Surface 2 Buyers In For An Ugly Surprise

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

 iPad 4 versus Surface 2

Free license to Office 2013 RT included with Surface 2 may be useless for any other than very personal use

Buyer Beware – In the fine print, Microsoft is restricting Office on the Surface RT from being used in charities, in a small business or in any occupation that earns money

Buyers of the Surface 2 will be in for a surprise if they read the fine print of Microsoft’s conditions on their license. Surface 2 owners can’t use Office for anything that makes money or even in a nonprofit unless they pay another $200 plus to Microsoft for a full license to Office.

That little stroke of the MS Office pen takes away $220 from the price of a Surface 2 effectively killing the re-launch of last year’s least popular tablet.  We are checking with people in power at Microsoft but no positive word yet. Stay tuned.

iPad 4 versus Surface 2

Microsoft took a $900 million write down on unsold Surface RT tablets in the 2nd quarter of this year. The RT became the marketing equivalent of the black plague.

Last year’s Surface RT came with a restricted product license called Office Home and Student, that basically says the story. It’s not for work.

To make sure customers got the message, Microsoft restricted the Office bundle further by removing Office Outlook, the best program in package. It was one of the many senseless marketing ideas that killed the Surface RT and gave Microsoft a $900 toothache.

Last Year’s Surface RT or not

This year’s Surface 2 is a competitive tablet that, with the Office license, offers better value and performance than most of the other products on the market. But it carries with it the label of “almost worst idea of an iPad competitor.”

Surface 2 buyers can be easily fooled by Microsoft’s re-branding of Office Home and Student as Office 2013 RT with Outlook. On the Microsoft Store page for the Surface 2, it promotes the Office product as a going from “plaything to workhorse in a snap.”

Office 2013 RT icons from the Microsoft Store

Microsoft Office – Surface 2 pushes the boundaries of what a tablet can do. Go beyond fun and be truly productive with Office 2013. With touch-optimized versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, Surface 2 can go from plaything to workhorse in a snap.”

Two days ago, Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Communications at Microsoft, wrote a blog from Abu Dhabi trouncing the Apple iPad as a device for “play” in a battle of words with Apple he called “Apples and oranges.”

Speaking about the superior value of a Surface 2 compared to the iPad Air, just released by Apple on the day before, he said

“We literally wrote the book on getting things done. And that’s how we knew that Surface needed to include three things to help people do their best work: 1. The gold standard in productivity software – Office.”

Then to drive home the value equation of a Surface 2, Shaw went on to compare Surface 2 customers would get “full versions of Office 2013 including Outlook” not some cheap solution like iWorks that Apple was giving away with the iPad Air.

Perhaps attendees at Apple’s event were required to work on iOS devices that don’t allow them to have two windows open for side-by-side comparisons, so let me help them out by highlighting the following facts:… come with full versions of Office 2013, including Outlook, not non-standard, non-cross-platform, imitation apps that can’t share docs with the rest of the world.”

Mr.Shaw should know what he is talking about since he is the Microsoft VP of Corporate Communications but it does not agree with the fine print on Microsoft’s website for Office 2013 RT. If you go to the bottom of the page and click on To learn more please read our FAQ page.

Can I use Office 2013 RT for work or business? As sold, Office 2013 RT is not designed for commercial, nonprofit, or revenue-generating activities. However, organizations who purchase commercial use rights or have a commercial license to Office 2013 suites that include Outlook can use Office 2013 RT for commercial, nonprofit, or revenue-generating activities.

That will make sense to lots of people. You offer them a “full versions of Office 2013 including Outlook” and then tell them it’s not a full version and if they would like to do a menu in Word for the church bake sale, or send out email invitations to a fund-raiser for a political party or nonprofit, please give us $220 more money.

I wrote Microsoft’s media contacts and Tweeted Mr. Shaw to see if he was right or the Office website. “@fxshaw Does your blog mean Surface 2 users get Office for work? Surface needed to include things to help people do their best work: Office.”

Frank Shaw Tweet

Waggener Edstrom, Microsoft’s media contractor wrote back with a promise to get back to you

Hi Stephen,  Thank you for your email; I am happy to look into your request. I understand that you have provided questions that you would like comments on regarding the rights of Surface 2 and Office 2013 RT… Do you have a contact number that I can pass along? I will connect with my most appropriate colleagues and follow up here as soon as I know more.

Thanks!  Sydney”

Computerworld reviewers can’t make sense of Office license

The licensing situation with the Surface RT is so muddled, the people in the retail stores don’t know about and professional tech writers are saying that the Office license is a $220 value.

In his ComputerWorld positive review Microsoft Surface 2 deep-dive review: Better hardware, but still with Windows RT, Preston Gralla said Surface 2 buyers were getting “Office for free?

“As with the Surface RT, the Surface 2 comes with Microsoft Office RT 2013, which now includes not just Word, PowerPoint and Excel, but Outlook and OneNote as well. That’s a considerable bonus and a big savings, given that a subscription to Office Home and Business, which is comparable to the version you get on the Surface 2, runs $220 a year. I found no difference between the RT version of Office and the normal Windows version of Office. If you want to use your tablet for work, getting Office for free is a very big deal indeed, especially if you’ve shelled out an extra hundred-odd dollars for a Touch Cover 2 or Type Cover 2 combination cover/keyboard.”

I left this question with the Microsoft Community and several online forums. When I hear back from any of the people I contacted I will update this story.

Office 2013 RT Commercial, non-profit and revenue-generating restrictions

“Does Microsoft enforce these restrictions on the Office 2013 RT license?

Can I use Office 2013 RT for work or business?

As sold, Office 2013 RT is not designed for commercial, nonprofit, or revenue-generating activities. However, organizations who purchase commercial use rights or have a commercial license to Office 2013 suites that include Outlook can use Office 2013 RT for commercial, nonprofit, or revenue-generating activities.

If someone on a Surface RT makes up a flyer with Office for a church rummage sale, that’s “nonprofit” and “revenue generating” will Microsoft punish them?

How about if I write a book, edit it from time to time on a Surface 2, illegal?

Or like many people laid off in the Great Recession, or retired living below the poverty line after their RRSPs/Roth/IRA got wiped out by J.P.Morgan, they attempt to find a job or work from home on their Surface 2 – is the license illegal?

Personally, I have an Office 365 license but would find it hard to recommend the Surface 2 with that license restriction. It turns honest people into criminals.”

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