Microsoft Admits Confusion Among Consumers Around Surface RT Branding

Microsoft Surface 2 Marketing Street Art

When Microsoft revealed their next generation Surface devices last month, it was evident that Microsoft has changed the branding for Surface RT. Instead of ‘Surface RT’ and ‘Surface Pro’, it is now just ‘Surface 2′ and ‘Surface Pro 2′. It seems Microsoft has dropped the ‘RT’ branding from its second generation Surface to avoid consumer confusion.

Microsoft’s product marketing manager for Surface, Jack Cowett revealed that one of the reasons for dropping the ‘RT’ branding was to avoid  consumer confusion.

“We think that there was some confusion in the market last year on the difference between Surface RT and Surface Pro. We want to help make it easier for people, and these are two different products designed for two different people.”

He also said that the new two stage kickstand feature is done as a result of direct customer feedback. Since people want to use their Surface as a laptop on their laps, the new kickstand angle will help them.

Source: arnnet

About the author  ⁄ pradeep

Pradeep, a Computer Science & Engineering graduate.

  • lubba

    it is obvious that the tech MS bashing, hating, community contributed to the overall confusion.

    • Bugbog

      Exactly. We understand it, but it’s confusing, it’s confusing, it’s confusing???

      Everything new can’t immediately be understood, but people get taught, that’s the whole point of communication and education!

      But when the communicators and educators keep parroting the message: “it’s confusing”, how wouldn’t it become a self-perpetuating myth?!

      • Guest

        There’s certainly an anti-Microsoft echo chamber and it was on full display during the launch of Windows and Surface. But MS made a number of choices that didn’t help at all, including launching W8 and S_RT simultaneously and not being more specific about functionality in the initial advertising, which was reported to be >$1B (W8 + Surface). Users have been conditioned over three decades that desktop means ability to run the range of Windows apps. When you leave the desktop but strip that ability down to just Office, obviously there’s going to be some confusion.

        • Yuan Taizong

          True, Windows R.T. should’ve been launched a year or a ½ later, when Windows 8 would’ve matured, sure it’s great for developers, and in theory it’s ”a lightweight O.S.”, but most processors on mobile devices can handle full Windows applications now, so there wasn’t a reason to launch it this early.

          • Guest

            Agree. I would have launched Pro with W8 and S_RT later. But Pro wasn’t ready because they started working on S_RT first. A lot of this got driven by competitive pressure. They were an unbelievable three years late to respond to iPad already. The idea of waiting another 6-12 months for everything to fully bake was probably rejected as untenable and that developers would be fully locked into iOS and Android at that point. Office was meant to overcome any shortcomings, which unfortunately didn’t happen. Not dropping the price sooner was also a mistake. Interestingly though, the product itself enjoys very high approval ratings. So at least those who did buy it tend to love it. That’s a start.

        • Bugbog

          I must disagree with you on this. I feel that your reasoning is that of the ‘naysayer’ brigade (note: I’m not calling you one!).

          I believe Microsoft put out immense advertising and information on the difference between RT and full Win 8. I’d say the reason for its poor showing is wholly down to availability. Whilst for us ‘techies’ getting hold of one was simply a matter of finding the closest regional website and ordering [blind] from there, the majority of consumers are not that savvy, and only tend to make such [blind] purchases once critical acceptance momentum has been achieved (i.e. once everyone and their uncle is aware of the product!).

          If the products are widely available in multiple channels and countries, from just about any major retailer you might wish to consider, then it will do well regardless of it being “Microsoft” or consumers being “confused!”.

          Believe it or not, I have [personal] anecdotal evidence to back this up: My sister-in-law was in the market for a new laptop after her old one packed up, and being the techie of the family, I was tasked with providing recommendations. This I did, providing a list of notebooks and prices that I though would be within her range. As an outlier, I put the Surface Pro on the list, despite its expense (and that she/they liked Apple mobile products).

          Lo-and-behold, two days later I got a call from my brother querying me on the difference between RT & Pro! Once I made clear what they were, and the features that the RT had over that of the Pro apart from its cost, even cluing him in on the ageing Tegra 3 processor, and the fact that the Surface 2 was a month away from announcement, they still went ahead and purchased the RT!

          In my book this shows that ‘general’ availability + straightforward explanation of the difference (and maybe price, since it was $350 by then), trumps any and all nonsense that the media “technorati” have been (and continue) pumping out about RT being useless or unwanted!

          In fact I’m willing to bet that the Surface devices will be showing a healthy profit, come this next financial year, as it seems that RT is picking up as an Education (and maybe Enterprise) tool!

          • Guest

            We disagree on the initial advertising. Young people dancing on tablets didn’t tell me or anyone else what Surface RT actually did vs W8. It’s definitely gotten better lately.

