Surface with Windows RT: Likes

After an agonizing wait, I finally got a chance to play with my new Surface with Windows RT, or as I will call it for sanity’s sake, Surface RT or simply, Surface. It has been a few days, and I thought instead of writing a full-fledged review, I’d focus on some key likes and a long list of dislikes. Nits that I picked. I discuss the likes here, and dislikes in a second post.

Surface RT

Overall, I really like the device. I was determined to evaluate its use as an iPad replacement in my house. To be clear, in our house, the iPad is used for Facebook, Twitter, web browsing (between my wife and I), and some Netflix/PBS Kids/kid games (our kids, 4 and 6 years old). We are not using the iPad as a computer, or a “creation device”. It is a pure consumption device, unless you call writing a tweet, “creation”.

In that use case, the Surface has ably fit in place of the iPad for the kids. The kids have enough games that they know of, and enough games that are new, that they actually like using the Surface. My wife has not used it much, but that is because at this point of time, she considers the Surface “my baby” so she is almost afraid to some extent, of using it. However, it is only a matter of time :-)

Last night, I saw my kids fight to get to use the Surface. Mind you, we got our second iPad 2 just so they can both have their own. So, despite having two iPads, they preferred to use the Surface. Granted, it could be a novelty thing, but still, it bodes well for me that they are actually liking the device with all its oddities, like the 16:9 aspect ratio.

I replaced my iPad too, almost

As for me, the Surface has almost replaced the iPad. The big gap at this point? Twitter app! I like Tweetro, but because of their recent issue with API token limit, I was unable to sign in on the Surface despite having used it (extensively) on my Windows 8 desktop. The other two big names, Rowi and MetroTwit are both far behind what I would call a basic Twitter experience, so to me they are unusable. I am forced to use the People app and Twitter website meanwhile, and that makes for a highly sub-optimal experience for a “power user” like yours truly.

The other small issue which makes me use the iPad when the PC is not being used, is access to my work email and calendar. My work has an app which allows me to access Exchange with native iOS mail, calendar and reminders apps. They haven’t yet provisioned it for Windows 8/RT.

Besides those two missing pieces, I am extremely happy with the device. I haven’t yet experienced some of the performance issues that many others have experienced, nor have I found any major app missing. It is thin enough, and light enough for me to use it like I used my iPad. (Important to note, my iPad has a strong Speck case which makes the iPad feel heavier.)

Windows 8 (and Windows RT)

Some part of why I like the Surface so much is due to Windows 8. For example, all my settings including my lock screen image, theme, pinned websites, favorites, web history, etc. automatically came through as I signed in with my Microsoft account. This is because I had set up my account and settings on my desktop PC earlier and set it up so all those settings were synced across devices via the cloud.

Also, thanks to Xbox Music Match, a service that is yet to officially roll out but works anyway, all my music was available on the Surface as soon as I signed in with my Microsoft account. This includes some playlists I created just the day before. Again, this is because my music was matched from my desktop PC (which in turn is connected to my home server where all my music, photos and videos are stored). In addition, I was able to impress some of my family members by searching for and playing a bunch of songs on-demand via the Xbox Music subscription service. While I have the Xbox Music Pass, the unlimited streaming (with some, ahem, limits) is automatically included with all Windows 8 and Windows RT devices.

The last thing I want to mention why I love the Surface and why I replaced my iPad with it? Office. I use Excel and Word in addition to OneNote, for various purposes. Things like tracking expenses, creating birthday lists, sending formal letters, etc. are all done on Excel, Word and OneNote. Having “real” Office on my tablet with a constant sync to SkyDrive (which allows me to collaborate with my wife for some of those items) is a huge benefit. Not what I would call the #1 reason to buy a Surface, but definitely a huge plus when considering a Surface over an iPad.

Suffice to say, I really like my Surface. I think it is money well spent, for my use of such a device. Having said that, there are issues I have with the device and I list them in my next post.

Tweetro Forced To Pull Out of Windows Store After Hitting Twitter’s User Token Limit

Following the harsher rules imposed by Twitter on third-party developers, Tweetro has been forced to pull their app from the Windows Store as they have reached their token limit of 100,000.

Since Windows 8’s launch on October 26th, the app saw a massive spike in users, getting 3-4k downloads each day. From Windows 8 Release Preview to now, the app has received over 200,000 downloads. However, in the process, they hit their user token limit and are now uncertain of the future of the app. Here’s the email sent out to users by Atta Elayyan, the co-founder of Lazyworm Applications on November 10th (as reported by Windows Observer):

Since the official launch of Windows 8, we’ve seen a massive spike in downloads.  We are averaging around 3-4K downloads a day and have had well over 200K downloads since Tweetro launched on ‘Release Preview’.  Unfortunately, we’ve been victims of our own success as it appears that the app is now being blocked by Twitter due to the new Token limitations.

The app is now completely crippled and users cannot get past the OAuth screen as they are presented with an error ‘Cannot connect to service’.  We were under the impression that Twitter wasn’t going to enforce the token limits until March next year (when all 3rd party apps are required to migrate to the new API’s) however this doesn’t seem to be the case.

We have reached out to Twitter for confirmation however we haven’t heard back yet.

The future of Tweetro is uncertain at this stage but it’s likely that it will be pulled from the Windows Store until we can figure out the best way moving forward.  At this stage, we are considering to add further polish to Tweetro and re-launch it as an exclusive ‘premium’ paid app.  We would have been more than happy to continue distributing Tweetro for free as the exposure we’ve been receiving from it has been fantastic however being limited by twitter to a maximum of 100,000 users would mean we’d have to justify development via financial means.

We hope that there is a way around the token limitations, at least until the official Twitter app is available on Windows 8 however it seems that Twitter is taking a strong stance on this issue.

We’ll aim to have further announcements in the coming days with regards to what people can expect from future iterations of the app.

In the mean time, for those who are enjoying Tweetro we recommend that they refrain from uninstalling the app, removing accounts from within the app or revoking access from Twitter as there is no method accessing OAuth in its current state.

Today, they dropped the news that they’re pulling the app from the Windows Store entirely while they mull over its future. Twitter’s latest stance towards third-party developers and apps has caused quite a fair amount of outrage from the tech community, and rightfully so. To many users, third-party clients provide a far more favorable experience than Twitter’s own website and apps.

It’s only a matter of time now until other Twitter clients reach their own respective user token limits.