Opinion: Windows RT or Windows on ARM

New Windows 8 logo imageThis is all about the edition Windows RT, previously nick-named WOA, which is Windows on ARM – the processor platform for non-x86 tablets. If you don’t understand that, or know what that means, you probably don’t need to. Windows RT edition will only be available pre-installed on PCs and tablets powered by ARM processors and not as a retail edition. It is designed to help “enable new thin and lightweight form factors with impressive battery life.” Not iPad’s.

Windows 8 and Windows RT are broadly the same in terms of features but Windows RT will include touch-optimized desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. RT will also get full-device encryption for your precious tablet, which Windows 8 lacks.

Crucially, however, Windows on ARM processors won’t support existing x86 and x64 software and it’s unlikely that badging “Windows RT” is going to explain that to customers.

Windows Consumer Preview 8 Metro UI start screenThe marketing all breaks down when we get to new apps. This is where the name “Windows RT” becomes monumentally stupid is for the ARM edition. Microsoft already named the Windows 8 Native API “WinRT” (maybe they forgot). Moreover, WinRT actually runs on both Intel and ARM machines. So, how will you know what is being talked about when someone mentions either?

The focus for Windows RT is development on the new Windows Run-Time, WinRT, which was announced last September as the foundation of “a new generation of cloud-enabled, touch-enabled, web-connected apps of all kinds.” Which is all fine and dandy for the technocrats and means nothing to Joe Public on the street, who just wants to know ‘will it run angry birds’ and ‘can it open the corporate e-mail?’

Now imagine walking in to your local retail shed: ‘here are the android tablets, the iPad and here are the Windows 8 and Windows 8 RT devices… What?’ Now you have to have the conversation about Intel versus ARM and the whole lack of applications support between the two.

Surely Windows RT should be renamed “Windows 8 for Tablets” or something similar? Surely?

Pro for Business
Won’t there be a Windows RT Pro? Surely business users need a professional version of the tablet? Tablets are already replacing laptops at phenomenal rate and this would definitely smooth the transition: domain login and RDP must be essential on a tablet. Why isnit it an option? IT support people don’t like iPads in the enterprise because they can’t be managed. Those telling business groups that a “manageable tablet is coming” may be made to look very silly indeed.

We haven’t heard yet about Outlook and Access in Office for Windows RT. Outlook is still a depressingly common choice of mail client, particularly in business; all those exchange servers still whirring away… If windows is serious about the business market with phones and tablets, Outlook is must. Moreover, how many work order and client/contact databases remain in MS-Access?

To the Scaffold
It’s by no means certain that Win RT is going to gain that many friends among developers. Microsoft pushed .NET down their throats for over 10 years, but now you have to be on WinRT if you want in the marketplace on ARM. Remember when Silverlight was the way to build “Rich Media Experiences for the web” and Windows Phone 7 apps? Well, Silverlight is now unofficially dead; it has to be C++ and Direct X for gaming apps. And XNA. This was going to be significant for gaming with discrete graphics processors, but since WinRT, Metro and Marketplace now move to the Windows 8 Platform, it looks like XNA is dead in the water, too.

I have no idea how games are supposed to work on ARM-based “Windows RT” machines with no discreet graphics card in them, but since it’s all shrouded in C++/DX, I don’t expect I’ll ever find out. But then I’m not a Microsoft platform developer.

However, you only have to look at the Apple developers who can write Objective C code for iPod Touch, iPhone 1, 3G, 3GS, 4, 4G, iPhone 5 soon, iPad 1, 2, 3, and MacOS and see how they profit from well over 100 million active iPhones and the 3 million-plus new iPads sold in the opening weekend alone. And if developers don’t like the Apple Way in iTunes, there’s always the Google Play store.

You have to ask; has Microsoft come to this party too late and with an unwanted gift? AJS

One thought on “Opinion: Windows RT or Windows on ARM

  1. Barnet Sheehy says:

    Outstanding blog guys, cant say I do agree with everything but you make some interesting clonazepam points, keep up the good work

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