Microsoft admits to 'some confusion' over Surface RT naming

Microsoft admits to 'some confusion' over Surface RT naming

Summary: Microsoft admits that there was confusion over the differences between Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets, which led to the name being dropped from second-generation Surface tablets.


Microsoft has admitted that the 'RT' name was dropped from its second-generation Surface tablets in order to alleviate confusion.

Surface Pro
(Source: Microsoft)

Speaking to ARN, Microsoft Surface product manager Jack Cowett admits that the RT name caused bewilderment among buyers.

"We think that there was some confusion in the market last year on the difference between Surface RT and Surface Pro," said Cowett. "We want to help make it easier for people, and these are two different products designed for two different people."

The problem with Windows RT is that the name meant nothing to users. The name suggested that it was a new version of Windows, but the RT suffix was ambiguous and gave consumers little clue as to what the differences between it and 'regular' Windows was.

One of the main differences as far as users were concerned was that Windows RT couldn't run traditional Windows applications and was instead restricted to what was available from Microsoft's Windows app store.

This crucial difference between Windows and Windows RT was badly communicated to retailers too. I personally came across several retailers who were trying to upsell software, especially antivirus suites, for Windows RT tablets that the operating system couldn't run.

Microsoft is now the last man standing with respect to Windows RT-powered Surface tablets, with Dell (which had urged Microsoft to change the confusing RT branding), Lenovo, Asus, and Samsung currently having no Windows RT hardware in their line up. There are however rumors that Nokia may be working on a Windows RT tablet due to be released shortly.

According to my sources within the industry, not only were Windows RT hardware sales low, but also returns were also higher than anticipated.

Personally, I think that there is room for Windows RT in the ecosystem. Just as iOS and OS X can co-exist, if Microsoft can clearly define the benefits of Windows RT – of which there are many – then a cut-down, easier to administrate version of Windows could work for both the enterprise and consumer markets.

Topics: Mobility, Windows, Microsoft Surface

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  • Call it surface lite and surface pro

    the app monkeys should be used to that
    • The problem with that

      is that they eventually want to phase out Pro. You can't be calling your OS of the future "lite" when you want developers to port all of their work to that platform.
      Michael Kelly
      • This will never happen

        Microsoft can't even do it. Can you imagine a functional version of Visual Studio that complied with Windows store rules?
      • Huh?

        They want to sell Pro to enterprise customers, not phase it out.
    • Easy solution

      Call it Windows "NOT" and make a reality TV show of people trying to run Windows apps on it. By doing so Microsoft would have converted a write down into a popular hit TV show that could run for ten years or more.

      Think Windows RT meets Survivor. Drop teams of players into unusual places and situations with Windows NOT Surface tablets and watch the fun unfold as the competition heats up.
  • The confusion is not in the name

    It is in the "why in the hell would anyone want an RT device?"

    Now that ARM no longer enjoys any price or performance benefit over x86, the question is even less clear.
    x I'm tc
    • ARM vs x86

      I agree with you here. I purchased the Surface RT for use as a travel device from which I could check company email, keep my calendar, work on documents and presentations (in native Office format), etc. A 1.5 lb tablet >>>> 6.5 lb laptop when you're toting it and a suitcase through airports every week.

      However, I have found that the ARM processor and Windows RT have a few distinct disadvantages compared to x86:

      - ARM performance is noticeably slower in applications like Outlook (I'm running 8.1 Preview) and the lack of RAM means that you can't launch PowerPoint out of an email attachment due to "lack of memory" (or, at least that's the error I get when I try to do it); I'm hoping this is an issue with 8.1 RT Preview, not something I'll see in the release version.

      - Lack of Adobe Flash support means many websites are not accessible/usable. While I'm used to this on iOS and even Windows Phone devices, it's annoying on a Windows-based tablet, even a "Win-lite" version.

      - Lack of Java support means that several of my company's back office applications are not supported. Normally, this isn't a problem during short trips. But on longer ones, it can tie my hands (although I have a convenient excuse for not getting the work done besides "my dog ate it").
      • Flash works.

        Microsoft switched from a white-list to a black-list a while ago.

        It should be working on just about any website, bar the dangerous ones.
    • Quite honestly

      I don't think MS could foresee Intel getting their act together and producing a x86/x64 chip that could compete with ARM. If they did they never would have bothered with ARM.
      Michael Kelly
      • But now they have

        And Intel is unequivocal leader in both computational power *and* power efficiency, and they are competitive with cost, too. The question isn't why did MS release the Surface RT, the question is, why did they release the Surface 2? The confusion will only continue and there is no need. RT, like a Chromebook, simply doesn't meet any need.
        x I'm tc
        • The only thing I can think of

          is timing. I'm sure the plans for the Surface 2 were already underway before it became clear that the ARM-based Windows RT OS was dead in the water due to the success of the Atom. And really I would not call it a complete win until Intel releases the Bay Trail series and it succeeds as planned.
          Michael Kelly
        • Unequivocal?

          >And Intel is unequivocal leader in both computational power *and* power >efficiency,

          That's news to the rest of the world.

          >RT, like a Chromebook, simply doesn't meet any need.

          Chromebooks are certainly selling though.
      • Re: Quite honestly

        Microsoft hasn't been able to foresee almost anything recently.
        • Re: Microsoft hasn't been able to foresee almost anything recently.

          Crystal ball keeps blue screening.
        • With all due respect

          it would have been difficult to imagine Intel achieving success so quickly. Yes, Intel does have a habit of losing touch with the market only to catch up once a competitor steps in and tries to take away their market share (e.g. AMD, Transmeta, and now ARM), however you usually do not see that turnaround happen in time for Microsoft's newest product to take advantage right away.
          Michael Kelly
  • Not just confusion.

    "...I think that there is room for Windows RT in the ecosystem."


    Microsoft shot themselves in the foot by treating RT like a red-headed stepchild from the beginning. Instead of putting proper effort into developing RT and courting developers and manufacturers, they just kept telling us "just wait for Pro!" and telling everyone how Pro would "run your existing software."

    The majority of pad people were not and are not interested in using PC software on a tablet. They were and are task-oriented, not software-oriented, and did not want or expect a tablet to clone every function and convention of a PC.
    • did not want or expect a tablet to clone every function of a PC

      Except for people named James, who insist that Windows software should run on RT tablets.
      • A tablet characterizing itself as a "Windows" tablet

        Is entirely justifiably criticized for its lack of ability to run Windows apps.
        • It does run Windows apps

          But it doesn't run desktop programs.
          • WinRT apps are Windows 8 compatible only, not "Windows"

            In the conventional every day understanding.

            Desktop apps are the only Windows apps that matter, in any meaningful IT sense (other than in Tami Reller's mind.)