Rumors are flying that Microsoft will release the Pro version of its Surface tablet this month. The most interesting news I’ve seen on the topic is that Office 2013 won’t be included. As an MSDN subscriber, this wouldn’t be a big deal for me. However, I’d be pretty annoyed as a regular consumer.
Taking off my techie hat for a moment, it doesn’t make any sense. I can buy RT, a “lite” version of Windows, and get a free version of Office. Alternatively, I can pay $300 more for the Pro version that gives me less capability out of the box. If I want Office, I have to pay even more.
Now, putting my techie hat back on, I understand that the Pro version gives you a full version of Windows, and that’s what you’re paying for. You can install your old copy of Office 2003 or download a free alternative like OpenOffice.org–something you can’t do with Surface RT. If Microsoft didn’t provide Office with RT, there would be no offline alternative available, and that would be a huge problem. That said, it still seems like a silly move to me. Think about every feature graph you’ve ever seen that compares different versions of a product: the checkmarks usually don’t disappear as you move to the “advanced” versions.
The reality is that Surface Pro is intended for business and professional users. The Home & Student version of Office that ships with Surface RT probably isn’t sufficient for them, and they’d likely upgrade to a better version of Office anyway. So why not throw the average Joe User a bone and include a free version of Office? Is this just another example of corporate greed? It sure feels like it.
On a lighter, less-ranty note, I’m very curious to see how Surface Pro users will really use their tablets. I convinced myself that the things that appealed to me with Pro weren’t realistic uses. I’d love to install Visual Studio, but I’m not going to sit down and develop applications on it. I’d like to install Photoshop, but I’m not going to be editing graphics on it. Or… maybe I would, and I’m just trying to convince myself that I hastily made the right decision by opting to not wait for Surface Pro. I’m also interested in the difference in battery life, as that was another key justification in my decision to go with RT. I think I have a few co-workers that are ready to pull the trigger on a Pro as soon as it’s available, so I should have answers to these questions soon.