Books written by Ray Sullivan

Monday, 21 October 2013

Is Microsoft Killing RT?

It's no secret that RT, the ARM based version of Windows 8, isn't winning the battle.  The problems identified a day or so ago with upgrading existing RT Windows 8 to 8.1 certainly hasn't helped.

By the way, some reports, probably including my last post, may imply that the whole Windows 8.1 upgrade has been pulled by Microsoft.  It hasn't and if you are running version 8.0 on a laptop or desktop, or on a Surface Pro, then it seems there is no reason why you shouldn't upgrade and plenty of reasons why you should.

But the RT version is a different beast and is a compromise.  It's designed to run on a mobile phone processor so there is inevitably some areas that it is going to underperform.  To be clear, if you like the form factor of the Surface, virtually the same size as an iPad, literally one once heavier, with the touchy, feely interface that the iPad has championed but you don't want the RT, then buy the Pro.  But be aware that although you're going to get a faster machine that will run legacy Windows 7 programs you are going to have to fork out a lot more cash.  And if you want to do something productive, such as using Word or Excel (and let's face it, if you don't hanker after that level of functionality, why aren't you looking at an iPad or Nexus?) then on the Pro you'll have to pay for the license.

But with the RT you get iPad-like functionality, Office 365 to run and edit your Office documents and, should Microsoft get the update to 8.1 sorted out, Outlook as well for much the same price as an iPad.  It should be a no-brainer unless you're computing requirements are limited to Facebook and surfing, in which case perhaps 'no-brainer' may be literally true.  If you want to write using a real word processor, calculate using formulas, produce PowerPoint slides that can be used on any PC in the world then perhaps RT isn't looking too shabby.

However it still doesn't seem to spin a lot of wheels, even now it's being discounted ahead of the Surface 2 launch.  The reason is the lack of apps.  Full fat Windows 8 is doing OK, but the developers are fighting shy of expending effort on the RT version.  And there's the problem; until the apps reach a critical mass, sales of the RT based machines will be slow.  While they are slow, development of new apps will lag.  A vicious circle.  Microsoft have been flashing the cash lately, and have even offered serious cash to developers to jump on-board.  Perhaps they need to do more.

One way would be to set up an app development team that worked with the major app producers; give them a financial incentive to develop RT based apps or offer talent to do the development specifically for the RT on their behalf, still providing cash incentives.  Make the offer time limited; sign up before a certain date or take a risk that the well will be dry.

Whatever Microsoft do, hopefully they won't give up on RT.  Unless they can produce a full featured version like the Pro at RT prices the world will be a poorer place and we'll just have to stand by and watch Google and Apple slug it out.  Microsoft have offered  the possibility of a third way, an alternative route that makes tablet computing grow up and act like adults.  Without this level of competition there's no reason for the other two to make their devices suitable the grown up world.


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