Three reasons the Surface RT might not work for business

Pre-orders of the Surface RT seem to be selling briskly, but businesses anxious to get the new Windows tablet might want to think twice.

When Microsoft unveiled its Surface tablet earlier this year, it looked impressive, but left us with few details. This week, Microsoft invited a select group of tech writers for a closer look behind the curtain, and began taking pre-orders for the device that will be available as of October 26. As anxious as some are to get a hold of the new Windows RT tablet, though, there are a few good reasons businesses might think twice.

At face value, a Windows-based device engineered by Microsoft would seem to be a slam dunk for businesses considering tablets. However, Windows RT is a different animal than Windows 8. It relies strictly on the Modern (formerly known as Metro) UI with its colorful tiles, and it can only use apps acquired from the Windows Store.

In both hardware and software, the Surface RT is a bit closer to rival tablet platforms like iOS and Android, and a bit less like the traditional Windows operating system. Still, it comes with Office apps pre-installed, and it could still be a viable mobile productivity tool for businesses.

There are three serious caveats to consider, though.

1. Not for Commercial Use

Paul Thurrott, a prominent expert on Windows, pointed out that the license for Office 2013 Home & Student 2013 RT allows only for non-commercial usejust like the PC version. That means that even though the Surface RT tablet comes with the Office apps pre-installed, the tablet cant actually be used for business productivity out of the box.

Thurrott explains in a separate post that it isnt entirely true that the Office 2013 Home & Student 2013 RT apps cant be used for business. Microsoft has clarified that customers simply need to buy the standard Office 2013 license, and that allows them to also legally use the Office RT apps for commercial use.

That is a workaround, but basically means the Office RT apps that come pre-installed can only be used for business productivity if you also subscribe to Office 365, or invest additional money to buy the full PC version as well.

2. No Outlook

Another problem with the Surface RT when it comes to business use is that the Microsoft Office tool that is probably the most widely used of the entire suite is absent from the RT appsOutlook. Many companies rely on Microsoft Outlook for email, calendar, and contacts, and the integration with Microsoft Exchange helps IT admins manage it all.

The Mail, People, and Calendar apps in Windows RT perform similar functions. These apps can integrate with Exchange using Exchange ActiveSync, but lack the consistent look and feel of Outlook that users are accustomed to, and fall short of delivering all of the capabilities users expect from Outlook.

3. Cant Join a Domain

Another issue that might deter some businesses is the fact that Windows RT cant join a traditional Windows network domain. Granted, neither can iOS or Android tablets, so this isnt exactly an Earth-shattering deal breaker as far as tablets go.

There are two things to consider, though, when it comes to the ability of a business to manage its tablets. First, is to consider the options available. There are many mobile device management (MDM) platform options that can provide some control over iOS and Android, and Apple has made significant strides over the years to make iOS more manageable through Exchange ActiveSync. Windows RT probably has similar capabilities available through Exchange ActiveSync.

The other option is to hold out for Windows 8 Pro tablets. Windows 8 Pro tablets have standard Intel or AMD processors like those in desktops and laptops, and theyre capable of running the full Windows 8 operating system. That means they can use all of the same software, and connect to a domain to be managed through Active Directory and Group Policy just like any other Windows 8 PC.

The caveat here is that Windows 8 Pro tablets will most likely cost significantly more than the Surface RT, so you sort of get what you pay for.

Overall, the Surface RT still seems like it has potential. But, businesses that are chomping at the bit to get their hands on one should be aware of these limitations before investing in the new tablet.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?