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Mailbag: Microsoft Surface Special Edition

This special edition of the Mailbag is all about Surface with Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro devices and related software, which have rankled SuperSite readers like no products before them. There are a lot of questions. I only have some of the answers.

If you have additional Surface questions, please email me. I’ll try my best. :)

Native SkyDrive support

A number of readers are confused about SkyDrive support in Windows RT generally and in the Surface with Windows RT specifically. For example, Fernando F. asks:

It's not clear to me whether only the Metro SkyDrive app is included with Windows RT, which I believe assumes I need to open the Metro app to browse for files instead of using Windows Explorer (which I much rather prefer). It's not clear to me whether this native SkyDrive functionality is included in Windows RT or only on Windows 8. This is the only deal breaker for me.

There's no SkyDrive desktop application for Windows RT, so no. That said, I find it hard to believe that Microsoft won't release such a thing. But as of now, no.

The Metro SkyDrive app is included with Windows RT, however.

Why no Mobile broadband?

Like many, I’ve been openly wondering why Microsoft didn’t provide at least some form of mobile broadband on the Surface. Marcus B. tells me the firm answered this question in a recent online chat:

Microsoft looked at tablet sales data: 2/3 sold were Wi-Fi only, 1/3 had mobile broadband. Of those with mobile broadband, only half were ever activated.”

Right. That’s why it should just be an option. Hell, even an empty SIM slot would have done it.

And just an additional thought, here: Is Microsoft leading with the Surface or following? Who cares how many users had mobile broadband before the Surface arrived? Isn’t this the new normal? Don’t people need to be connected all the time on a device that has nothing but connected apps? Come on. This is a no-brainer. And the answer is, you at least make it an option. At least.

Thanks, Marcus.

Forget mobile broadband, what about WiDi?

Edward O. asks:

For me, the huge feature that is missing is WiDi (Intel Wireless Display.)  WiDi is possible only with devices using Intel Ivy Bridge processors and the full version of Windows 8 … I'm a school teacher and can't be tied to my desk with my tablet plugged into a display port or even HDMI.  The best use for me would be to carry the tablet around while projecting a PowerPoint and to use a digital pen to mark up notes or highlight key information, or even have a student fill in answers from their seat.  What's the point of having the pen in that situation if the tablet is tied to a cable?

Good point.

For whatever its worth, Microsoft has said that these devices are the start of an expanding family of devices. Many assume that means different device types too, but it could even more easily mean more models with additional features. This would be a great addition too.

Also, a great way for competing devices to step it up.

Office RT and Metro apps: Is there any way for them to communicate?

Dave D. writes:

Can an app communicate with the Office RT desktop applications? Or are these kinds of solutions gone forever in the RT world until we get a Metro version of Office? Is this the reason that no add-ins are allowed in this version of Office?

That's a good question. There are definitely some forms of Metro-to-desktop communications, but I don't really have a good handle on it yet. Copy and paste works, for example. And some desktop applications--Microsoft Outlook 2013, for example--can actually trigger Metro-style notifications. In all the discussions about how Microsoft would update Windows 8 going forward, the focus has obviously been on Metro. But I do think there is a huge opportunity to formally add cross-Metro capabilities to desktop apps going forward too, as a way of making those remaining apps more consistent with Metro apps--full screen views, cross-app/application communications, and so on--so you never know. Just a theory, of course.

Desktop dock for Surface Pro (and other Windows 8 tablets and devices)

Tommy A. writes:

Looks to me this is the ideal dock for a Surface Pro. I got one and love it-although my current laptop only has USB 2.0. Works great and has one powered port for charging my Lumia phone also. Bought this in anticipation of new device with 3.0. For its size amazing functionality. And quality is great. Designed I am pretty sure by guys in Raleigh.

Interesting, I actually own the older, USB 2.0-based version of this. I made need to pick one up, I wasn't aware they updated it.

That said, I don’t think this would ever work with Surface with Windows RT: There’s a heavy client install required to get this all working.

