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Microsoft's first consumer Surface was released five years ago on Oct. 26, 2012

Microsoft first announced this exciting new device in June of 2012) but it wasn't until that fall, on October 26, 2012, that the device was publicly released (opens in new tab).

It was not technically the first piece of Surface hardware Microsoft ever released — that honor goes to the so-called "Surface coffee table" or the "PixelSense" that debuted in 2007 — but it was the first consumer-facing Surface … even if it was basically a glorified tablet that ran a limited version of Windows, called Windows RT. This first Surface would come to be known as Surface RT, for that reason.

Surface RT definitely wasn't Microsoft's most impressive Surface ever — that honor probably goes to the recently unveiled Surface Book 2. But it represents the initial stepping stone on a path that led to Microsoft creating its own PC hardware, and with it, an example of exactly what the Windows experience can and should be.

Surface also firmly positioned Microsoft as genuine competitor with Apple from a hardware standpoint, but also from a consumer perspective. Microsoft created Surface to gain more control over the entire Windows experience, both hardware and software. Surface PCs today are cool, and that definitely wasn't always the case for Microsoft, Windows, and PCs in general.

The Surface RT, released just five short years ago, paved the way. So today we say happy birthday, Surface.

Al Sacco is content director of Future PLC's Mobile Technology Vertical, which includes AndroidCentral.com, iMore.com and WindowsCentral.com. He is a veteran reporter, writer, reviewer and editor who has professionally covered and evaluated IT and mobile technology, and countless associated gadgets and accessories, for more than a decade. You can keep up with Al on Twitter and Instagram.

