Are Microsoft Store employees misleading customers about Windows RT?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Are Microsoft Store employees misleading customers about Windows RT?
Yesterday brought the launch of Windows 8 as well as the official launch of a number of Windows RT tablets. We went to a local Microsoft Store to check out the new devices, and were surprised at some of the information being given out by store employees. By far, the worst bit of misinformation was that one employee told us that Windows RT is "nearly identical" to Windows 8.

For those of you who don't understand the difference: Windows 8 is the full fledged Windows that you'll find on most desktops and laptops, but will be available on higher-end tablets and convertibles. It can run any Windows app available including both the new apps written for the Modern UI, as well as "legacy apps" like all of the programs that you may find out on the web. Windows RT is more like Windows Phone for tablets. The only apps available for an RT device are the ones found in the Windows Store, and the only non-Modern UI programs that currently exist for RT are Microsoft Office apps. 

Even worse, the Windows RT apps catalog isn't just dependent on developers writing Modern UI-only apps. The Windows Store has app restrictions similar to what we saw in the early days of the iOS App Store (Apple has been forced to open up a bit, and hasn't blocked major apps since it attempted to block Google Voice and got a letter from a senator). If you have a Windows RT device, Internet Explorer 10 had better be good for you, because that's the only browser you'll have access to. Additionally, the built-in Mail app for Windows RT doesn't support POP3 e-mail, which could make it difficult if not impossible for some users to set up their e-mail.

This is why we were so surprised on our visit to the Microsoft Store. We went in hoping to see some proper Windows 8 hybrids, but those weren't in yet, and apparently won't be released until the Surface Pro is released, which isn't for about 3 months. After mentioning that, the Microsoft Store did his job and tried pointing us to Windows RT devices, the trouble was that in doing so, he said "Windows RT is nearly identical to Windows 8." We questioned this, and got the response, "The only difference is that RT doesn't have access to 'legacy apps'." 

Maybe we take issue with semantics a bit too much, but "nearly" is a very dangerous word. You could say that the NBA and WNBA are "nearly identical", but that would be giving the WNBA a bit too much credit. Fuji apples and Pink Lady apples are "nearly identical". Visually, Windows RT and Windows 8 may be "nearly identical", but functionally, Windows RT is the handicapped brother of Windows 8.

We fully understand that the employee was doing his job and just trying to make a sale, but customers still deserve the option to make an informed decision. If this is the information that Microsoft is directing employees to give out, we're afraid that is a major distortion of reality in order to make a sale, and could lead to quite a lot of disappointed users in the time between now and when the real Windows 8 tablets arrive. It's one thing for Apple to say that its products are "magical" because that's a very subjective thing to say. But, claiming that RT is "nearly identical" to full Windows 8 is objectively false and misleading. It was also troubling that we had to question that statement before getting the explanation, and even then, the explanation downplayed the impact of having no legacy app support, which is a dangerous choice by Microsoft. 

The average consumer may not necessarily care about the limitations of Windows RT, but that doesn't mean that those limitations should be glazed over by Microsoft Store employees. There is a difference between trying to make a sale, and trying to create a good customer. A company can mislead customers all they want, but in general those decisions will come back negatively, because customers will be disappointed in the products. If a company is more honest, and explains things properly, some customers may decide it's not worth it, but those that do buy will be happier with their purchase because expectations have been set properly. A happy customer is more likely to recommend products to others, and you begin a virtuous circle of good service. Not explaining the limitations of RT to customers is potentially starting a circle of disappointment with users, who will then tell friends about their problems, and cause more problems than just one disappointed user. 

We have reached out to Microsoft for comment on the topic, but Microsoft's PR company doesn't work on weekends, so we have to wait on a potential response. 



1. darkvadervip

Posts: 366; Member since: Dec 08, 2010

That's just as you said an employee trying to make a sale. This strory is a waste of time.

10. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Trying to make a sale doesn't remove the responsibility to allow customers to make an informed decision.

15. Joshing4fun

Posts: 1244; Member since: Aug 13, 2010

How was the employee wrong exactly? That's pretty accurate to me to say "RT is nearly identical except for legacy program support". Its technically not wrong.

18. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

Legacy program (Office for example) support is a pretty big deal. If you were 'induced' to buy RT thinking you could just install your desktop version of Office and everything would be hunky-dory, I imagine you would be a bit torqued to find out that isn't exactly true.