            But I hope you’re right about Surface RT being a success now that they’re expanding availability and 8.1 is addressing some concerns. A touch-first Office should help a lot too. But that seems to be a few more months away.

  • Rikkirik

    Indeed all of those badmouthing, bashing tech reviewers are cause for the confusion, if any really. But I do not comprehend that if this was confusing, how the new branding is any different. Why not call them Surface T (T for tablet) and Surface PC Pro (for tablet PC). This would stop any confusion.

  • Oliver

    How does this change make anything clearer? It seems to me that it will make for more confusion. RT and Pro were clear indications that the products were different, but to a novice Surface 2 could just be a shortening of Surface Pro 2!

    • Abdul9

      Thats exactly what i also thought. One up to you my friend!

      • Oliver

        Glad it’s not just me! :)

    • http://www.techmesto.com/ singhnsk

      So true.. Its even more confusing :(
      MS needs a better way to tell people that this tab is running Windows Phone (or RT.. Kinda same breed) :P

  • Joe_HTH

    The inclusion of the desktop in Windows RT is responsible for more confusion than the RT branding. Most consumers are dumb when it comes to issues like this. They see the desktop, they expect it to be able to run the desktop software. Truthfully, it takes about 60 seconds to learn the difference between RT and full Windows. BS reporting by the tech media and a few missteps by Microsoft complicated a fairly simple thing.

    I think Windows RT has two problems. One is the inclusion of the desktop. The other is Microsoft released it far too soon. Microsoft should have waited at least a year, perhaps even two, until the Windows store became more mature and more fleshed out.

    I think Microsoft should strip the desktop and some legacy code out of Windows RT, then merge it with Windows Phone 8, unify the ecosystems, and bring back the Windows Mobile branding, and have that be your tablet and phone OS. Continue to use full Windows 8 on the appropriate hardware.

    • Cruncher

      The Surface RT Hardware is completely appropriate to run full Windows (RT). There is no reason to dumb it down and remove the desktop and other features. It is one of the better features, that you can run full featured MS Office in desktop mode in particular if you are connected to a second screen.
      Just see Windows RT as it is, the ARM build of Windows – nothing more, nothing less.

      • Joe_HTH

        The desktop in Windows RT serves no purpose other than to run Office.

        “It is one of the better features, that you can run full featured MS Office in desktop mode”

        Once a metro version of Office is released, which is in development, there will be no point to the desktop in Windows RT. There’s really no point now. The desktop is already dumbed down in Windows RT. Since all of the desktop settings are being brought to Metro in Windows 8.1, what would be the point of keep that tacked on to RT? All it does it take up extra space and confuse people.

        “You do not make a product more desirable by stripping features!”

        Windows RT already strips features by not being able to run desktop apps and by attaching a dumbed down desktop that doesn’t do anything.

        “Such stupid propositions about dumbing Windows RT down and merge it for whatever reason with a Phone OS come usually from people, who do not plan to purchase an RT tablet anyway.”

        Wake the hell up. Windows RT is already a dumbed down product. The damage done to Windows RT may not be reversible. As for purchasing an RT tablet, I already own one.

        ” This is also ignoring the fact, that you cannot just merge RT with WP, because RT and Windows are on the source level the same.”

        You need to do a bit of research. Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows Phone 8 all run on the same exact NT kernel. Merging Windows RT and WP8 would not be a problem. The reason you would merge them is because Windows RT may already be a damaged brand that won’t see success. I like it, but so far RT has been a huge failure. An almost 1 billion dollar writedown pretty much proves it. Not to mention the fact that nobody except Microsoft and Nokia are even making RT products. RT may be even more dead if BayTrail processors continue to get better.

        • Cruncher

          ” All it does it take up extra space and confuse People.”

          It does not help if you repeat the same old mantra of the bloggers. The desktop does not confuse at all. Just ask the users of RT.It is useful for file management, managing the system with Power Shell, Office, Outlook etc.
          In addition, office for touch will not be anywhere close feature wise than its desktop pendant. So it will be no replacement for desktop office at all.

          “Windows RT already strips features by not being able to run desktop apps and by attaching a dumbed down desktop that doesn’t do anything.”

          With the unlock you can run desktop apps. There is no feature stripped from desktop per se, but Microsoft locking out desktop apps be requiring a certain signing level. With the unlock i run quite a few of desktop apps.

          “You need to do a bit of research. Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows Phone 8 all run on the same exact NT kernel.”

          It is you, who have to do research. You are talking about the fact, that Windows 8 and WP 8 sharing the same kernel. The kernel is only a small fraction of an OS.

          I was talking about the fact, that Windows and Windows RT is one and the same OS.
          In addition you might consider a few lessons in software development and management. Then you would eventually realize that Microsoft has 2 operating systems, Windows and Windows Phone, and that RT is not a separate OS but rather a build variant of Windows.

