Yes you can. The iPad used to take a long time to do a factory restore (I'm going on the assumption that he's correct it's changed recently, but I'm skeptical). That has nothing to do with "PC baggage" of any kind. They're just different approaches. The iPad requires you to be plugged into a PC to restore it, so it would use the latest image iTunes had downloaded. The Surface includes the full restore image on a recovery partition. The advantage is you can always restore it without a disk or tethering to a machine (or an internet connection and the patience to download the whole thing). A disadvantage of the implementation is that the image doesn't include monthly updates. This isn't legacy, this is an entire feature that was built just for Windows 8/RT devices. It was just built with different priorities and requirements in mind than the iPad's solution of tethering to iTunes.
I still think he's not talking about doing a restore operation on the iPad and is just talking about the "reset to factory settings" option, which is nothing like doing a full reimage of the device.
But it does carry that baggage.
For instance, the mount system of Linux made the update process for Android a lot smoother to do for Google. They have a clean separation between all user data and the OS data. Windows doesn't have a similar mount system so it is next to impossible to separate the OS from the user application and modifications in a live system. If this baggage didn't exist Microsoft could similarly update the "OS" partition as soon as an update is installed while ensuring that the user could clean the system of all of their changes without having to also wipe that OS partition.
This is the core of his complaint and to claim that the architectural decisions of Windows that Windows RT inherited don't contribute to the problem is an error I wouldn't expect you to make.
As he mentioned, there are pros and cons to this like all things that exist in our universe.
Isn't that exactly the point right there? That there isn't an equivalent action for what he is asking? On competing devices, you get a reset to factory settings which RT doesn't have. It only give the option of a refresh, which isn't profile destructive, or the full PC-reinstall, which is more than just dropping the latest image 'on' the device.
Do you disagree that even the conception of 'monthly patches' is anathema to the competition's firmware type updates, which is really his point?
Sure, its a different approach, just like squashing 'down' Windows for slates instead of 'growing up' WP is a different approach (and hence the need to tether or not). That still isn't a denial of what is factually true - RT is clearly more PC like (pro and con) than the competition or WP in the 'post-PC' world.
So my question to you is, if unification is the M.O. MS has adopted, why do they treat phones differently? Why wasn't RT developed with them in mind and not just slates/desktops?
This has confused me to no end regarding what Microsoft did with Windows 8. Their decision to pull Windows desktop down to the tablet and not to follow Apple's lead and pull the phone OS up to the tablet will forever confuse me. I think this was the major reason Windows RT has had as much trouble in the market as it has had. The tablet and the phone has far more in common than the desktop does at present. It would have been far better for them to pull the phone OS up and to build great connections between the shared phone + tablet OS with the desktop.
Sadly, it seems MS bet wrongly that by throwing the full Windows user base at developers they would gain some serious traction. We now know that hasn't happened. There are apps continuing to be released for Windows RT/Metro/Whatever the name is, but we don't see it as the #1 or even #2 platform for new mobile app development.