Windows RT: Worthless or the future of Windows?

Moderated by Lawrence Dignan | January 21, 2013 -- 07:00 GMT (23:00 PST)

Summary: Ed Bott sees a bright future for Microsoft's mobile Windows OS. But Matt Baxter-Reynolds sees no future at all.

Matt Baxter-Reynolds

Matt Baxter-Reynolds



The Future

Ed Bott

Ed Bott

Best Argument: The Future


Audience Favored: The Future (65%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

It's dead in the water

When it was announced, Windows RT seemed like a good continuation of Microsoft's vision of a "reimagined" Windows. By removing the ability to run Old Windows, legacy software Windows RT gained focus meaning that device manufacturers were able to focus on building low-cost, low-power, ARM-based devices that only ran software with a user experience optimised for touch.

What the market got has two problems. Firstly, too much Old Windows baggage has been brought forward into the new Windows RT world. Rather than everything being simple and straightforward, some things are but many other tasks are not. Even users with very basic requirements have to contend with the mental challenge of going from a very simple tablet-focused experience and crashing back into Old Windows that's less touch-friendly. And let's forget Windows RT doesn't run normal Windows software.

Secondly, there's the problem that there is space for Windows RT to grow and establish itself because Windows RT devices are too expensive. Surface RT is prices around the average selling price of a normal Windows 8 laptop. Intel is getting better at making their mobility-focused Atom processors draw less power and create less heat making them more suitable for tablets.

Windows RT's proposition at the moment is pay more money for a device that doesn't run normal Windows software, and isn't as simple as a tablet operating system needs to be in order for it to be competition for iOS or Android. Frankly, it's dead in the water.

A bright future

If you want to see the future of Windows, grab a machine running Windows RT, like Microsoft’s Surface. Notice I said the future, not the present.

Windows RT-powered devices have been on the market for less than 90 days. Yes, it’s easy to dismiss RT as a platform if you compare it to mature platforms like Windows (25+ years) or iOS (six years) or even Android.

But what look like weaknesses in the current crop of devices are actually the keys to its future.

Underpowered ARM processor? That’s the key to all-day battery life, which you can’t get with a conventional Windows PC.

No apps? The tight control over apps in the Windows store means malware and crapware are nonstarters on RT.

Limited device selection? The strict specs for RT hardware blocks shoddy, cheap devices and means any device you buy is likely to work properly, right out of the box.

The question is not whether RT represents the future of Windows but how soon that future will arrive.


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  • well . . .

    Well, that's a very good question.

    It's certainly not worthless to see Microsoft preparing for whatever may happen, and not putting all of their eggs in one basket. If ARM is truly the future rather than Intel, then at least they'll have something on ARM.

    One of the things that does sell Windows - and continues to sell it to this day - is backwards compatibility. As much as ZDNet likes to boast about doing everything online and such, a lot of people still don't like it, don't want it, or have apps that can't easily be replaced by an equivalent internet app.

    Personally, I think ZDNet has a heavy bias towards internet-only stuff because they're all bloggers, and blogging is easily done with online apps. I don't think they're necessarily representative of the average user (and it can be argued that the idea of an "average user" is unrealistic anyways, as everybody has their own individual desires and needs).

    In any case: I think that it's good that Microsoft isn't putting all of their eggs in one basket. Whether or not it's the future of Windows, however, is up to the market to decide.
    Reply 16 Votes I'm Undecided
    • Every 1.0 MSFT product is worthless

      Wait till 2.0 to see a clear picture.
      Reply 5 Votes I'm Undecided
      • Version 3

        Historically, it has been version 3.x that becomes the must-have, stable version of a Microsoft product.
        Reply 6 Votes I'm Undecided
        • Not sure what they're arguing here.

          Can't understand how anyone could think bringing Windows to ARM is worthless or how making a version of Windows that is touch-friendly (Metro) is worthless. If you want Windows to be relevant in the modern computing era then it needs to be mobile-friendly and touch-friendly. You can't do that today without running on ARM.

          "Firstly, too much Old Windows baggage has been brought forward into the new Windows RT world."

          This is something which can be easily refined over time. As people mentioned above this is just version 1.0 of Windows RT.

          "Windows RT devices are too expensive. Surface RT is prices around the average selling price of a normal Windows 8 laptop."

