Thoughts on why Microsoft hasn't killed Windows RT

Christian Kallevig

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When Intel showed off their Bay Trail line of Atom processors I got to wondering about why Microsoft wouldn't just drop Windows RT and make an Intel-powered Surface 2. Certainly an x86 or x64 processor could offer just as much power and even compete on battery life at this point, while offering the ability to run old Windows apps. As I thought about it, I realized that Microsoft isn't killing Windows RT because Windows RT is the future of Windows. I don't know that old Windows will ever truly die, but I there's a lot of baggage attached to it that Microsoft probably wants to drop. Everyone, even people who love it, knows Windows is a bit of a mess. How could something that's been built up for decades not be?

Windows RT over time is going to lose all of the fat of old Windows. It introduces a new driver model, new APIs, a new interface, etc. Of course the fact that it is unable to run old apps is somewhat of a fabrication. It can technically so long as they are ported over to ARM, but Microsoft won't allow anything without their own signature to run. I do think this should be changeable, even as a hidden option, but realistically it won't matter for much longer. The new Windows is going to get more powerful and in time it will do everything you could on the desktop in some fashion. The interface has just been rethought to focus on what matters most in today's world- apps and the web, not files and folders.

Anyway, the point seems somewhat moot to me anyway. Surface RT doesn't really need to be a full PC in my book. I don't want to use it for gaming or computationally demanding work like Maya or Photoshop. So to me the fact that we are stuck on ARM is not really that bad, and it's something that is going to become more normal in the future. This is where Windows is headed. Maybe not right now, but soon. It's just what has to happen for Microsoft to stay competitive in the consumer space.
 

Laura Knotek

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That does make sense from a consumer standpoint. Files and folders definitely have more relevance for business use than consumer content consumption.
 

rebornempowered

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Everyone is clamoring for Atom only because the battery life is now on par with ARM (allegedly) but that is operating under the assumption that ARM isn't going to improve on battery life and performance. x86 and x64 processors are not going to be stagnant but ARM isn't either and therefore ARM is going to be around for a while. Imagine if ARM ends up with an amazing new development and Microsoft didn't have an ARM based OS. People would be talking about how they were behind the times.
 

theefman

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OP: RT may be the future, it may not. No one can tell what will happen, especially in the tech world and if it does become the new default Windows that wont happen for a long time. The problem with RT today though, at least the major one IMO, is the fact that Windows has been around for over 20 years and in its current state its impossible to replace the legacy of expectations that length of time brings with it. There is a wealth of functionality and flexibility that just is expected with a Windows device and RT doesn't provide that now. The OS also has to evolve to accommodate the advanced functionality available in the current version of Windows and that will take time. Especially when it comes to the enterprise, who are typically reluctant to upgrade to a new OS and have much more varied needs than regular consumers.

On the flip side, ios and android are new platforms only a few years old and the expectation with these devices has been defined by the relatively limited nature of their operating systems and having no previous functionality to duplicate so the apps and ecosystems have been built to suit them perfectly. In this area where almost all functionality comes from newly created app experiences RT cant yet compete and so is found wanting there again. And again, to be competitive with those platforms will take time for the apps to come and the ecosystem to grow. (However the pending merging of the respective app stores of WP and RT will definitely help, but again is subject to a wait before it happens, but will certainly boost the RT argument).

So Windows RT finds itself caught between the expectations from a traditional Windows userbase and consumers who are used to the new app model of computing and in many ways is not able to satisfy either market, so you have the conundrum of why does RT exist. And at this present time that is a situation that leads many to question why RT exists, especially in the face of advances by Intel in performance and battery life in Atom and Core processors respectively.

