In my house, our gadgets tend to go by alternative names that speak to the ways certain members of the household view them. For example, the Xbox 360 controller is the “Netflix clicker.”

And our new Microsoft Surface has quickly become known as “the iPad” — meaning that my wife expects it to live up to her expectations of what an iPad would have been able to do … especially after I spent our entire iPad budget on Microsoft’s first-ever tablet. (Yes, I know: Yikes.)

So how’s it going so far? Well, after unpacking and booting up the Surface yesterday, I’ve spent a good part of the day today trying to position this device (and myself) for success. I’ve installed a bunch of apps, played with the settings, picked a cool Start screen background, selected the cutest picture I could find of our daughter as the lock-screen photo, and generally tried to think through how my wife would use this new device.

First cool thing: The ability to sign in and out as different users. Multiple user accounts in Windows 8 let me create a profile just for my wife, using her existing Hotmail address. This is like those car seats that automatically adjust to different drivers, except better. Regardless of the crazy stuff I do over on my side of the tablet, when she logs in, it will be hers — her apps, email, settings, desktop background, Skype account and everything else.

No, iPads can’t do this natively. Chalk one up for this Windows tablet. I’m also looking forward to setting up a Picture Password.

First major bummer: The lack of official Facebook or Twitter apps. Yes, I know these social networks are integrated into the Windows 8 People app. And I know you can access Facebook in either version of Internet Explorer 10 on this Windows RT machine.

I’m sorry, that is not the same as an official app.

But I’m doing my best. I’ve connected the People app to my wife’s Facebook  and Twitter accounts. I’ve also pinned an Internet Explorer bookmark for Facebook to the Start screen, and installed the “MetroTwit” app. Facebook is one of the primary ways my wife will be using this tablet, so I’m very curious, and a little nervous, to see how this goes.

On the bright side, the Netflix app is a serious plus for Microsoft. I was able to set the Surface on the kitchen table this morning, with the built-in kickstand, and and let my daughter watch a couple of her favorite shows from our Netflix streaming account before we headed out for the day.

I’m in the process of installing apps from the Windows Store. There are some apps that I’m looking forward to seeing my wife try, including FreshPaint and Adera, two Microsoft-developed apps that we’ve talked or written about on GeekWire in the past. The built-in news and weather apps from Microsoft are also slick, and the Xbox SmartGlass app holds a lot of promise as a companion to the Xbox 360.

But beyond the apps made by Microsoft, the library of third-party Windows 8 apps does seem thin. Apart from the Facebook and Twitter situation mentioned above, the best Craigslist app I could find in the Windows Store is pretty meager in terms of its functionality. This is not an insignificant situation for me. My wife likes to surf Craigslist, and the lack of solid options is example of how a less-than-robust library of apps can affect end users.

Games look more promising overall, with more than 800 listed in the Windows Store right now. Participating publishers include big names such as Rovio — but why is Angry Birds Space $4.99 on the Surface when it’s only 99 cents on the iPad?

At any rate, I’ve done my best. Now I’ll be handing this over for the rest of the weekend and seeing how it goes. Wish me (and the Surface) luck, and stay tuned.

Previously: Microsoft Surface Day 1: The unboxing and bootup

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  • Guest

    Todd, thank you so much for this account of your Surface experience! I appreciate your candor in dealing with a device you bought at retail, not a demo model that you were issued by the company.

    Just one question: what are you looking for in a native app for web sites like Facebook and Twitter? Those apps on my Android phone are simply thin shells around some HTML5 markup served from Face’ and Twit’ com, so I’m not sure what they give me beyond a separate app-list icon I can’t delete. Frankly, I would personally like to see social services “disappear” into useful contexts on my devices, so I think the Windows 8 ‘blet and phone UXes would be good. (Of course, I’m still waiting on my Windows 8 ‘ptop to arrive next week.)

    Thanks again for the write-ups, Todd. Keep the reactions coming!

  • Mike

    Did you get the keyboard… I think that is a huge plus as well! I’m very surprised with it.

    • Mike

      Just saw… you got it… what is your impression?

      • Todd Bishop

        I have been having a really hard time with the TouchCover (the one without raised keys). … Very difficult for me to type accurately on it. I guess I need more time with it. I’ve also spent some time with a TypeCover (the one with raised keys) and have had better luck with it. Which one did you get?

        • mike

          I got the TouchCover and I’m typing pretty fast, so I like it, changing languages this easy, is a huge plus for me as well, same in Windows Phone, spell checkers go with the keyboard’s languages, and I like the auto corrector not getting in the way either.

        • Michael Hazell

          The touch cover keyboard is supposed to take 1 business week for you to get used to says Microsoft, and many media entities out there can confirm that for the most part this is true. I wonder how it feels myself…if Microsoft would just send me one to review :P

        • guest

          This experience is consistant with what I have heard from others (including those in MS). Conceptually a nice idea, but lack of haptic feedback makes it pretty unusable (compared to the type cover).

