Microsoft Should Kill Windows RT for These 2 Reasons

It's not a stretch to say Windows RT hasn't been a shining light in Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) software portfolio. And with recent comments from Microsoft, it sounds like the company is finally ready to at least consider killing off the tablet software. Here's why that's a good thing.

Surface RT. Source: Microsoft.

RT was confusing from the beginning
Back in October, Microsoft's product marketing manager for Surface, Jack Cowett, said, "We think that there was some confusion in the market last year on the difference between Surface RT and Surface Pro. We want to help make it easier for people, and these are two different products designed for two different people."

Cowett was talking about the launch of the new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets. But while he admitted the RT name was confusing, he stopped short of saying the operating system itself confused consumers.

But last week, Microsoft executive vice president of devices and studios, Julie Larson-Green, took it once step further. She said in an interview at the UBS Global Tech conference, "I think we didn't differentiate the devices well enough. They looked similar. Using them is similar. It just didn't do everything that you expected Windows to do. So there's been a lot of talk about it should have been a rebranding. We should not have called it Windows."

It's suprising Microsoft failed to see this before it launched the Surface 2 tablets just two months ago, considering that it's been pretty obvious that Window RT hasn't been winner for consumers, tablet makers or Microsoft. 

The software has come up short for everyone involved
By almost every account Windows RT hasn't been the mobile OS Microsoft was hoping for. In an interview with CNET last year, IHS iSuppli said the RT tablets had "very high" consumer return rates, possibly due to "a steep learning curve of the OS -- which is not necessarily intuitive."

That was just foreshadowing for the $900 million inventory adjustment Microsoft had to make for unsold Windows RT tablets over the summer.

As if high return rates and having to write down almost $1 billion wasn't enough, Microsoft has lost nearly every original equipment manufacturer that was building or planning to build a Windows RT tablet. Samung, Lenovo, Asus, and Dell have all jumped ship, leaving just Microsoft and its mobile partner-in-crime Nokia selling devices with the OS. The CEO of Asus, Jerry Shen, went so far to say, "It's not only our opinion, the industry sentiment is also that Windows RT has not been successful."

Time to move on
Microsoft's realization that Windows RT hasn't met consumers and OEMs' needs could be a positive turning point for the company. Larson-Green went on to say at the UBS conference that, "We have the Windows Phone OS. We have Windows RT and we have full Windows. We're not going to have three." That statement leaves a wide open mobile future for Microsoft, and hopefully one that doesn't involve RT in its current form. Microsoft could take a page out of Apple's book and create a combined mobile OS that runs on both smartphones and tablets. But Microsoft needs to take the final step and stop hinting at a world without Windows RT and actually make it happen. The company can't progress with its tablet ambitions if it continues to hobble along an OS that's spurned by consumers and OEMs.

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Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2013, at 2:17 PM, Klippenstein wrote:

    You are right, it is confusing for people who do not understand the underlying chipset/compatibility issues. Sure they should kill it, if they could. Seems an unnecessary complication. The only rationale I can think of for putting up with these limitations is saving money on the purchase for a Surface over the Surface pro (full windows 8.1). During Black Friday the 32G old Surface sold for $199. I already bought 1 at launch, bought two more for my student children. Maybe running less downloadable software and content, will help them be better students.

    These devices now come with Word, Excel, powerpoint and OneNote from office AND now, Outlook for great offline/online email! With light weight, no special airline security screens -- its a tablet and 8 or more hours of battery life ... it is a great deal. PLUS the new backlite keyboards works on the old surfaces.

    So why not call it Windows Lite: Apps, internet plus Office (only) and let people "do all this" for 1/2 the price of a Windows Pro systems. I love it!

    The only program I really miss using on it is Quicken so far. That's fine, I don't need to do accounting every day (don't want to either!).

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2013, at 2:25 PM, Klippenstein wrote:

    One more point... Apple has the same problem. The iPAD does not do much at all compared to the Mac. They have just fooled people into buying two screens. Clearly marketing tablets and computers separately is the easy (and more profitable) thing to do. In contrast, Microsoft was smart and honest enough to know that tablets and PC share essentially the same hardware ... only difference is the touch screen. They attempted the right thing, combine them and created a greater value proposition. But I digress, you are right, Microsoft should not have departed from intel chipset compatibility ... it muddied the waters big time. It was enough to try to do tablet and PC on one hardware device.

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2013, at 2:39 PM, Klippenstein wrote:

    Hey, just saw this description of Surface 2: "... there are lots of people who want a Surface 2 RT with its long battery [sic] life, silky smooth operating system, gorgeous screen and a full version of MS Office with Outlook. It combines the benefits of a tablet with the functionality of a PC as far as Office goes." (Seeking Alpha, Michael Blair).

    THAT might be the key to proper marketing. If you basically just want internet access and PC ... only as far as Office goes ... the Surface can work for you. If (Once) you want more, you migrate your data to a Surface Pro or Windows 8 touch screen enabled tablet, laptop or desktop PC. ... till then you are saving money!

    One thing that hasn't changed in all the years I have watched this industry: hardware depreciates to a value of ZERO. Only the data survives (ITS THE DATA STUDPID:-)). Running your data on the cheapest hardware that reliably does the job has always been a good idea (and has paid dividends!).

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2013, at 2:55 PM, brewer wrote:

    Surface is what happens when, instead of copying Apple directly as it did with DOS and Windows, they try to be 'innovative' and do something 'original'.

    MSFT owes it's fortunes to fooling IBM and ripping off Apple. They should probably stick with that.

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2013, at 2:58 PM, brewer wrote:

    @ Klippenstein: Spoken like a true Windows fanboy. Apple does NOT have a 'problem' with iPad no matter how much you wish for it. In a first attempt at a 'tablet' Apple hit it out of the ballpark. Watching MSFT fumble around (with no Apple example to COPY) had most people believing that the form factor would never materialize.

    Now it's taking away MSFT's bread and butter.

    Oh, and BTW, an iPad works great as an all around computer for almost anyone. And it's equipped to do most anything and being purchased in droves by education and business.

    Windows is a nightmare, how anyone trusts it for anything is astonishing, frankly.

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2013, at 4:04 PM, symbolset wrote:

    There is more advantage in killing off the legacy desktop. They cannot move forward dragging that anchor.

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2013, at 9:15 PM, JimmyFal wrote:

    So get rid of the only version of Windows that does not get viruses, toolbars, and Malware, but does get 10 hours of battery life?

    I guess that's why they call you guys fools.

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2013, at 10:36 PM, badgerzilla wrote:

    I had to clean this up a little but I just check out what people were saying about Microsoft on Twitter. I used Topsy for the search and this is what most people are saying about Microsoft - "F the space needle. F flannel shirts. F Microsoft. F Starbucks."

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2013, at 10:55 PM, badgerzilla wrote:

    I hear that Microsoft rank and file are upset at the decision to kill RT. They said that RT was designed to give them job security by permanently preventing you from loading anything on your computer except stuff from Microsoft's store. Forget about putting free Open Source code on your computer. Microsoft does not allow that on RT.

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