Ultimately, Microsoft's vision with RT may come true but it is going to take time. Consider that even Microsoft haven't yet ported their Office suite to a fully touch version and its clear that moving completely to RT, if it ever does happen, is going to take time, further development of the OS and also the willingness of all the current Windows application owners to embrace the new Windows based on RT. Right now though I think its valid to say that Windows RT is not yet ready to effectively service the wide variation in users that Windows has accumulated over the years and allow Microsoft to also accommodate the new trends in computing while also defining the future of computing.

@rebornempowered: Atom has matched RT devices in battery performance from their launch. And as for why people want it, just ask the Firefox team which OS their metro browser is going to. Prime example of what I'm describing above.
 
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Christian Kallevig

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Oh yes, we are definitely not talking about something that will happen in the short term here, but I think Microsoft's goals (at least for now) are clear. Old Windows is dying a slow death. It will be used for many years to come, especially with many companies still migrating to Windows 7 today... But application development for Windows has all but died off. Consumer demand is fading, and Windows as it was is ill-suited to meet the demands of the future. Of course enterprise use of it will go on regardless for the foreseeable future, but Surface 2 and Windows RT are targeted squarely at consumers

This isn't even about ARM or x86. It's about moving away from the past and changing expectations for the future. It's about changing the understanding of what Windows is. Now, I'm not making a statement about whether or not I agree with any of this, just that it's what I think Windows RT is here for. For the record, I'd still love to see a Bay Trail-powered Surface, but it won't happen, and really I don't need it to. Realistically my Surface (and by extension the Surface 2) does exactly what I want it to. It lets me browse the web, make Skype calls, manage my SkyDrive, watch movie, view the photos I take on my phone and occasionally kill time on some simple games. It's not my main computer, but I find myself taking it everywhere with me often in place of my laptop. The only thing it really can't do that matters to me is run my many PC games, but I prefer playing those on my laptop anyway.

The expectations that exist for Windows are definitely going to hurt the Surface (and have), but people need to start seeing it as a tablet that does PC things rather than a PC that is shaped like a tablet. It is competing with other tablets, not PCs. I think for a lot of people this could replace a full PC though. Probably not anyone here as I'm willing to bet almost all of us are 'power users' of some kind and still depend on our PCs every day for more than just using MS Word every now and then. But for that to happen... Well, it's an uphill battle for Microsoft to say the least. First and foremost they have to make people understand what Surface 2/RT are and aren't. And second, they have to explain why it is valuable... Especially when some Android tablets offer superior specs at lower prices

What else? I think Microsoft needs to really make Win RT more powerful for app developers. They are too limited in what they can do now and that is hurting the ecosystem as a whole

Edit: I forgot to mention this, and it ties into what I was saying, but I think one of the reasons Microsoft is pushing ahead on ARM is that they can be in complete control of the hardware and make sure it works as well with Windows as possible.
And that's a big deal for them as anyone who has built a Windows PC knows (or even bought one prebuilt) that there's always some hiccups with hardware drivers and such. And I think they want to kill that perception and provide a consistent and high quality experience on their consumer-focused devices. And for them at least, Surface is the most important consumer-facing device running Windows.
 
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JKing106

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RT is the future of Windows. It cuts out all the x86 backwards compatibility crap, allowing Microsoft to move forward at a quicker pace without worrying about Grandma's Sewing Pattern Program from 1998 not working. And that's a good thing.
 

JKing106

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Oh yes, we are definitely not talking about something that will happen in the short term here, but I think Microsoft's goals (at least for now) are clear. Old Windows is dying a slow death. It will be used for many years to come, especially with many companies still migrating to Windows 7 today... But application development for Windows has all but died off. Consumer demand is fading, and Windows as it was is ill-suited to meet the demands of the future. Of course enterprise use of it will go on regardless for the foreseeable future, but Surface 2 and Windows RT are targeted squarely at consumers

This isn't even about ARM or x86. It's about moving away from the past and changing expectations for the future. It's about changing the understanding of what Windows is. Now, I'm not making a statement about whether or not I agree with any of this, just that it's what I think Windows RT is here for. For the record, I'd still love to see a Bay Trail-powered Surface, but it won't happen, and really I don't need it to. Realistically my Surface (and by extension the Surface 2) does exactly what I want it to. It lets me browse the web, make Skype calls, manage my SkyDrive, watch movie, view the photos I take on my phone and occasionally kill time on some simple games. It's not my main computer, but I find myself taking it everywhere with me often in place of my laptop. The only thing it really can't do that matters to me is run my many PC games, but I prefer playing those on my laptop anyway.

