Windows RT reaches end of life

Pictured: Microsoft Surface RT

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28 November 2013 | 0

There won’t be much disappointment when Windows RT is taken off the market – which could be sooner than later. The past few months have seen one manufacturer after another ditch their plans to develop tablets running the power-efficient stripped down desktop operating system. When Dell pronounced the software a failure it was effectively game over. Now Microsoft’s Surface RT 2 is the only place you’re likely to get a recent system with an RT install.

As an experiment in dealing with lower spec PCs Windows RT could have found its niche, but as a competitor for Android and iOS in the tablet space it was only ever going to fail and worse, show just how much Microsoft did not ‘get’ mobile.

In a talk given at the UBS Technology Conference, EVP of devices Julie Larson-Green flagged the end of RT, admitting that having three operating systems – Windows Phone, RT, and Windows 8 – was too many and that the company didn’t do a good job of explaining exactly what RT was and its benefits. The problem wasn’t marketing, or the Microsoft brand or the quality of the hardware it ran on. The problem was that RT was a stripped down desktop operating system for devices that run upscaled mobile operating systems. Tablet apps for iOS and Android are broadly similar to their smartphone equivalents only tweaked to take advantage of better spec. Windows RT replicated the user experience of the desktop without the ability to run desktop apps at a price point comparable to the iPad and more than many Android-powered alternatives. The hardware benefits of better battery life were far outshone by the restricted user experience.

This leaves Microsoft with a dilemma about what to do with the revamped Surface RT. Between price drops afforded to students and so-called Black Friday offers aimed at the Christmas market, units have been selling for as little as $199 – less than the $270 unit production cost on the first Surface RT. A better value prospect would be hybrid devices like Dell’s XP10 that have a decent keyboard dock with a second battery, basically turning your tablet into a low-spec laptop.

Microsoft will learn from the failed experiment of RT. The best way forward is to rebrand Windows Phone as a platform for smartphones and tablets, creating a clear separation between Windows on mobile and the desktop. First and foremost that means ditching the modern user interface from PCs.

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