Microsoft CEO Nadella: Come clean about Windows RT

Microsoft CEO Nadella: Come clean about Windows RT

Summary: Microsoft has a new CEO at the helm and many are giving him advice on how to run the huge company. I'm not going to do that, but it is time to be clear about Windows RT.

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Microsoft CEO
New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (Image: Microsoft)

This has been a big week for Microsoft followers with the appointment of Satya Nadella as the CEO of the company in Redmond. ZDNet has all the information you need about Nadella and what he brings to Microsoft. 

With the announcement of Nadella's appointment comes the many articles detailing what he needs to do to help Microsoft in this critical time. I'm not going to do that, I figure as a 22-year insider Nadella knows how to handle the job better than I do. What I will do is exhort him to come clean about the difference between Windows 8 and Windows RT that directly impacts customers.

I'm talking about the fact that although it comes close, Windows RT is not full Windows. Those of us familiar with Windows understand that it's the version of Windows made to run on tablets with ARM technology inside instead of Intel. 

That's an important distinction but it's not the one that is tripping up buyers of Windows tablets. The difference between Windows RT and Windows 8 that is continuing to confuse tablet buyers is of course the inability to run legacy apps on the former.

I still run into buyers of Windows RT tablets who tell me they were 'shocked' to start using them, only to discover they couldn't install the software they want and need.

As a long time Windows tablet user, I fully understand that difference and the reason for it. While I've not been a believer in the need for Windows RT, I am fine with Microsoft's decision to keep running with it. That's a business decision only Microsoft can make, and it's OK to have it around for the foreseeable future.

What I take offense with is the continued failing, of both Microsoft and OEMs producing Windows tablets, to make the difference of the two Windows clear to prospective customers. For the most part, Windows RT has been presented no differently than Windows 8 on tablets, and that is inexcusable.

I still run into buyers of Windows RT tablets who tell me they were 'shocked' to start using them, only to discover they couldn't install the software they want and need. That may be another browser like Chrome or Firefox, and iTunes is mentioned regularly. They are unhappy with the new Windows tablet right out of the box, and that's not good for Microsoft nor the partner that produced it.

Sure, it's ultimately up to the shopper to do his or her homework to guarantee they buy the tablet with the right version of Windows. That's not likely to happen in this case because prior to the purchase these buyers didn't know there are two totally different versions of Windows, and one with a limitation that directly impacts them.

There is no warning given in the ads touting the wonders of Windows tablets that the buyer better be careful or get a version that restricts doing what they need. All Windows tablets are equal to the user as presented, and that is not right. It's time for Microsoft to come clean about this.

To be clear, I'm not advising Microsoft to get rid of Windows RT. That's a business decision the company needs to make as they are in a far better position than I to know what's best. I'm not saying that all buyers are unhappy with Windows RT tablets. I am saying it's time to do customers the benefit of making sure they understand the offerings before they make a purchase.

It makes no sense to regularly upset new customers because they feel duped about what they bought. Which they were, in this writer's opinion.

To those Windows enthusiasts who will no doubt complain that the tech press is still writing about this, it's because customers are still buying tablets that won't meet their needs. That's directly on Microsoft's back, as it doesn't make it clear to consumers that there are two Windows, and that one may not work for them.

Meanwhile, I am still happily using my Asus Transformer Book T100 tablet with full Windows 8. The ability to install legacy software was a big factor in my decision to purchase it. Having a good price like those Windows RT tablets played a role, too. Which adds to the buyer confusion, as it makes little sense that tablets without the RT restriction can be purchased with little or no price penalty.

Mr Nadella, that's a bad situation you can correct, and quickly. The distinction between tablets with Windows RT and Windows 8 must be made clear at the point of sale. Not just in Microsoft Stores, but everywhere they are sold. There should also be two different logos on products that leaves no doubt what version of Windows is running on each tablet, laptop, and hybrid. Customers deserve to know what they are buying, before they pull out the credit card.

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Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Tablets

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175 comments
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  • Just 2 observations...

    (1) You are totally right. I have found myself at the Microsoft Store and places like Best Buy, and I have to go into the tablet, and look under the settings to figure out if it is running Windows 8/8.1 or Windows RT. There is no "easy" way of telling as far as I can tell.

    (2) "Which adds to the buyer confusion, as it makes little sense that tablets without the RT restriction can be purchased with little or no price penalty."
    Hmmm… maybe this phrasing implies regular Windows should be more expensive (the penalty). I would argue the RT machines (Surface, Nokia 2520, etc) need to come down in price.
    miralles
    • Double Standards?

      iOS is a heavily modified version of OS X so, why is it that nobody complains when it won't run all their Mac apps?

      The only problems with Windows RT are the design choices in keeping the desktop. If they ditched that on the tablet it would be less confusing to people.