The expectations that exist for Windows are definitely going to hurt the Surface (and have), but people need to start seeing it as a tablet that does PC things rather than a PC that is shaped like a tablet. It is competing with other tablets, not PCs. I think for a lot of people this could replace a full PC though. Probably not anyone here as I'm willing to bet almost all of us are 'power users' of some kind and still depend on our PCs every day for more than just using MS Word every now and then. But for that to happen... Well, it's an uphill battle for Microsoft to say the least. First and foremost they have to make people understand what Surface 2/RT are and aren't. And second, they have to explain why it is valuable... Especially when some Android tablets offer superior specs at lower prices

What else? I think Microsoft needs to really make Win RT more powerful for app developers. They are too limited in what they can do now and that is hurting the ecosystem as a whole

Edit: I forgot to mention this, and it ties into what I was saying, but I think one of the reasons Microsoft is pushing ahead on ARM is that they can be in complete control of the hardware and make sure it works as well with Windows as possible.
And that's a big deal for them as anyone who has built a Windows PC knows (or even bought one prebuilt) that there's always some hiccups with hardware drivers and such. And I think they want to kill that perception and provide a consistent and high quality experience on their consumer-focused devices. And for them at least, Surface is the most important consumer-facing device running Windows.

I think what really hurt the Surface was Microsoft didn't differentiate Windows RT from Windows x86 in the marketing. They should have named it Windows Touch, or Surface OS, or something that let consumers know it's not the same operating system, and isn't cross compatible. They also need to stop slapping the "Windows" name on everything. "Windows" does not carry postivie connotations with the general public. Would you have bought the Xbox if it had been named "Windows Console System?" That's what has hurt Windows Phone, in my opinion. I would have suggested naming it the "Surface Phone," but that brand has been tarnished now.
 

Christian Kallevig

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Yeah, that is part of it to be sure. Also using the Windows brand makes people think the Surface is something it isn't, a regular Windows PC. Microsoft really needs to make this crystal clear to consumers
 

WillysJeepMan

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I think what really hurt the Surface was Microsoft didn't differentiate Windows RT from Windows x86 in the marketing. They should have named it Windows Touch, or Surface OS, or something that let consumers know it's not the same operating system, and isn't cross compatible.
Obviously legacy x86 apps won't run in Win RT, but are apps coded for Win RT able to run on Surface Pro?
 

JKing106

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No, different architectures. Apps can recompiled to run on different architectures, however. They should have never called RT "Windows." It's confusing to anyone who's not a computer geek.
 

six6xis

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RT is the future of Windows. It cuts out all the x86 backwards compatibility crap, allowing Microsoft to move forward at a quicker pace without worrying about Grandma's Sewing Pattern Program from 1998 not working. And that's a good thing.

Amen. Microsoft makes a tablet based on RT and one that's full x86. The partners can concentrate on Baytrail and x86 tablets/ultrabooks. Sounds good to me.
 

xandros9

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RT is Microsoft's backup plan, might as well keep it around.

Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but I would think the hardware behind RT is cheaper to make, making it more on-par with iPad, where Pro is more of a beautiful ultrabook
 

Christian Kallevig

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An Atom-powered tablet would be no more expensive to produce for Microsoft. Although OEMs have to worry about the cost of Windows licenses either way. If you ask me, Windows 8 is the real backup plan in the long term. Microsoft wants to ease us all onto Windows RT over time.
 

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