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Microsoft VP: We're Not Giving Up on Windows RT

Not to quote Madonna, but DigiTimes on Thursday "caused a commotion" in an article about Microsoft merging Windows RT into Windows Blue. The wording came across as if the company planned to discontinue Windows RT products and merge the ARM-based code into the "next-generation Windows". We know that's not the case, but that didn't stop Microsoft from having to pause in its daily activities and defend the less-loved Windows 8 step-child.

What has fueled the report is Microsoft's obvious reluctance to provide actual sales numbers of Windows RT and Windows 8-based products. Sales have reportedly been lackluster since the retail debut of Windows 8 and Windows RT in September 2012, partially due to a new interface and a lack of supporting touch screens.

But Windows RT and Surface RT products in particular have reportedly failed due to a lack of support for x86-based software and customer confusion. "People may not love Windows 8, but it's compatible with the software they've always run.  RT may look like Windows, but in fact it's not," said IDC tablet research director Tom Mainelli.

Many OEMs like Samsung and HP have decided not to ship Windows RT solutions while others like Acer are still committed to shipping something this year. Meanwhile, Microsoft said that Windows 8 tablet standards will be lowered to 1024 x 768 pixel-based devices, thus allowing for cheaper Windows 8 x86-based tablets. That surely will eat into Windows RT sales.

So yeah, to some degree, it looks like Widows RT is doomed based on sales, based on features and based on Microsoft's own move to provide cheaper Windows 8 Pro tablets. But Microsoft has dumped a lot of time and money into bringing Windows 8 onto ARM-based chips. There's simply no way in hell Microsoft is going to take the HP route and give up after months on the market.

"It was a ton of work for us and we didn't do the work and endure the disruption for any reason other than the fact that there's a strategy there that just gets stronger over time," said Michael Angiulo, corporate vice president, Windows Planning, Hardware & PC Ecosystem. "Looking at things now like power performance and standby time and passive [fanless] form factors. When we launched windows 8, it was really competitive with a full-sized iPad. A lot of that was made possible by the ARM [chip] architecture."

As for running legacy software on the ARM-based Windows RT, he suggests that consumers need to rethink about their software library in the long run. As on a smartphone, the user experience stays consistent over time because Windows RT tablet owners can re-download their apps time and time again without having to re-purchase. With legacy software, consumers are typically locked with one license to one device.

"Let's say you drop that PC in a pool. Well, you get a new one and then you just redownload [the apps]," he said. "That's the kind of model people are used to with a phone or tablet today. I can maintain all the apps in the [Microsoft] store and reset with a single switch."

There's no indication that Windows RT is dead. If anything, it will be aligned with Windows 8 Pro and other software and services within the Windows Blue update blanket. We actually expect to see Windows RT return from BUILD 2013 this June with a vengeance, so get ready.

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