Windows 8 Pro vs. Windows 8 Pro N vs. Windows 8 Pro Pack

Joco B. asks:

I live in The Netherlands, and when I visit the Microsoft Store website I can see Windows 8 Pro, Windows 8 Pro N, Windows 8 Pro Pack, and Windows 8 Pro Pack N. Which one should I get?

Windows 8 Pro is the operating system. (They're not selling the base version, which is just called Windows 8.)

Windows 8 Pro N is an EU-only version of Windows 8 Pro that does not include any media playback functionality. This is the version that Microsoft was required to sell as part of its antitrust settlement there.

Windows 8 Pro Pack is an upgrade for users of the base version of Windows 8. It includes all the features from Pro plus Windows Media Center. The N version of the Pro Pack is aimed at users with Windows 8 N, and adds basic media playback capabilities (including Windows Media Player) plus the stuff from the regular Pro Pack.

Ah, to live in Europe. :)

Video out on the Surface

Robert C. asks:

The Kindle Fire HD has a micro-HDMI port that I can easily connect to my TV’s HDMI port and immediately get HD video and sound on the TV with no fuss, no muss.  My thought now is that I’m not buying a tablet or Ultrabook without this. I’m wondering if the HD port on the RT device and the DisplayPort on the Pro will do this trick—HD video and audio out?  Hope so!

For the Surface with Windows RT device, Microsoft is selling an HDMI adapter that will do the trick.

Surface pen questions

I was hoping for clarity on the pen support issue, but I guess not. Long story short, Surface with Windows 8 Pro supports active digitizers and compatible pens and has palm-blocking technologies built in. Surface with Windows RT? Not so sure.

Thomas R. asks:

Is the pen input on the Surface Pro a capacitive pen (as with Surface RT) or is it from a digitizer like the Samsung series 7 Windows 8 tablets? If its using a capacitive pen that’s a huge drawback.

Microsoft doesn't say on the site, but since they call out capacitive on RT, it must be the latter (and better) pen type.

I'm trying to get clarification on whether a true pressure sensitive pen is supported on both devices (and OSes). But that said, I bet the capacitive pen is fine for handwriting. Hopefully more info soon.

Kevin W. asks:

Do you know if the Surface capacitive pen will be available for purchase and when?

No, but the Microsoft spec sheet sort of implies they will be selling one.

Mohd I. asks:

Do you know if Surface RT has the palm blocking technology built in it? I know the feature was shown on the Surface Pro version during Surface keynote, but is it just for Pro version?

That I don’t know, sorry.

Office 365, Office on Demand, and Windows RT

Curtis R. asks:

One thing I am confused about is the support for the new Office 365 on Windows RT. As you know, Microsoft will soon release the new Office 365 for consumers as well as for businesses. One of the big features is the new "Office on Demand" install type. Since, the RT version does not support Win32 apps, is this new functionality going to support Windows RT?

No, but Office on Demand isn't required on RT because Office is already preinstalled. However, you can apparently use one of your Office device installs to change the license on RT from "non-commercial" to commercial if needed.

Windows RT and Windows Server 2012 Essentials

Tom J. asks:

Any idea if there will be a way to join a Windows RT tablet to an Essentials domain for home administration?  I want to get a Surface RT, but this is the sticking/stopping point right now.

There's no way to add Windows RT to a domain. But it's unclear if there will be any Essentials Connector for RT too, so we'll have to wait and see. The current version is a Win32 app so it won’t work.

Microsoft Outlook on Windows RT?

Matt H. (and many others) have asked:

Do you know if MS Office on RT will have Outlook? I want to get one for my wife and she will need Outlook for work. Someone said it wouldn't be included.

No Outlook on Windows RT, sorry.

Planned Surface orders canned

Hank B. writes:

We had planned to buy many Surface tablets but with LTE, GPS, and other basics missing, this will not take place.

So there’s not much I can say to that one.


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