Does Windows RT Lack Clear Direction and Purpose?

As a tech writer, I cover a broad range of different platforms and topics from Android to iOS and of course Windows. I truly believe that the more competition is out there, the better.
I want all of these options to do well, as it means more choice for consumers and for enterprise users. It is discouraging to constantly hear negative news about Windows 8. I truly believe Windows 8 is a sleeping giant with a ton of potential for businesses and everyday users alike.

I have been using Windows 8 on my desktop since the early preview builds, and have truly seen it evolve into quite a capable product.

As for Windows RT? From the beginning I’ve had mixed emotions about Windows RT. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that in many ways ARM is better for mobile needs that Intel. The problem is that Microsoft Windows has its heart and soul tied into the WinTEL ecosystem it helped create.

Without x86 app compatibilities, I was unsure whether Windows RT could survive. I didn’t want it to fail, but there were so many unknowns regarding it. That said, I also felt that if handled right, Windows RT could make a huge difference for Microsoft’s future in the mobile world.

The bad news is that I think my fears are coming true. I believe Windows 8 has tons of potential and will be a win in the long-term, but Windows RT needs to figure itself out now— before it is too late.

The Surface RT is gorgeous. It runs well, and RT works well enough. That said, I am one of those that feel it is a little on the high-side when it comes to price. Sure, it isn’t too much more than the iPad, but the iPad has an established ecosystem, while the Surface doesn’t.

I think the Surface RT could end up a major success, but they might not find that level of achievement until the second generation of hardware.

So what is wrong with Windows RT? First, it doesn’t seem to have clear direction or support, at least outside of Microsoft. There are few RT tablets out there outside of the Surface, and that has a lot do with Microsoft from the sounds of it.

Microsoft Controlled Nearly Every Aspect of Windows RT Development

According to CNET, Microsoft was a control freak from the beginning. Even before hardware makers knew about the Surface, Microsoft was right there controlling every driver and every aspect of Windows RT hardware.
After the Surface was announced, many of these partners were dumbstruck. They had only a few days warning before the Surface RT was unveiled, and soon found that Microsoft pretty much knew everything they had did with their tablets and was basically taking that knowledge and crafting their own “reference model”.

I think the Surface was a good idea, but I think full-disclosure about their intentions from the beginning of Windows RT would have been the right thing to do.

The State of Windows RT

I’m not saying that controlling every aspect of Windows RT and its hardware was necessarily a bad thing. If Microsoft had a clear plan, it was fine. Instead, they pretty much seemed to scare away most RT alternatives to the Surface or at the very least delayed them.

They also created tension between many of the vendors and Microsoft.

In it’s current state, Windows RT doesn’t seem to be offer clear enough of a reason to purchase it. I like the Windows Store, but why limit yourself just to it when an x86 tablet is only a few hundred dollars more? I understand that many users need better battery life but some of the Atom alternatives running Windows 8 are pretty darn close performance-wise to the Surface without being too terribly higher in cost.

What can Microsoft do to convince consumers and business users of Windows RT’s worth?

Give us a price difference. The low-end Windows 8 tablets start at just a few hundred more than the Windows RT options we currently have. We need a bigger gap or some other kind of incentive. For example, if the Surface RT included the touch cover at its current price, I’d be more interested in buying it.

Advertise reasons WHY we need Windows RT. As someone who has been hearing all of this from the beginning I understand that ARM is more power efficient. But why else? Microsoft needs to WOW us and make us crave Windows RT if they want their ARM offerings to be a runaway success.

Vary the hardware? If ARM tablets looked sexier, cooler, etc.. we might think of them as the more cutting-edge and exciting option. Right now, x86 and ARM devices seem to have about the same style and design approaches– but X86 also works with old-school Windows stuff.

I trust Microsoft, and I think they will eventually get everything worked out. I’m just not sure if Windows RT’s launch was handled as well as it could have been.

Could I be totally wrong? Sure, I certainly could. Keep in mind this is my opinion, and I respect your right to feel differently about the topic. What do you think? Do you like Windows RT, do you feel that Microsoft handled it’s launch just fine?

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