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Microsoft should yank Windows RT for Windows RT's own good

Brad Chacos | July 22, 2013
In the wake of horrific Surface RT sales and manufacturers fleeing like rats, the best thing for Windows RT's long-term viability would be to pull Windows RT hardware from the shelves.

Windows 8.1 will make the modern UI more useable, but that doesn't change the fact that it's still so new and different. The mixture of "different" and "no apps" isn't one destined for stardom.

Take a chill pill
"But wait!" you shout at your monitor, no doubt shaking your fist. "You just argued that Windows RT is crucial for the Windows ecosystem even if its sales stink, Brad!"

I did! And it is! But here's the thing: Windows RT's mere existence is the boon, not the tablets themselves. Windows RT is important, but actually selling Windows RT hardware is not.

The threat of ARM infiltration prodded Intel and AMD into creating much more energy efficient x86 processors, and tablets running on Clover Trail+ chips now offer full desktop software compatibility with all-day-plus battery life. Clover Trail's impending successor, Bay Trail, promises just-as-long endurance with much better performance, while Intel's flagship "Haswell" Core PC processors were built with a focus on energy efficiency. The availability of long-lasting, fully backwards compatible Windows 8 slates puts an even bigger damper on Windows RT's prospects.

INTEL. Intel has come up with a new thermal specification for CPUs that will operate in tablets and notebooks with detachable displays.

Likewise, ARM support is now baked into the modern UI, right alongside x86 compatibility. Any modern-style app will run on both types of processor just fine. Meanwhile, the modern UI and apps run on the Windows Runtime application architecture, a variant of which also powers Windows Phone. Microsoft makes no bones about the fact that Live Tiles are its future, a dedication driven home by CEO Steve Ballmer's decision to unify all OS development within a single division under the One Microsoft umbrella.

The biggest benefits Microsoft gained from Windows RT—ARM integration and better power efficiency—occurred at its genesis, not from its day-to-day sales (or lack thereof).

Time out
Steve Ballmer

All this points to one thing: Microsoft should call time-out for Windows RT.

Microsoft definitely needed to create Windows RT. The company was on the verge of missing the tablet train completely. It needed to keep Intel honest while broadening its technical horizons to embrace ARM. The Surface RT was the first Microsoft-made PC. I could go on.

But now that the creation is done, it's time to pull back and let the concoction bake. Windows RT doesn't make sense right now. Nobody wants it. Intel's latest mobile processors rock battery life that rivals the endurance of ARM chips. The modern UI is still in its infancy, and Windows RT's entire existence revolves around an app store that's still relatively barren.


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