Microsoft Surface RT Tablets Begin Shipping

Created: 2012-10-24 16:01 EST

 Microsoft has begun shipping pre-orders of its flagship Surface RT tablets to meet the computer’s official launch date of October 26. The company also lifted its moratorium of product reviews yesterday (October 23) for those who were sent early units, and early reviews have been mixed.

The Microsoft Surface with Windows RT will be in stores on Friday. It is the software giant’s first foray into designing its own computer, ahead of its Windows 8 platform, which will also be released on October 26. However, Windows RT is an operating system that looks similar to Windows 8, but is built specifically for ARM-based tablets and PCs; it only Metro-style apps from the Microsoft store. A release date for Surface with Windows 8 Pro has not been announced, but it is expected in early 2013.

Reviews for Surface RT have been wide ranging. In general, most have praised the hardware. The tablet starts at $499 for a 32GB model, and an extra $100 for a Black Touch Cover. There is also a 64GB version available. The cover is unique in that it has a keyboard and touchpad, allowing users to type with a physical keyboard.

However, many reviewers have noted the lack of apps. The Windows Store has a significantly smaller selection than any other, and, though typical for a new operating system, that will likely hurt the user’s experience in on day one of the release and for the near-future. Legacy software, used on older versions of Windows, also does not run on Windows RT, but will on Windows 8. In addition, the Windows RT operating system itself has also received mixed reviews.

Recommendations to buy it are, likewise, ranging; the general consensus is that, thanks to the hardware, the tablet has potential, but users may want to wait for software updates and an expanded marketplace of apps.

Regardless, the demand for Surface RT seems to be high; the tablet has been sold out since last Wednesday in the US.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will be in New York unveiling Windows 8 and Windows 8 tablets on Thursday, a day ahead of the OS launch.