          This same exact criticism was leveled at first generation Android tablets as well. The market and OEMs will adjust prices to be competitive. MS Office could be unbundled in the next version of Windows RT possibly knocking up to $100 off the price. Also Intel is mandating touch screens on it's next-generation ultrabooks so the price of the average laptop is likely going to go up.

          Neither of these two examples makes Windows RT "worthless."

          "Frankly, it's dead in the water."

          The idea that Microsoft can ever stop developing and promoting Windows on ARM is absolutely silly. If Microsoft is going to compete in phones and tablets then they are always going to be pushing Windows RT hard. And it's likely that any specialty/customized devices like an Xbox Surface or Lumia tablet are going to be running on ARM chips. The fact that the Windows RT app store uses the same store as Windows 8 means that WinRT will always be a viable option for hardware makers. The Windows app Store is growing fast and the more apps it accumulates over time the more attractive it will be for consumers.
          Reply 3 Votes I'm Undecided
          • The “worthless” argument is often quite revealing.

            The term worthless is a pretty strong term to begin with. When such a strong negative term is used in association with almost anything of a truly substantive nature its almost always incorrect to a large degree.

            Different people can find different things to be worthless from “their own” perspective, but to say something is worthless on any broad based claim is an entirely different thing. Completely. The classic examples around here, of course, are the never ending OS wars. Those who strongly dislike Windows and find no significant need for it for example, will typically find the very existence of Windows to be more of a hindrance in life than anything due to its general influence in the IT industry and marketplace, creating situations and issues that have to be dealt with by non-Windows users.

            In the minds of such users, Windows generally is worthless, perhaps even more so a negative thing than worthless. And quite likewise, those who have no need for Linux desktop, or OSX/Macs are very likely to find both of those OS’s completely worthless. And of course all these kind of thinkers are dead wrong in the most absolute sense of the term.

            The fact that any one person, or group of people, have no use at all for something that numerous others in reasonably substantive numbers do have a great use for dosnt make something truly worthless. In fact, when any substantive number of people does find value in something, it truly does negate the term “worthless” for being used in the broadest sense of something actually having no value.

            Time and time again we see that the majority of the complainers about Windows 8 products are those who never really had much use for Windows to begin with. Sure, there appears to be those few who say, “I have always loved Windows, I use Windows 7 but cannot tolerate Windows 8”, but firstly, those comments seem to come mostly from posters who’s factual experience cannot be positively identified, secondly they are in the significant minority of those who say they think Windows 8 sucks, and thirdly, those reviewers who can be clearly identified as long term happy Windows users who find they do not like Windows 8 at all, appear to be in an extraordinarily significant minority of detractors of Windows 8 products.

            And it cannot be left unsaid that the problem all these very strong critics of Windows 8 products face is at least one insurmountable problem when they are taking the very tired “Windows 8 is a mess” or “Windows 8 is worthless” route in their criticism. That insurmountable problem is that far too many people have written about the fact they have been using particular Windows 8 products and they really like it a lot, very much so in fact. What makes it worse for such critics by far is that the majority of them, mostly posters as opposed to fewer article writers, their substantive criticism is sorely lacking.

            What so called actual pointed criticism about Windows 8 often amounts to by many posters is much along the lines of “it sucks”, “it looks like crap”, “I hate it”, “its confusing”, “its pointless”, “it dosnt work right”. In other words, just words indicating an unexplained dislike for Windows. Those who do point to some actual “thing” in Windows 8 they do not like do not fare much better typically. They raise some issue about something they find as odd or troubling about the OS and just as soon as they do, there are always a number of responding posts explaining how that particular issue is taken care of.

            The complaint of “no start button” seems to be the “winner of the day” in so far as complaints go. Even there, as many have explained; all it takes to get around that issue is a slight shift in thinking and one soon finds the new start screen more valuable than the old start button. But of course, a Windows hater will hang onto the “no star button” issue like its their last piece of gold. I have seen complaints that many features and functions of Windows 8 are “hidden”. Wow. Just wow. To this day I know people, mostly young ones just getting into computers, and even with Windows 7 the major complaint is, “how do you know what to even do, or how to even look for something or how to get almost anywhere on a computer without someone standing over your shoulder telling you when to right click, left click, look in start menus, look in control panels, look somewhere anywhere, and what about all these unspoken of “shortcuts”????

