There's been a recurring theme among hardware OEMs over the past six months regarding both of Microsoft's (MSFT 1.50%) new Windows platforms. The broad consensus among the software giant's most important partners is that Windows 8 and Windows RT are just too confusing for the average consumer.
In December, Dell (DELL.DL) PC exec Jeffrey Clarke said he made the case directly to Steve Ballmer that Windows RT would do nothing but confuse people, since the Windows brand is associated with backwards compatibility with legacy apps. Dell sells tablets running each version, such as its XPS 10 (Windows RT) and Latitude 10 (Windows 8).
A month later, Acer CEO JT Wang similarly said that Windows 8 confuses consumers, and that Microsoft's big push with Surface is just making things worse. Wang said that "there's no question" that the platform is off to a "slow start." Samsung was next up, saying it wouldn't launch Windows RT devices in the U.S. because it would need to take on a lot of educational efforts to prevent confusion.
Dell and Acer are the No. 3 and No. 4 PC vendors in the world by volume, respectively, so they should know how sales are going. Let's add in another PC vendor that thinks Microsoft is going about this all wrong.
Toshiba is the latest OEM to call Microsoft's strategy confusing. Australian exec Mark Whittard derided the software giant for offering too many different choices that have led to "a lot of confusion with Windows 8," according to The Australian. The comments are curious since Whittard was speaking at a product launch, which included over two dozen models of Ultrabooks, tablets, and convertibles.
Whittard also said the pricing wasn't clear. Most previous-generation laptops were selling for $399 to $599, but the newest Windows 8 gadgets start between $699 and $799 -- making it an even tougher sell.
For what it's worth, Microsoft is taking notes. At the Wired Business Conference, Windows exec Julie Larson-Green conceded that Windows RT's biggest problem has been education. Consumers and OEMs alike have spoken, now Microsoft needs to either ramp up the education or kill Windows RT for good once Intel's Haswell chips render it even more unnecessary.
Microsoft should probably do the latter.