          “If you can get a full Windows 8 tablet for the same price and form factor as an ARM tablet, I can’t see ARM tablets being all that successful.”

          Pardon me. But stripping down RT surely helps against a x86 tablets… Thats nonsense. Removing features will not expand the Windows market but shrinks it.
          ARM tablets are well positioned against x86 tablets due to their superior performance compared with the likes of BayTrail. That holds as long as you dont strip features from RT because in that very moment it will become obsolete.
          The desktop feature including Office is the feature holding myself in the Windows world. Otherwise i would go back to Apple or Android for my tablet needs.

          • Guest

            “In addition, office for touch will not be anywhere close feature wise than its desktop pendant. So it will be no replacement for desktop office at all.”

            I’m not sure I agree. My understanding is they’ve been working on this for several years now. So it appears to be pretty substantial in nature. I can’t think of a better way to show their vision for Windows and the future is superior to iOS or Android than to literally blow people’s mind with the first full feature app to transform successfully to touch and mobile.

            “With the unlock you can run desktop apps. There is no feature stripped from desktop per se, but Microsoft locking out desktop apps be requiring a certain signing level. With the unlock i run quite a few of desktop apps.”

            Except for one big one: x86 support. Meaning only apps compiled for ARM will run. And that’s a fraction of the total in x86 land.

            “Then you would eventually realize that Microsoft has 2 operating systems, Windows and Windows Phone, and that RT is not a separate OS but rather a build variant of Windows.”

            You can easily make a case that WP is now a variant of Windows too. The reality is there’s still too much that separates all three, which is why MS is working to harmonize API support and enhance the ability to run apps across those different versions..

            “The desktop feature including Office is the feature holding myself in the Windows world. Otherwise i would go back to Apple or Android for my tablet needs. And that is also a fact.”
            If that’s true then MS has lost the tablet market anyway. Because as important an app as Office is, it’s only one app. You need a ecosystem of them to win. Which means MS has to succeed getting developers broadly to support the WinRT run time aka Modern.

      • Guest

        “You do not make a product more desirable by stripping features!”

        The success of iPad appears to prove otherwise. Indeed that’s one of the reasons it’s so disruptive as a threat – because in most ways it does less than either OS X or Windows. Sinofsky has discussed that post his exit, and Ozzie talked about it years ago when he said “Complexity kills. Complexity sucks the life out of users, developers and IT. Complexity makes products difficult to plan, build, test and use”.

        And merging WP and RT appears to be exactly what MS is doing. I’m not a huge fan of the dumbing down of OSs either. I think there was way forward that didn’t sacrifice functionality at the altar of simple, and MS of all companies was the person with the most incentive to demonstrate that. But they didn’t. And now Apple, Google, and MS have all embraced it as the right approach for the next billion customers (which is where their main focus lies, not current installed customers).

    • Guest

      Agree with all of that except bringing back the Windows Mobile branding. That’s toxic now. Would be like trying to reintroduce Zune as a brand name.

      • Joe_HTH

        Perhaps, but you sure as hell can’t call it Windows Phone if you merge them and they run on tablets and phones.

        • Guest

          True. I was never in favor of that name. Thought at the time it should have been named Metro, which would have better communicated “new” and not carried any other stigma associated with Windows. Can’t do that now obviously, given the legal challenge. But imo WM can’t be rehabilitated.

      • SategB

        Zune was a great product – just ask 19 people who bought one!

  • eharris560

    I still understand why the branding is confusing. Are people really that stupid?

    • Yuan Taizong

      They should ”Bing before you buy”.

  • Yuan Taizong

    Consumers must be informed about this, in my village most tech stores know the differences, but when I was in the city I asked if I can run desktop applications on a Surface R.T. and download ‘em then run .exe files (I ask this to test the knowledge of the salespeople), the man replied with ”yes” and then started praising the iPad and said how Windows for the desktop could easily fall if iO.S. was for laptops. I was not only baffled by the lack of product-expertise, but also by the Apple-centricism of the salesman, he just lost a potential costumer, but I’m afraid some people might naively have purchased Microsoft Surface R.T. devices without Binging it or even reading the Wikipedia page about it, research is vital.

  • Viktor

    I think it became even more confusing.
    How do I know now that Surface 2 without PRO and without RT is not the x86 device(baytrail or something)?

  • Aman Bhullar

    There is some confusion in consumers minds and some of it is media and some of it is MS but Windows RT was definitely a way for Microsoft to hedge its bets against Intel and as far as I can see from the hardware coming to market now that bet is paying off.

  • SinO

    As the rep at the MS store joked employees say the RT stands of “Return”

    • SategB

      Why would they say that – I know for a fact there are few people here that really like the ones that were bought?

