Microsoft has positioned its Windows RT tablet OS as an iPad competitor, particularly in business and enterprise markets. Windows RT devices, which includes the ARM-based version of Microsoft’s Surface, are designed to be less expensive than Intel-powered Windows 8 tablets and are meant to push the new touch-oriented Metro interface.
Microsoft has even gone so far as to introduce special licensing terms for businesses that will offer free access to a virtual desktop from Windows RT devices while other platforms, including the iPad, will need to buy a new type of license for such access.
Windows RT would seem a perfect choice for businesses that want to support mobile employees with a tablet, except that Windows RT seems keep hitting one wall after another – the latest being that two of Microsoft’s longstanding OEM partners have decided to pass on creating Windows RT tablets.
HP announced that it wouldn’t compete in the Windows RT market earlier this summer. The move follows HP’s failed attempt to launch its webOS Touch Pad tablet last year. The company didn’t indicate if Microsoft’s plan to launch its own tablets was a factor in that decision.
Toshiba announced yesterday that it will also forego creating Windows RT devices. Toshiba claimed that its decision was the result of “delayed components that would make a timely launch impossible.” What that means is open for speculation, though the company did note that it may reconsider making Windows RT devices in the future.
Both HP and Toshiba will be producing more expensive Windows 8 tablets and systems that include the ability to run legacy Windows apps.
The announcement seems to confirm that only four manufacturers (Asus, Dell, Lenovo, and Samsung) beyond Microsoft itself will be introducing Windows RT devices, which seemed very likely after Microsoft announced some more Windows RT details on Monday. Microsoft seems to be pushing several points of information about Windows RT, most likely to shore up lagging interest and/or dispel misconceptions.
- Windows RT can run on non-tablet devices like netbooks or laptop/tablet hybrids
- Microsoft will be introducing iPad-like gesture support
- Being ARM-based Windows RT tablets/devices will offer better battery life than Windows 8 tablets/devices
- NFC hardware and OS support will be included along with a range of peripheral support – USB storage devices, printers, headsets and other A/V devices, and Bluetooth devices
- All Windows RT devices will include a version of Office 2013
Whether Windows RT will succeed in tempting consumers and/or businesses away from the iPad remains unclear as does impact of Microsoft’s heavy involvement in hardware design and manufacturing – not to mention competing directly with its OEM partners. While there will be mobile management capabilities for Windows RT tablets, they will lack some enterprise functionality compared to today’s PCs and Windows 8 devices.