were other indications this week about Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 moving closer together.

If you put the above statements from Microsoft together with the rumors, you have at least something to latch onto (the alternative is to wait another month and a half for an answer from Redmond).

I would be much more comfortable buying a Nokia 2520, for instance, if I had some inkling by now that RT had major hooks into Windows Phone 8.1.

That's all I'm looking for.

Nokia Lumia 2520.
Nokia Lumia 2520. Nokia
About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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