      The problem most are having is that ARM is creating serious challenges for Intel and even AMD has made a few ARM processors but, if MS ignores the ARM movement now they might just be playing catch up later on.
      slickjim
      • Not at all

        The iPad is not advertised as OS X. OTOH, Windows RT is just advertised as Windows. It's misleading, as I hear from buyers.
        JamesKendrick
        • Agreed James

          Nobody in the Apple community ever thought IOS on a iPad was anything related to OSX. Their was plenty of comparison with the iPad to the iPhone which had already been out a while. So most people realized the difference. Microsoft and Windows users never dealt with a App store or a device that did not run all Windows programs. I think Microsoft did a poor job of defining that with Windows users.
          JohnnyES
          • Runing X86 applications on a tablet

            If sales clerk could simply learn their product right, some of this confusion would go away. I saw a lady come in my local best buy the other day. She asked if the Surface 2 was running Windows. He said yes but never said it was running a different kind of Windows. She then said “Why is that one much more expansive” pointing at the Pro model. He simply replied, “It runs on a faster processor”.

            Frustration comes from expectation. People now think they can buy a 300$ tablet and run the same software that their 1000$ full featured PC. We are simply living an era of confusion and the entire industry is to blame. Google is further pushing this confusion by selling those very limited and incompatible ChromeBooks. Does Google say their Laptop can run any known and used legacy applications? No they don’t.

            I agree Windows RT should have been called something else. Its name is confusing. However, giving it a name that does not include “Windows” in it would be even more confusing because the desktop is there, the control panel is there, the file Explorer is there and it can Run Office suite. It’s pretty much windows 8. “Windows light” or “Windows Metro” maybe would have been better names.

            On the other hand, running legacy X86 applications on a tablet makes no sense. Even Office RT supposedly adapted for tablets can be a pain if it is not operated using a mouse and a keyboard. To my point of view, the Windows tablet that makes more sense is the Surface 2 and not the pro model. I would rather buy an Ultrabook like the Yoga. Running legacy X86 apps on a tablet will make you dislike tablets.
            gbouchard99@...
          • Google calls them chromebooks.., not windows books

            They don't have the windows logo, and they can do most of
            the same stuff windows laptops do.. Email/web/image editing, movie player/ instant messaging sideload ubuntu.. All the stuff normal people do.. Only windows shills and fanboys who have never owned one think they are limited. Open minded people learn different.
            frankieh
          • Limited

            Chromebooks don't work unless you are networked. That is the difference and why I do not have a Chromebook.
            hayneiii@...
          • Chromebooks work just fine without a net.

            True, you can't download new stuff, or upload your modified files...

            But that is true of any computer.
            jessepollard
          • Wrong

            I have many applications that do not require networking for my laptop. Chromebooks, not so much. I frequently "download" from DVDs and I am talking data not pictures and video. I program and write web pages, all not connected. Chromebooks are a closed system and VERY limited. The best use for a Chromebook Most have only 16 gig of local harddrive, useless for most graphics work. It is basically very limited in what it does, if that is all you want, fine, but I want more, get more, and basically at the same cost.
            hayneiii@...
          • And the closed minded dismiss the opinions of others

            If a Chromebook doesn't run the apps that someone needs, as Email, web, image editing, movie player, instant messaging are not enough for someone's needs, then it is limited.

            Also, if a Chromebook lets you do the above mentioned tasks using only the tools that Google lets you use, then it is also limited.

            And yet you have the audacity to call those who don't use a Chromebook because it doesn't fit their needs "closed minded"?
            William.Farrel
          • On the limits of Chromebook

            Well, if the limits don't negatively affect the person using them in ways including, but not limited to, preventing them from doing what they want to do, do the limits really matter to that person? (I myself use a Windows 8 PC upgraded to 8.1, I'm just saying that your dealbreakers might not be someone else's dealbreakers)
            Third of Five
          • which level of tools?

            No problem using outlook.com or any other web-based e-mail platform. Ditto online productivity software, and, IMO, Zoho is better than Google's apps. Heck, SkyDrive and Office web apps run just fine under ChromeOS.

            You don't seem to understand what Chromebooks are, what they can do, and why someone other than you might be interested in them.
            hrlngrv 
          • Chromebooks don't have an OS. Just a kernel and browser

            Chromebooks don't come with an typical OS layer on top of the kernel. It only comes with the Chrome browser. Boots in seconds but because there is no OS layer. Just a kernel and a browser.
            Tim Jordan
          • what's an OS?

            Kernel only? Kernel and ability to manipulate files on storage media? That and ability to run a restricted set of applications? That and the ability to run any application which could be built to work with the particular kernel?

            ChromeOS passes the first 3 tests.

