It’s often said that the worst thing a parent can do is bury their own child. Unfortunately for Microsoft, it needs to suffer the same pain by pulling the plug on Windows RT – it will be painful and embarrassing, but it’ll be better off for it.
Born out of confusion
Windows RT, if you don’t already know, is the ‘other’ version of Windows for tablets. It runs on ARM processors and comes with Microsoft Office 2013 installed running in desktop mode, but users can only install and run tablet apps from the Windows Store. In other words, it looks and smells like proper Windows, but it’s not wearing any trousers/pants – delete as appropriate.
Everyone predicted consumer confusion, and low and behold confusion it was. In response Samsung has dropped its RT tablet ¹, Lenovo has all but switched its Yoga tablet-laptop to Windows 8 ², and Asus has made a Windows 8 tablet for the same price as the Surface with Windows RT ³. I can’t remember seeing an RT tablet of note at CES 2013 at all.
A blessing in disguise
Windows RT is a cock-up, then. That much anyone could, and did, predict. But provided Microsoft acts fast and kills RT, it can salvage some respectability. The white knight here is Intel – its next generation of Atom processors appear to lay waste to the bad name the Atom brand garnered in the netbook days. In future, Windows 8 tablets should last over 8 to 10 hours, which is good enough to nix the need for ARM processors.
Killing RT will give consumers, retailers and manufacturers much needed clarity and confidence, while strengthening the Windows tablet proposition considerably. That’s not to say Windows 8 is the perfect solution — it has many problems on tablets, not least its bloated size. But the longer Microsoft’s confusing duopoly continues, the harder it’ll be to undo the damage.