            Its like the aficionado’s around here have completely forgotten all together that every major OS has never been so intuitive that a newbie can just pull up a chair and soar around like they are using a television remote. Its always taken time to learn where things are and how to bring things up on screen. Just because Windows 8 even makes experienced users have to relearn a little of that hardly comes anyplace close to rendering Windows 8 of any flavor worthless.

            Is Windows RT some kind of perfection? Doubt that in the least. Its just a strong start with room for improvements. The hater saying its worthless clearly cannot change that, no matter how long they hang on to their “last little piece of gold”.
            Reply 3 Votes I'm Undecided
          • Oddly, these are classic "religious wars" ...

            For instance, put side-by-side, in their own context, and from a purely technical perspective, there is not a hill o'beans worth of difference between UNIX, Linux, Windows, & Mac OS X.

            All are sully scalable, pre-emptive (and symmetric) multitasking systems with a full range of features and capabilities.
            M Wagner
            Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided
          • This is simply factually incorrect.

            One example: Font rendering. OS X is pixel-grid independent, Windows snaps fonts to the pixel grid. The practical result of this is that using fonts that are not specifically optimized for Windows results in deformed letter shapes at smaller point sizes. This is a significant and meaningful technical difference for anyone who does layout.
            Reply Vote I'm Undecided
          • I mostly agree

            Thank you for your post! You hit the nail on the head Cayble. However, I would disagree that very few "happy" Windows users have something negative to say about Windows 8. Actually those "happy" Windows users who have actually tried Windows 8 mostly agree that the hybrid interface is confusing and counter-productive. I don't care how used to it I get. If it takes more clicks to navigate, it's counterproductive plain and simple.
            Reply Vote I'm Undecided
          • re: intel mandated ultrabooks to have touchscreens

            who cares about that anyway? ultrabook is just a name you may or may not apply to your laptop. market has shown they arent selling that good, so manufacturers might be not all that interested in making "ultrabooks". there are fine small laptops which are not ultrabooks (including using amd btw), and they sell well.
            Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided
          • No time

            >This is something which can be easily refined over time. As people mentioned
            >above this is just version 1.0 of Windows RT.

            Microsoft doesn't have time. iOS and Android are locking up the market. If not a monopoly, the market is heading quickly towards a duopoly. The market isn't going to wait around forever for Microsoft to play catch-up, and neither are investors. If MS doesn't get something out there NOW there likely won't be time to do so later. And it doesn't have that device out now.

            >The idea that Microsoft can ever stop developing and promoting Windows on
            >ARM is absolutely silly. If Microsoft is going to compete in phones and tablets
            >then they are always going to be pushing Windows RT hard.

            That's the whole point which you've missed. Microsoft isn't going to compete in phones and tablets, hence being "dead in the water".

            >The Windows app Store is growing fast and the more apps it accumulates over
            >time the more attractive it will be for consumers.

            MS is attempting to shove developers into making apps for their store. Supposedly there'll be an update this summer that will force anyone who wants to develop for the desktop app store to have their software run on MS tablets and phones as well. That is NOT going to go over well with developers (or courts). I also don't see users being ok with being forced to buy their future software from Microsoft, which will only cause prices to rise. Only Ed Bott (or the ghost of Steve Jobs) could extol the virtues of a locked-down system and limited hardware choices. Between the rise of Android, the coming SteamBox, the Android-based console, Raspberry Pi potentially hitting a million boards sold, etc. the future is more open, not closed. The 20-somethings that are the future have grown up with open source, open devices, the freedom of the Internet, etc. They also view Microsoft the way my generation views the station wagon: as the old, uncool choice of their parents. MS has no marketing pizazz left either. There's really no hope, at least as long as Ballmer is running the show. He's a dinosaur from the "old Microsoft" era: the way to compete was to prevent competition and leverage one monopoly to create another ("We'll never be the first with the cool thing, but we'll be the first to make money with it"). That's not going to fly in the post-PC world and the managers who operated under the assumption that they could shovel #(@#$ out the door and people would have to buy it need to be removed and a new team put in place who have experience competing on features and being innovative if MS is to have any hope in this new world of consumer-oriented electronics.
            Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided