The future of Microsoft’s tablet-oriented Windows RT operating system is still in question despite Microsoft’s continued optimism for the platform. Analysts are questioning the future of Windows RT based on the confusion created by Windows RT, pricing of the OS to OEMs for licensing, and increased competition from Intel’s new Bay Trail Atom processor that will deliver even more power at reduced prices.
Windows RT was created as a lighter version of Windows that could run on chips based on designs released by ARM Holdings. Like Windows 8, Windows RT starts up with the tiles-based Metro UI and is designed completely around the touch experience. However, where the confusion begins for some users is that unlike Windows 8, the cheaper priced Windows RT tablets are not able to run full desktop programs and are limited to apps that are sold through Microsoft’s Windows Store.
This presents two challenges. The first is that apps for the Windows Store are more limited and this will make it hard for Microsoft to compete against the vast number of cheaper Android tablets or against Apple’s popular iPad.
“If you’re going to have someone buy a device that requires all-new apps,” Wes Miller said in an interview with Computer World, of Windows RT, “than you need to have an amazing collection of apps.”
The second problem is that this causes confusion for customers. As both Windows 8 and Windows RT are branded under the “Windows” mark, customers may expect the full Windows experience and they won’t get that as Windows RT won’t run legacy programs designed for Windows 7 or earlier.
“They were hoping that Office on Windows RT would be enough,” Carolina Milanesi said regarding the free Office for RT suite that’s bundled with the Surface RT tablet. “But it wasn’t enough. Not that many people want to run Excel on a tablet.”
Another concern that analysts have is that Windows RT may be priced too high, considering that OEMs have to factor in the licensing cost to pay Microsoft. The problem is that Windows RT may be positioned as both a productive device as well as a content consumption device. Analysts say that Microsoft may do better to rebrand RT and position it as a content consumption device.
And given that Windows RT runs exclusively on chipsets based on ARM Holdings’ architecture, this may be a strategic move on the part of Microsoft given the growing popularity of ARM chips. However, Intel’s new Bay Trail platform for the Atom processor is catching up, and Intel says that performance of Bay Trail is significantly improving, which makes the value proposition for a Windows 8 tablet, hybrid, or notebook based on Bay Trail better than that of a Windows RT device. Bay Trail not only improves on performance, but power efficiency, and Intel is hinting that sub-$200 are forthcoming based on Bay Trail. This may make Bay Trail a better option, given that you’ll still be able to run legacy programs, than Windows RT on ARM.