One new pop-up store is located at the Time Warner Center, on the southwest corner of New York City's Central Park. People entering the mall were greeted by Microsoft, which offered some hands-on time with the Surface RT.
Unlike a new holiday store in Times Square, the Time Warner store is little more than a kiosk outside a Hugo Boss.
Get on Line
People were lined up to purchase a Surface RT, but faced far less chaos than at the Times Square location, where even getting in the door for some hands-on time required queuing up.
Shoppers, serious and otherwise ("I have no interest in this—I'm a Mac person," said one man, not removing his eyes from the Surface's crisp 1366 by 768 display) typed, tapped, swiped and asked questions. "Can I use Exchange?" asked one man. "Absolutely," was the answer.
On the side of each trial device were details about the hardware, software and accessory options. The details listed here constitute the only printed materials on RT at the kiosk. The workers, though, were knowledgeable to varying degrees and definitely eager to help. "If you need a full desktop experience," one told a shopper, "you need to wait for the next version."
Microsoft has said the Windows 8 Pro version will follow three months behind RT, but it hasn't offered a date yet. A flyer likewise offered basic information, though no details on RT or mention that a second Surface is on its way to market.
Whatever their feelings about how Microsoft has handled the distinctions between its new operating systems, analysts agree that the hardware is impressive. "A tremendous amount of thought went into it," Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg told eWEEK. "It's the device that most clearly embodies what Microsoft is trying to do."
Surface users can choose between the Touch Cover, which responds to the tap of fingertips, and the Type cover, a more traditional mechanical keyboard. A few shoppers, however, had purchased tablets without a cover—a move that one store worker found baffling. "I can't work on just a tablet," he said. "But with the keyboard, I can do everything I need to."
Both covers connect solidly via very strong magnets—one can hold a surface by the keyboard and the tablet won't detach.
Microsoft executives, at an Oct. 25 launch party, explained the intentionality behind the feel and sound the magnets create when the cover and tablet connect. The goal was for the connection to be as satisfying to the senses as closing a high-end car door.
The launch of Windows 8 has been called one of the most important announcements in Microsoft's history. Informa Telecoms & Media analyst Malik Saadi wrote in an Oct. 25 research note, "This is not just a product announcement; it is a strategic direction that will redefine the way computers are used."