      You have to learn that in the tech business it’s not about market share or profits but keeping fanboys happy!

  • Guest

    OT: congrats to everyone on not engaging the resident troll (you know who I’m talking about). It’s actually helped increase the signal to noise ratio and you can see how frustrated he’s getting now that most have him on ignore. A couple more weeks of this and he’ll slink off to another site with a new alias, like I’m sure he has done a dozen times before.

  • Cliff

    I think the issue wasn’t the branding but the similarities and differences between RT and full Windows.

    If RT excluded the traditional desktop and they called it Windows for Tablets (or something) instead of RT (which isn’t an acronym for anything) they’d be less confusion but because they kept the desktop in customers expected to be able to install their legacy apps.

    They probably left the traditional desktop in so they could include the desktop versions of Office and IE but it would’ve been better just not having either or waiting until the touch friendly/modern UI versions were ready.

  • grs_dev

    I still think the current naming scheme is still too complicated for the average consumer. Surface Pro should be eliminated all together.

    In place of the Surface Pro they should go with something simpler, like a Surface S. In a nutshell you get the Surface and Surface S. I also would like them to get more aggressive on the cobranding front with the Surface.

    I want a Madden Edition Surface. I want a Halo edition Surface. COD Surface…

    I want an NCAA themed Surface. UF, LSU, USC, FSU, etc…

    I want a Corporate store in the Windows Store. Why doesn’t every company get to place the apps they licensed for their employees directly into the App Store today?! Why side load? Why push in any other way? Why wait for features like this? Sony has a section in the Windows Store. Asus does too. Why doesn’t Acme get encouraged to deploy the apps and services they procured for their staff directly into the app store?

    I want to be able to push applications to people in my household. Suggest an app, or flat out install an app on the behalf of my family members. I am tired of having to do tech support for my siblings. I don’t want to use remote desktop just to show them how to install an app. Let me suggest or install apps I think are suitable for them. In the case of kids under a certain age, a parent may want to install a good educational app. Today that parent has to login into the child’s account and weed through the kiddy stuff just to install an app? Why not let that parent push the app to the child’s account directly from the parent’s account or from Family Safety Service?

    And what’s up with App Store updates taking so long to complete? I dread seeing the App Store tile showing me that there are apps awaiting updates.

    Why do I have to guess after I download an app from the app store whether it has live tile notification or not. Unless I launch the app, the live tile capability doesn’t kick in or become evident that it’s there but awaiting initial launch. I get that the live tile contract needs to be initiated after first use, but I download multiple apps at a time, and sometimes I lose track of which ones have live tile notification and which ones don’t. I also don’t launch every app I download right away. After a while I have a pile of apps that I would need to launch individually to figure out if they provide live tiles or not. Takes time and is horribly inefficient. A simple flag within each app manifest that the developer gets to enable for live tile capability would solve this problem.
    While we’re on the topic of live tiles, I’m constantly being prompted by my OS to choose which apps I am willing to disable background running for in order to make room for other apps that I may wanna check out that also require background execution. I get why the limit is there. Why not give me the option to choose. If I choose the default for example, which is similar to how today’s version works and lets Windows manage the limit, then I shouldn’t complain. If I choose advanced and choose to go crazy with how many apps I can allow in the background, as I allow more apps to run in the background a nice little indicator that shows me how I am killing my battery life would be nice to help me choose and decide which ones to keep on and which ones to turn off. I also run Windows 8 in plugged in and unplugged power modes. Why should I worry about battery life when I am plugged in?

    As far as printing is considered. That was just plain stupid what they did there in Windows 8. They took one of the most commonly used functions and placed it in the least familiar place on the OS. The transition to more centralized things like Search and Print should have been a little easier to digest in my humble opinion. Most apps have either figured out work arounds for the decision to obscure these 2 most commonly used functions.

    • Cliff

      There’s nothing wrong with the naming scheme for Surface and Surface Pro except you’re still left wondering if you can install legacy apps. That part of the problem is still there and isn’t addressed by removing “RT”.

      What they should’ve done was named them…
      1) Surface with Windows 8 for Tablets
      2) Surface Pro with Windows 8 Pro

      Overly long but gets the point across and establishes a difference between the two models and the operating systems they have.

      Replacing “Pro” with “S” is a naming scheme Apple and Samsung like to use. I’m sure Microsoft will want to avoid that as they tend to do their own thing even though it may not be the best.

      • grs_dev

        Apple, Samsung, BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, LG, Sony… and the list goes on. The point is that the consumer is used to the “S” to signify a special edition product.

  • Lenn Liggins

    If you know this then why not make commercials about the differences. When people are confused they don’t buy and if you won’t take it upon yourselves to explain that’s on you. These are very good products just like Apple make and people know everything about Apple products. Time to get someone out there to explain and introduce this great products to the public.