My First 30 Minutes with a Microsoft 8.1 on a Tablet

or “your legacy is you asset and your liability

Yesterday during a review of MobileIron’s product initiative around Windows. During the meeting I got handed a Surface made by Nokia.

Sturdy, well built.  In the background the product manager goes over market traction data and I hear that Windows is the #2 mobile platform in many countries including Italy, … I knew that, but still I don’t think many people realize how much traction Windows Phone is getting out there.


I start playing with Surface thinking “I really need to give this thing a chance”

The UI is fluid, I like the concept of tiles, it feels less constrained than iOS. Microsoft went down the deep end with gestures but after few minutes I get the hang of it and I am happily switching between apps, bringing up the menu from the bottom, the settings from the right and so on. Pretty cool.

Not sure it would pass my 75 years old mom test for usability but I am very happy there is only ONE (home/start) button on the device, a underestimate big saviour for non expert users like my mamma. 🙂

In the background the PM is educating the audience about all the different version of Windows… 8.1, Blue, Mobile, RT… you can run legacy apps on this, you cannot do it on that… I am asking myself “I wonder what version I am using on this tablet” and realize that the fact I have to ask the question is a problem.


Still, I am excited and I am getting the hitch to get one and live/work with it for a month. Time to take a picture and tweet it.

I start the camera, take the picture and bam! It hangs. The red led on the camera is on, stuck. I click on the home button and I get to start and I am thinkg “well, it can happen and as long as I can get back to the start menu maybe it is not too bad. I restart the camera app, no luck. Still stuck.

So I resort to good old habit and restart surface. Oh oh.. I get the message “You have 35 updates. Do you want to update?”. The Windows 3.1, NT, Vista, 7… is starting to cripple in…

“What????? 35 updates??? 35? Are you kidding me? Even if that is the case, I don’t care. Just tell me I need to update my system. Why would I care that there are 35 (as a geek I may, but as a consumer? not really!!!”

Ok, I cave and accept the upgrade and I get this:


Hold on, I thought this was a tablet??? Or is is a PC? And noooo, please do not use a blue screen as a background for this. It brings back bad memories…

Now it is moving to the next step… and what do you know, it is now a computer.


The Microsoft legacy (familiarity with the Start button, Office and legacy windows apps) is what makes a lot of professionals look at Windows Blue (RT, 8.1…), but that same legacy is getting the way of becoming a success.

I will give Surface a chance because it is going to be out there and eventually is going to be good enough, but my first 30 minutes have been a intense mix of fresh future and blast from the past.


P.S. have you tried one? What do YOU think?

8 thoughts on “My First 30 Minutes with a Microsoft 8.1 on a Tablet

  1. Well, who let you in this meeting when you even don’t know Surface is not a Nokia device, it’s Microsoft’s! You have also no clue what Windows Blue is refering to! Anybody who let the wrong audience in that meeting should be fired!

    • Care to educate me/us? I guess I was using a Nokia tablet (PC/Computer) running Windows RT?
      Don’t blame me if I am confused. If you are from MSFT, isn’t this your problem to explain your product line? Or is it the always the user wrong? I actually like the device and will give it a chance when it does not hangs and reboots with 25 updates in progress
      – Vittorio

      • You’re right that Microsoft hasn’t done a good job at explaining and implementing more straightforward editions of Windows 8. But you can’t blame Microsoft that you thought that their product, MICROSOFT Surface, wasn’t their product. I don’t think it’s necessary for a company to have to explain that their product which they’re showcasung, with their branding on it, is their product. If you’re going to write on something you should know, at least, the basic background info such as the maker.

  2. @nik I think the confusion was the I said I tried a Surface, while I was trying a Nokia Tablet running WIndows RT. Not a big difference. The confusion is really about the various editions of windows. This confusion stems fromt he very team who developed it as you can see from the upgrade messages above.

  3. Yes, I did. I tried and also bought one “Surface” as gift to my 8 year-old son!
    Actually he wanted a tablet, but he needed for an PC because of some school programs.
    At home there was no space for Windows PCs before… Just Macs and Linux!
    I bought the Surface Pro 2, that is undoubtedly a Windows-8-based PC. Pity… because I have to admit that I like this PC. It’s nice, even if it could be better with a different OS… but this is just my feeling.
    If my son will let me do that, I want to put a nice penguin in his Surface as secondary OS… Do you think that is it possible?

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