Windows 8 has been gaining some great momentum worldwide over the past few months. It is said to be on pace with Windows 7’s numbers and while the sales have not been as overwhelmingly positive as some would have hoped, there can be little doubt that things are going well. That said, Windows 8 and Windows RT are decidedly different cases.
For the most part, Windows RT is Windows 8 on different hardware. The fact that it required specially approved, locked down hardware makes that more complicated. Throw in the obvious lack of backward compatibility and desktop application support that come from running on a different architecture and it’s a completely different situation even if the core user experience and interface remain the same.
Sales have been supporting this idea. While there are a number of factors in play creating this pattern, the lack of backward compatibility and the expense of what few appealing devices have emerged so far are the big ones. Both of those factors will be hard to overcome.
The only truly vital change that will have to take place for Windows RT to be a success is the hardware selection. At the moment there are very few interesting ARM-based Windows tablets. Most reports put the Microsoft Surface with Windows RT at over 80% of the market for the moment, in fact. That is a great tablet with a lot going for it, but at $499 for the basic model without the admittedly vital keyboard cover it should be facing some stiff competition by now.
Now, Windows RT devices like the Surface that are meant to compete directly against the iPad in terms of feature and function are naturally going to be priced in line with it. That isn’t the fastest growing side of the market at the moment, though. We’re going to need to see some 7” budget models in line with the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD.
Microsoft can make that happen, but it would take lowering the license cost to OEMs. Right now they’re high enough to make a $200 budget tablet all but unthinkable. At best we’ll be looking at a device in-line with the overpriced and rather poorly thought-out iPad Mini. A reduced price on the front, especially given the potential profits from Windows Store sales, would make sense if they want to get the platform off the ground.
There isn’t much that can be done on the software side of things. You can’t change the fact that most Windows programs are simply not going to be remade for ARM devices. What can be done is a continuing push to grow the Windows Store. It will take time for that to happen, but the momentum is already there and it’s safe to expect a reasonable comparison with iOS or Android by the end of the year.
Basically, it’s fair to say that Windows RT is always going to be the less appealing option. As pricing on the Window 8 convertibles comes down, the only choice to keep the ARM side going is to build greater incentives. Free personal copies of Office are nice, but not nearly enough in the end.