45 Comments
  • At first release this was a buggy and slow tablet.  After numerous firmware updates and the Windows 8.1 update with Outlook added this became an actual useful device.  My daughters used it as a compainion device with its full Office and full browser for college and I used it at work as a carry around with full outlook and full browsers for my corporate web apps.  It running on ARM and locked down and no apps is what made it a crappy device for most people but the design is what made Surface what it is today. 
  • My launch day Surface RT device was stable and fast. Later there were problems with the WiFi firmware and connected standby though. Those issues took a few months to be fixed.
  • Dupe
  • Dupe
  • Dupe
  • Agreed, my RT at launch was great. It got slower and buggier over time. . At some point, it became unusable for anything but basic email and web browsing.
  • May we remember the Windows 8 style Start screen
  • For tablets.
  • "Surface RT definitely wasn't Microsoft's most impressive Surface ever — that honor probably goes to the recently unveiled Surface Book 2."- I think the real game changed when Microsoft introduced Surface Pro 3; SP3 showed everyone what Surface is meant for Microsoft. #HappyBirthdaySurface
  • My daily use device is still a SP3 (i5, 4GB, 128GB). And I still have an RT. I replaced my launch day 32GB with a 64GB version. My 6 yr old uses it for games and Netflix.
  • I think from a technical POV the Surface RT is incredibly impressive.  Basically it's a Windows PC that runs natively on ARM as a tablet.  It supports Remote desktop, networking, USB, thousands of printers, etc. - everything that Windows 8.1 natively supports.  Mostly complete version of Office 2013 (minus macros which home users rarely use anyway).  The lack of a good browser is the only disadvantage.  I use mine all the time to this day.
  • still got a surface pro1 too
  • Oh ya. I'm using mine now. I bought it with the intent to use it for a long time. $900 was a lot of money for me back then... I'm holding out for the first snapdragon powered surface. Battery life is really all I yearn for
  • Same I use my original Surface Pro 128GB every week. I bought it at the last Microsoft TechEd conference for $500
  • Gave it to my grandson, he uses it. I moved on to a Pro3 while back, but the pro1 still runs smooth.
  • I still keep my Surface RT, but now it's retired, I replaced it with Surface 3. It was quite a story to buy that Surface RT, Damn Microsoft selling strategy kept me from getting one in local stores, had to find one in eBay who was willing ship it overseas, because Amazon refused it.....
  • I thought this was a great device. It got a lot of flak from many who felt like it was a hamstrung version of Windows, but for me employing several different devices, I always used the Surface RT as a tablet - meaning light consumption of email, web etc. I started reading my daily newspaper in pdf format and unleashed a large collection of digitital comics. It was somewhat expensive for just these uses I will admit. Also, I learned and grew to like the tablet mode of Windows 8 by using the RT. Admittedly, the first time I encountered the OS on a desktop I was dissapointed like most. 
  • It's funny how the most superior touch environment - even by today's standards - can be the absolute crappiest experience on the desktop, isn't it?
  • It's not funny how wrong you are. It was great on desktops, too.
  • Satya's next book "Hit Escape"
  • I'm still using mine. So many things went downhill since then:
    - Mail app design and functions like autofilters, notifications from special contacts, autorecognizing that contacts, design of printed emails (print/PDF)
    - TOUCH cover!
    - OneDrive placeholders! after so many years Windows 10 now gets it again while it was here on first Surface all this time!
    - charms bar and quick sharing it with email or saving to read it later (amazing Poki app!)
  • They REALLY need to improve the tablet interface on Windows 10. Until they have an affordable Windows on ARM device and a redone tablet experience I'm not going to bother buying another Tablet
  • They don't care. Look what happened with mobile and where W10 is going with every iteration of changes :/ I'm really worried where it all is going.
  • I've lost interest in W10M. I just want a nice Tablet running windows that doesn't feel like they crammed a desktop OS onto it with few optimizations. Preferably something smaller than the Pro but larger than a Phablet.
  • Same with me, I remember how handy was Nexus 7 (1st gen) - 7 inch vertically oriented and with many nice apps like Feedly, Pocket it was amazing! So amazing that it was stolen ;D
  • Using a S2 and S3 daily, hopefully for some time to come.
    The S3 just got the Fall update, love the new stuff for pen and sketch. Still miss some W8 stuff in W10 regarding tablet usage, like the keyboard automatically popping up etc. Other than that it's not too bad for 'finger usage'... ;-)
  • Surface today is cool? :)) design wise yes, it looks nice, but is horribly buggy and with that mediocre windows 10 OS that has a sub-mediocre tablet experience, is a nogo! Also considering MS's proven history of ditch and runs, poor to none support and almost zero quality control, I'll pass
  • Which Surface have you owned?
  • "Which Surface have you owned?" None, he is an Apple fanboy that has made it clear that he would not touch anything from Microsoft. He is here to troll and that is all.
  • I use my launch Surface RT every evening for casual browsing and solitaire. I keep it up to date. The only thing that doesn't work is the manual volume button. Every Christmas it plays hundreds of tunes for hours at a time to a Bluetooth speaker.. The IE11 is a terribly slow browsing experience with spotty video support. Ads kill it too.
  • I'm still typing away on the original surface pro.  It's starting to get some vibration noises once in a while but still seem to be working even with the latest fall creators update.
  • Satya would have killed that thing the second he saw it if he had the chance.
  • If that were true, then he would have cancelled the current devices. But Surface is doing well, they have no plans on closing it down, and comments like yours are simply spreading FUD.
  • Point is he would have NEVER let Surface stumble at first and then mature into a good product line. He would have killed it from the start probably before it was even released. He's not currently killing Surface cause it was allowed to get a foot hold and mature as a product line. The first and second gen devices were very hit and miss.
  • I think I used my original Surface RT more than I use my Surface 3 now.  Although I have to admit I do love my Surface 3 much better.
  • I own a Surface 3 and a Surface Pro 3. They have their quirks, but, I'm keeping them for the long haul. ☺️
  • Still have one, in very good condition and battery A+ By the pool on vacation, holds out longer then my SP4 for watching you tube and movies  
  • Used the 1st Surface Pro for work. Great little device. The Surface line sure has come a long way
  • My dad still has his (he bought it when the second one came out), and uses it all the time for web browsing and pics of my kids.
  • My mos still has it :P  Uses this mainly for skype but skype experience on rt and rt in general has been in pretty bad shape lately. 
  • I still have and use my Surface RT weekly.  Although the system is slower now with the win 10 updates.  I hate that MS killed the device and future developments,  it filled a need in the consumer market as a consumption device at an affordable price point.
  • Microsoft only "killed" RT because the press wouldn't give it a fair review since it didn't run Win32 apps. Then Intel killed the Atom processor, so the Surface 3 never got a successor. Neither of those reasons were really under Microsoft's control.
  • Surface RT was awesome.  Great mini-tablet with full Office capability
  • I got the Surface RT (32GB) bundle the day after it was available.  It was good and then got slower.  Eventually, I stopped it from syncing with Onedrive and that seemed to speed up the startup time.  Also deleting the older versions of Windows helped free up some space on the drive.  It's still great on battery life and for watching movies.
  • Still rocking my surface pro 1. Also almost reaching its 5 year milestone.