  • James T

    You poor dumb idiot everyone knows the iPad can’t be beaten this is Microsoft hit or miss chance to market Windows 8 and will fail miserably like ME & Vista

    • SenV

      @James T: Yes, YOU will fail miserably. ;-)

    • Jeff

      Agreed. Its a big risk for MS. They have to hit a home run or they’re dead. On a side note, We have Windows 8 on a big screen at our office and it locks up every once in a while. Guess they need to release a Service Pack??? What a joke.

  • JimmyFal

    You know its good when the Apple folks feel a need to trash the product. The differentiators are significant enough for anyone to see that MS hit one out of the park here. The apps will come. Your wife is a trooper, looking forward to next write-up.

  • Extended Results, In

    I started to migrate from my iPad to my Surface. I’m not a big Facebook user as I only visit once or every other week. The rest of the apps are good, but you are right, a good craigslist app is much needed.

    Other than that, having access to all my documents easily is a HUGE plus. Integration with other business applications is also a HUGE plus. This might sound lame, but on the Surface, I spend less time entertaining myself and spend more time doing productive stuff… :o)


  • SilverSee

    Todd, if you already use your Xbox 360 to watch Netflix, I’d encourage you to also check out the Xbox Music and Xbox Video services. They’re pretty great on their own, but with Surface you can also play back content directly to the Xbox.

    The Windows Store is likely to expand quickly. While Windows 8 / RT is a brand new mobile platform, already more apps are available than were available any for other mobile OS at launch, and with hundreds of millions of Windows 8 PCs and tablets shipping in the coming months and years, more are sure to come.

    Another thought: every app in the Windows Store is optimized for use on a tablet (or desktop) display, since no phone apps are mixed in. So you don’t have to worry as much about downloading something that looks poor on your device.

  • darly

    is that hard to type in or in the browser??? seriously IMO the only reason you need an app on your phone or your mini tablet is b/c the screen is so small, otherwise going to the website is actually better? no?

    • guest

      Native support is far superior to in-broswer support. The customers have spoken in this regard on every other platform.

      • daniel

        I honestly prefer the people and messages builtin still keeps me up with my friends from facebook, twitter, and Skype all in one place with notifications.. I can still like and comment.. and no annoying ads…

        • Jay Hill

          No ads on iOS native app either—not yet anyway. I find the formatting of the People app to be way, way too spread out and would welcome a native app. Hopefully we will see one soon.

  • Nathan O

    Still waiting to get mine in the mail (Canada). I’ve been reading Geekwire for a little over a year and I appreciate your impressions on the surface as I’ve always had a lot of respect for your professional opinion Todd. Keep up the great work!

  • Nihil

    “Stupid is as stupid does”

  • Michael Hazell

    To tell you the truth, I forgot Windows 8 allows you to set a picture password. I remember seeing a video from Microsoft about it when they were testing the feature internally.

    So it seems that so far your Surface adventures are working out alright.

  • Christopher Budd

    I just wanted to say this is all really helpful. For instance, I didn’t get that you had multiple user support on this: that is a nice feature.

    Any chance that your wife would be willing to do a guest post of her impressions? That would take our window into your real world experience another step ahead (and be much appreciated).

  • Alberto Duarte Moreira

    Hello Todd! :) My wife is a facebook user, and despite the facebook app in the ipad and or in her Nokia Lumia 800, she uses the pc because there she can play does flash zinga games! The Windows RT supports flash in internet explorer 10? I guess it must, if not in the Metro version in the desktop version should! that is a plus for a facebook addict I guess. Also youtube does work better in Windows 8 third party apps or IE10 then in Ipad right?

    • daniel

      yes, flash is supported in both versions of ie 10.

      • Guest

        Not sure what that means. Two versions of IE10 in Windows 8?? What’s that about? I’m confused.

        • Jay Hill

          There is a “metro” version of ie10 optimized for touch and the old keyboard/mouse optimized desktop version bundled into windows 8.

        • Bruce Trinh

          i wouldn’t say two versions. more like two different modes. One is when you’re in the Tiles mode (or Metro) and the other is your traditional, or more familiar Desktop mode. Both are IE 10 and they’re just accessed in a different way, and look slightly different too.

  • Charlie Claxton

    I had the same thoughts regarding the missing social apps on my Win Phone as I was an early adopter (they are now there). Given the lack of apps at the beginning, I connected all my social stuff to the people hub… and I must admit it took a little getting use to. Now I have the necessary social apps on my phone and find I continue to just use the people hub as I like how it blends all aspects of social into one place (especially for contacts who I have multiple connections with… ie. twitter, facebook, linkedIn, etc.)

    I’m enjoying your blog series on your Win8 positive and negative experiences… Thanks for sharing.

  • kabriol

    Hello Todd,
    Nice review… I like the way you blog taking all your family into geek interaction. ;)

    What about your wife test? Mine is also using a Win7 laptop for internet access, and most of the time for facebook games. Did yours gave a try? Was she able to play with facebook games? Any restriction?

  • Flex Yan

    Could you take a look at the new Craigslist+ app? You may like it. It climbed to Top 10 in Lifestyle category in 10 days since it shipped.

    Store link:


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