Poor Email Support May Explain Weak Surface RT Sales, High Return Rate

NEWS ANALYSIS: The one thing Microsoft doesn’t tell you about Windows 8 and its Surface RT tablet is that they won’t work with POP 3 Internet email. Instead, Microsoft wants to force you into their cloud solution.

It wasn’t until I started fiddling around with a Microsoft Surface RT that I found a huge feature hole that will keep many, if not most, Internet users from getting full value from this new tablet model.

That huge hole is the inability of the Surface RT to work with Internet mail sites using POP 3 (post office protocol) for email. In other words, if you use an Internet service provider that delivers email using POP, you won’t be able to get your email that way.

This fact alone may explain the low sales of the Surface RT tablet, but it is an even more likely explanation for the reports of very high return volumes on the Surface RT. The fact is, when a customer shells out six hundred bucks for a slick new tablet, only to find out that they can’t use it for email, there’s a very high likelihood that they’ll pack it back into the box, head for the Microsoft store and ask for their money back. The customer’s next stop could very well be to the Apple store to use it to buy an iPad, which does work with POP Internet email.

I can’t say that Microsoft is keeping this inability to work with the single most common email delivery system a secret, because it’s not. If you happen to check on the Microsoft Website you’ll find out that the Surface and Windows 8 do not support POP. There’s even a list of workarounds you can use.

Unfortunately, most people don’t think to check this until they’ve already bought their device and are trying to set it up. Of course, with Windows 8 most people probably don’t notice since they probably aren’t using the Windows 8 mail app anyway. Those people with full computers are likely using Outlook or they’re using a third-party email client such as Thunderbird. When they upgraded from Windows 7, the email app stuck around, and they’ve probably never even tried the Windows Mail app.

You don’t have that option in Windows RT. There are no third-party email apps that support POP. Instead, your only choice for an email app is Windows Mail. Microsoft helpfully suggests you switch your internet email to IMAP (Internet mail access protocol) or EAS (Exchange ActiveSync) mailboxes. This is a nice idea, but most of the ISPs I could find don’t offer either one of those.

By insisting on cutting out POP email, Microsoft may be killing the sales of Windows RT forever.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...