21. Joshing4fun

Posts: 1244; Member since: Aug 13, 2010

I know legacy support is a big deal but they said rt does not have it. Therefore you'd be an idiot to go home and try to download your own Office program.Since they said it doesnt have that support? I don't understand why someone would try that. And if they didn't know what legacy programs are then they should ask or better, have already done their own research before buying a $600 product.

84. CRICKETownz

Posts: 980; Member since: Oct 24, 2009

But it's "nearly" true so he should be fine

20. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

As I said in the article, all the employee said before I questioned him was that "RT is nearly identical to Windows 8". If I hadn't questioned him, it would have been left at that, and I would have been left to believe that's all the info there was.

23. Joshing4fun

Posts: 1244; Member since: Aug 13, 2010

Well if someone says, "it's nearly identical", isn't the automatic response "well what makes it different? Plus, who doesn't do research on a $600 purchase? I just feel like you are trying to find an issue before there even is one. Im just tired of all these articles hating on Win8/RT before it has a chance.

26. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

"Im just tired of all these articles hating on Win8/RT before it has a chance." But it is okay to knock iOS for its 'features' (iMaps)? Or Android for its lag? When does an OS have to be able to stand on its own and be compared against other competing offerings?

36. darkkjedii

Posts: 30836; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Well said bro. Well said. +1

60. Hemlocke unregistered

Absolutely. It's time to stop giving Microsoft a pass, or trotting out "Just wait until Windows/Windows Phone XXX is released.' They have botched this, as usual, and they continue to hold back information. "Office is installed on every Surface" is another instance of omission. Office PREVIEW is installed. Microsoft has some tough days ahead.

69. Whodaboss

Posts: 176; Member since: Nov 18, 2011

"But it is okay to knock iOS for its 'features' (iMaps)? Or Android for its lag?" In a word. Yes. Because these weren't technically truth. They were the truth. There was no subjectivity about those statements, they were fact. You may not agree with what the sales person stated but what he/she stated wasn't false. Now a great sales person would explain the nuance a bit better. But in every job there are those who aren't as articulate as others. That said, let's hope these types of confusing situations are cleaned up.

65. someones4

Posts: 627; Member since: Sep 16, 2012

Correct me if i'm wrong: Is Rt inferior to the normal windows 8? if so, what's it for?

70. neutralguy

Posts: 1152; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

sorry, but i got to agree with joshing4fun. It's the customer's responsibility to ask anything to the employees, and the employee's responsibility to answer sufficient enough. saying "it's nearly identical" is a marketing strategy. It's up to the customer to ask, "what's the difference". And that sir, is what you just did. And the employee, on the other hand, answered your question. It's not their job to tell everything in a single answer. As i see, the employee didn't mislead anyone. He just chose to give sufficient answer. And using the word "nearly" doesn't mislead anyone. It's up to that person to ask for more. If the employee mislead the customer, he should have said, "windows 8 rt is windows 8 for tablets". that would be misleading given that there's a major difference between the two. It's your job to ask, and it's their job to give answer that would sufficed.

71. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

The attitude you are advocating, while technically 'correct', is not likely to engender good will toward the Win8 brand. Right now, MS needs all of the goodwill toward Win8 that it can get. Protection from all of the little things that don't work outside of the store environment is one of the reasons for no-questions asked return periods in many states.

86. neutralguy

Posts: 1152; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

we're not talking about goodwill, we're talking about misleading a customer. and as far as i know, he didn't mislead the customer.

87. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

You aren't the customer. An average customer likely won't know about legacy s/w not running on RT tablets. At the end of the quarter, your opinion or my opinion won't matter. If sales are in the 10s of millions, it will be a succes. If not, then Ballmer will have another fail to celebrate.

81. hellt1M

Posts: 20; Member since: Oct 10, 2012

completely agree with neutralguy and joshing4fun

88. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

To me, thats not a good sales person. In my time in the retail jewelry business, we were very truthful and helpful. Most customers didnt know a thing about jewelry. It was like our job was to teach them a lil bit before they left the store. If it were me, I would said its nearly identical and went into more detail with any additional prodding from the customer.

74. denied911

Posts: 361; Member since: May 31, 2012

also windows rt has restrictions to only 1 browser active in system and flash doesnt work on every site, you have to use marketplace and oh yes hardware restrictions from ms to oems. did i mentioned that for example torrent client wil never be in microsoft little app store?

