Over the summer, Microsoft said that many older printers will not work with Windows 8 and Windows RT. That's because the company decided to change the printing architecture to reduce system overhead and simplify the overall printing process. This was a necessary move given that ARM-based Windows RT tablets will feature 32-bit SoCs and a memory ceiling of 4 GB.
"We really wanted to ensure that we didn’t negatively impact ARM systems by running unnecessary services, and we wanted to reduce system resource usage, while still providing support for as many devices as possible," wrote Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division.
On that note, TechWorld reports that both HP and Dell have published their compatibility lists of printers and multifunction devices for Windows 8 and Windows RT. On the HP side (opens in new tab), out of 200 devices, a total of 83 are not compatible with Windows RT, and an additional 83 only offer "limited support". However the majority of devices are compatible with Windows 8 – so far HP hasn't released a compatibility list for inkjet printers.
As for Dell, this compatibility list of 110 inkjet and laser printers (opens in new tab) shows that only 32 support Windows RT. Even more, only two inkjet printers support the ARM-based Windows whereas the OS seems to be more compatible with monochrome and color laser printers. Naturally all printers compatible with Windows RT also play nice with Windows 8.
Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64, told TechWorld that driver incompatibility with RT will likely extend beyond printers and into the realm of cameras, scanners and more. Unfortunately, manufacturers will likely not build new compatible drivers for old devices, as resources are typically dumped into current products. Companies would rather see consumers purchase new Windows 8-compatible equipment rather than hang onto an old, outdated printer.
Brookwood also pointed out that unlike other tablet OS developers, Microsoft is making an effort to provide a higher level of printer compatibility in Windows RT which in turn could make a huge difference in the ARM-based tablet market. "Most people who have been buying tablets to date, including Android and iOS tablets, they hardly ever print because of limits [on drivers]," Brookwood said.