November 06, 2012, 3:28 PM — Microsoft has confirmed what many had suspected, that it didn't offer a 16GB Surface RT tablet because there would have been virtually no room for customer content on the device.
According to a FAQ published Monday, a 32GB Surface has approximately 16GB of storage space available after accounting for the Windows RT operating device, numerous built-in "Windows Store" (formerly "Metro") apps, OS recovery tools, and the bundled Office RT.
The operating system, apps and Office RT consume 8GB, while the Windows recovery tools occupy another 5GB. In other words, about 45% of the storage in an entry-level Surface RT has already been spoken for before the tablet is unboxed.
(The numbers don't add up to 32 because while drive space is almost always expressed in "digital" gigabytes calculated as 109, or 1,000,000,000 bytes, most operating systems, including Windows, calculate "binary" gigabytes as 10243, or 1,073,741,824 bytes. A "digital" gigabyte then, is only 93% of a "binary" gigabyte. That's how the advertised 32GB in the Surface ends up being seen by Windows as 29.8GB.)
A 64GB Surface RT provides about 46GB of available storage space, or 78% of the total.
Although Microsoft spelled out the two storage options when it introduced the Surface last June, it did not reveal how much would be available to the customer or say why it wasn't offering a 16GB model, presumably at a lower price. Many assumed that Windows' size simply precluded a 16GB device.
It wasn't until the day of the Surface RT launch event, where prices were disclosed that someone from Microsoft first talked about how much storage space would be available to the user.
In a wide-ranging Reddit "Ask Me Anything" discussion thread on Oct. 16, Ricardo Lopez, test manager for Surface RT, said, "After the OS, Office RT and a bunch of apps, you will still have more than 20GB."
It's unclear why Lopez claimed 20GB when the actual space available is approximately 16GB. Microsoft did not reply to a request for an explanation or comment.