89. downphoenix

Posts: 3165; Member since: Jun 19, 2010

To my knowledge Flash doesnt work at all in Windows 8 using the modern ui version of IE. Desktop version works fine, as does installing something like Chrome or Firefox, but I cant seem to get Flash to come up. Youtube worked, but Youtube is designed to use alternatives to Flash when its not available.

80. hellt1M

Posts: 20; Member since: Oct 10, 2012

you are a moron! you are a tech person. of course you are going to notice the little unrelated details. they are sales associates told to sell. for the average person going in to buy a suface tab it IS identical to windows 8. go home. turn on windows 8. besides being able to intsall legacy apps. and a few extremely minor other things.. what was so wrong about what the employee said. when you turn on the RT it will look and feel EXACTLY like windows 8. its whats under the hood that matters and the average consumer does give a frak. the guy told you assuming you were an average apple fan boy all you needed to know. that it is nearly identical to windows 8 and cant run legacy programs. discusssion over. you are officially a moron and everyone here that agrees with you. i will now forever avoid any article you write because i will automatically assume you own an iphone and have no brain

82. bayusuputra

Posts: 963; Member since: Feb 12, 2012

michael, afaik, doesn't own an iPhone, and so far most of his articles are technically and politically correct, there may be some articles which are totally out of place, like this, but to call him a moron is just plainly rude.. he's one of, if not, the best writer of PA.. but, I, too, don't agree with michael here, although they said that these two are nearly identical, which they obviously are not, the sales person is technically right, because it's a marketing strategy.. well, we can say that technically an iPad is a blown up iPod, with its own set of apps that have the same functions, but designed to make use of the screen estate. But have you ever heard of a sales person goes about saying that the two are identical? the concept of "near" is vague, 1000 miles is near if compared to 1 light years.. So if by near the person means it is of the same UI design sans the ability to run legacy apps, then it's still correct.. if that person said that the two are THE SAME, then they are misleading.. as long as they still state that there is a difference, well, they are not misleading.. and for a person making a $600 purchase, they will obviously ask what is the difference.. because, when you are presented with the Pro version with a higher tag compared to the RT, and the sales person says that the two are only "nearly" identical, but not the same, then people will most likely ask..

83. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

As others have mentioned, I do not own an iPhone. I own a Galaxy Nexus and a Nexus 7. My wife has an iPad and a BlackBerry. And, for a couple months earlier this year, I used an HTC Radar to get to know WP7 better.

64. Nadr1212

Posts: 741; Member since: Sep 22, 2012

Heh, Windows RT is the Handicapped brother of Windows 8. So hilarious :P

72. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

Sounds more like the red-haired step-brother to me.

19. jimjam unregistered

I think anyone who goes into any store without information expecting the store clerks to give it to them is nuts.

25. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

Apple store employees are pretty honest. So are the VZW corporate store employees I have had dealings with. The corporation has an obligation to ensure that its employee representatives fairly present information about its products and services. When the iPhone 3 (maybe 3GS, it was the model that implemented 3G data service) was first released, I had a similar experience where I was interested in the data transfer speed. In the area where I live, AT&T had not upgraded its service to 3G. I went into the store and asked if there was 3G service in my area. The response was to open up AT&T's service coverage website and the answer was there for all to see. There was no attempt to 'sell' me on the new iToy.

66. Nadr1212

Posts: 741; Member since: Sep 22, 2012

Apple Store Employees are only Pretty honest because They know all their products are famous And very Well known so there's no point in lying


Posts: 2315; Member since: Jul 30, 2011

Michael, I have had the same experience at the Apple Store in SOHO on several occasions, why the double standard; a misinformed consumer is what many of these companies count on and it's how they thrive in sales. I just came out of Best Buy near Columbus Circle and, although the Windows' in-store rep' was helpful, he seemed to be at a loss when it came to a few if my questions. To his credit, he tried. My conclusion on Windows 8: it it's visual appearance is ghastly; those damn tiles are an "eye" sore; it's confused, like your Dear Lord Tim Cook Hail Mary said it was - it's doesn't know what it wants to be, simple or complex? it might be good for someone who's never had a computer before and has NO basis for comparison. The bigger question is: Microsoft hasn't really had any success with their Mobile platform since Windows Mobile 2003SE and WM6/WP6, respectively (WM5/WP5 was a bust), what makes them think that the end-user is going to adopt Windows 8 (which is more like a hybrid) if their Platform has been a bust since, essentially, 2008?? I never thought I'd say this but, I would buy a Macbook Pro and it's Resolutionary Retina HD super display before I'd buy those crapppppy tiles.

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