Is this the end for Windows RT?
Last week at CES, Windows RT-based tablets were virtually invisible. In fact, one of the more interesting devices we saw was the Asus VivoTab Smart, a 10-inch tablet running Windows 8, which will be available for about $500, the same price as the Surface RT and Asus' own RT-based VivoTab. Adding insult to injury, Samsung late last week announced that it's going to pass on RT, joining Acer, Toshiba and HP in the non-RT camp. Is this the end for Microsoft's tablet OS? Given limited developer support and poor sales of RT-based devices so far, it may seem so. But don't count RT out just yet. After all, Windows CE is still in use as an embedded OS, and RT could have a similar second life as an OS for specialized touch-based hardware. But its days as a consumer system appear numbered.
I've used the Surface RT and contrary to a lot of the critic reviews out there, I actually think it's a solid tablet. Don't get me wrong, it has its flaws, primarily lack of apps, but I found it to be positive experience.
I've read blog posts about how iPads are getting closer and closer to replacing people's desktops and laptops. If this type of computing is really the future for personal computers, RT has a lot opportunity. The lack of demand might mean we're not there yet or maybe Microsoft has been doing a crappy job explaining how an RT is beneficial over the normal desktop variant of Windows 8. Stuff like longer battery life, smaller hardware form factors, etc.
If people are going into the store with the mindset that their potential new device should work and look like their old WIndows 7 PC, then there are going to be a lot of disappointed people. The great thing about the iPad or any Android tablet was that it wasn't trying to replace the desktop. So people buy it and they gradually realize how much they can get done with it. Windows 8 is straddling between tablet and desktop, so it makes the buying experience more difficult.
Channeling my inner "average" consumer, this would go through my mind if I was at my local gadget store:
I could use this RT device as a tablet and a laptop, cool. But I can't run my desktop apps. Well, why buy this RT device when I could just buy this other Windows 8 device that can do everything? What's the point of RT? What is RT? Who am I talking to right now?
Microsoft will probably throw a ton of money and keep RT alive, but they need to set customer's expectations and really communicate why RT is a compelling product.
While I don't own an RT device, I do have a Yoga 13 and I love it. its the best of all worlds. Laptop/Ultrabook and Tablet. I find that I use Desktop less and "Modern/Metro/RT" more when I'm just killing time. While I don't plan on getting an RT device for a while yet, I find solace in the fact that all my apps will be there for me in the Store when I do.
It's way too alpha at this stage, especially in the entertainment stakes where it's almost laughably bad, but honestly the more I look at the way the whole 'lets sling stuff up in the cloud' movement is going the more I think the likes of the Pro are stepping stones at best.
I see x86's future more in the cloud, in the form of evolved Windows Server implementations which serve up public or private application sessions for 'heavy lifting'.
I see increasing use of VDI, streaming sessions and related functionality to deliver complex apps to a single device, the job of which is to be your constant companion and offer differing (literal) windows into your work throughout the day. Dock it and it becomes a multimonitor touch/pen window into into the tasks you'd normally accomplish with a heavy-duty workstation (the actual workstation will be in the cloud), undock it and the same apps can be streamed to it over the mobile cloud while giving you a more compact portable window into those same apps - all the while having enough self-contained functionality to tackle the everyday productivity tasks on-device (or offline), without compromising mobility.
When this type of tech is ready for mass use, runtimes will be in the smartphone levels at the outset (along with possibly 11-13" OLED panels) and honestly I only see architectures unencumbered by x86 baggage scaling to that level through competition.
Of course, that's all in the future - but I see tantalising possibilities in RT, and signs that Microsoft know which way the wind is blowing.
From my perspective, I guess it's whether the lowest-common-denominator contingent, the very same 'can't see past their nose' types who took to Netbooks like locusts before finally realising what a crap idea that was and now clamour for Clover Trail as the way forwards, can derail Microsoft.
I'm sort of already making that move, just that not all the pieces are in place or are practical yet. I have a multi-site-redundant, internationally distributed private cloud hosted in a small number of colocated facilities (possibly the very same buildings where your Yahoo Mail might be stored, your Spotify music ensconced or BBC iPlayer streamed from) which hosts a large SAN and remote workstations / servers, and increasingly I do my work in a client-cloudserver or remote access way for all but the most response-critical work (and I still do have quite a number of heavy-duty local workstations), and that is gradually extending to even my use of the Surface.
There are hiccups but even with the relatively rudimentary tools available on the Surface now, I can have a window into OS X, RHEL and x86 Windows services so that I'm not missing anything huge while on the move (though it might be slow sometimes).
I expect this all to develop a lot more. VDI, streaming VHD, advanced remote desktop and the kind of tech demoed in NVIDIA GRID (and if it's commercially available for private purchase, I might actually go ahead and get one to put my own games 'in the cloud' so that I can dispense with a gaming PC for the level of casual gaming I do) will become a lot more practical to run over the Internet in due course. And I think RT is ideally placed as the single window into all that. Whether the market forces a move in another direction is something else entirely.
Once Windows 8 sees greater adoption, and the there's a good selection of software compatible with Windows RT, it will make a comeback.
I don't even understand WHY on earth they released windows 8. Windows 7 is the most stable OS they EVER made. And it's still brand new, only about 3 years old! If they wanted to make a tablet, they could have JUST made a tabler version of Windows 7. Not an entire OS that would be implemented on ANY PC, ruining the PC experience. That's what Apple did with iOS, making it for the iPad and iPhone only, and not for the entire range of Apple computers.
But no. They wanted to put Windows users in a Walled garden, with its own Windows App store, and by removing the power from the user. Probably to make more money. And that's where they failed.
If they want to be back on the tracks and release a successful OS? they'll need to make a 180° turn and go back to desktop and open platform. They could include a tablet interface as an addon, but not as the main feature of the OS.
Win 8 is following this trend of removing the power of the user by closing the environment, making it impossible, for instance, to create a backup disc, forcing em to activate every software, (or app), online, where every app is linked to a specific account making the purchase an mere "long term lease" in which the user won't have the power to resell, nor reuse, nor even backup what he bought.
I personally wishes it fails. Because if it does, It'll demonstrate that Windows can't close the environment of the PC, and I hope It'll make em realize that a NT-like OS is way better in any way. And that it will help bringing back the control in the user's hands.
RT causes an divide Microsoft didn't need. Sure ARM hardware has it advantages (hardware, battery, security(?)) but ARM + RT doesn't out "Pro" a full Windows experience.
That said, I dusted off my old customized HP TM2, Installed Windows 8 Pro & I couldn't be happier. I like Windows 8 & I like my pervious applications.
I also like having a capacitive touchscreen, Wacom Pen, 500GB of Storage, 4GB of RAM & my switchable discreet graphics (ATI made me work to get that going on W8, bastards).
RT isn't bad, it's just poorly priced & too young. RT needed to undercut the competition & gain a healthy user base to quickly grab an application base from developers.
I feel Acer was right about RT.
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