            Whether ChromeOS apps like Files or Clock count as programs in their own right rather than highly specialized Chrome browser extensions is debatable. OTOH, enabling developer mode, which doesn't require additional software, allows access to a bash shell through crosh. That's makes for a full OS, though arguably a very retro one.
            hrlngrv 
          • as for running any software

            FWIW, I can launch scilab in GUI mode from bash on a Chromebook. However, since the window manager only works with Chrome, there's no way to move or resize the scilab window.

            Looks like I get to try out ssh-twm work-arounds.
            hrlngrv 
          • I owned one...

            ...and I think it was limited (sorry). I really, really wanted to like it, but there were too many small frustrations, obvious omissions and limitations. I couldn't print like normal people do. I couldn't connect to my NAS like normal people do. It would not recognise the format of locally stored files or seamlessly upload them without a third-party add-on, when this should have been part of the OS. I could not edit Office documents without turning them into Google Docs first --which then could not be opened in Office on my Windows desktop PC.

            In the end I sold it, and got a Surface RT. I never looked back.
            Nexxo
          • if MSFT is pinning is future on the knowledge of sales people

            it deserves to go out of business rapidly.

            I've seen Google people (well, people wear ing polo shirts with Google logos) in Best Buy answering customer questions. I haven's seen anyone from MSFT.

            Ultimately Best Buy doesn't care whether customers buy Windows tablets, iPads or Android tablets or any tablet at all as long as those customers buy SOMETHING. If MSFT prefers those customers buy Windows tablets, then it's up to MSFT and MSFT alone to better the chances that its tablets sell.
            hrlngrv 
          • You do know that MS does staff Best Buy stores, hrlngrv, right

            Do a little "Google" search for that. They announced it last year. and said they were going to staff it with Windows knowledgeable people

            And Google? They're late to that game in that respect, as MS and Samsung are ahead of them in that area. In fact Google is trying to do the same thing in response to MS and Samsung.

            I guess Google figured out that ultimately Best Buy doesn't care whether customers buy Windows tablets, iPads or Android tablets or any tablet at all as long as those customers buy SOMETHING, and if MS was staffing their area themselves, then Google better follow suit.
            William.Farrel
          • I was sharing my own observations

            I accept that Best Buy stores are overflowing with MSFT people when I'm not there and/or in stores I've never been in. However, I've never seen any when I've been in the 2 stores nearest my house and the one nearest my son's college campus.

            Google really doesn't care. Google make ad money on Chromebooks, Android tablets, PCs, even Apple devices and Surface tablets when people use Google for web searching.

            Anyway, given MSFT's head start, odd that the PC market is still contracting and Surface tablets make up such an insignificant share of the overall tablet market.
            hrlngrv 
          • x86 on tablets makes no sense?

            I agree that the sales folks at best buy have no clue. When I swing by looking to see what new Windows 8 tablets and hybrids came in with the new Bay Trail quad core 3700 series processors/SOCs (System On Chip) they say none then I find three. They have no clue about Windows RT and 8. I initially bought a Surface Tablet a year ago and loved it and the keyboard cover. I bought it to replace my Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 so I could use MS Office on it. I was furious because it had everything I needed but Outlook. I use it for IMAP email. It was missing but worse, their mail apps could not handle IMAP or POP3 email just Outlook.com cloud mail. I sold it and later found it did get Outlook and for someone who just wants the Same as an iPad or Android with "benefits" it served. Great for school and business when only Office work.

            Mr. Kendrick then wrote about the discount coupon for his new HP X2 hybrid which I found and bought. I am on it now. I have my full Brother all in one Network laser printer software suite on it and print via my router to which the printer is connected to by Ethernet cable. This in my home office. No cables, no cloud app, just like my desktops using dual band Gigabit WiFi adapters. I have Office 2010 on it, and all my CCleaner, Malwarebytes, Foxit Reader, ClearText format stripper for copy/pastes, Image Resizer for Windows, snipping tool, photo editors clone and utility programs, and all my pics, 32GB of music in the micro SD card in the tablet slot, and all the rest in the keyboard dock. This is a perfect laptop replacement for the rare trip now, and my day to day tablet using the onscreen keyboard. I rarely dock it. The seven hours of usability is more than enough. I then bought a Lenovo Lynx 11.6" Windows 8 tablet. No dock, no back camera just the webcam, but much lighter. It replaced her Samsung Galaxy Tab 7". I sold all the Android tablets, and my laptop and netbook.

            These Win 8 tablets boot in about ten seconds, my Android tablets and current Android phones took forever, a minute or two. But the dual core Atom SOC 2700series SOCs with 2GB RAM are just a beat slow in a few things despite being way faster than Androids. The new quad core 3700series processors have just enough performance increase to take the last bit of perceived drag out. So I am shopping. I also already had external USB slim DVD burners and several external 1TB USB 3.0 hard drives and drive docks as well as a USB 3.0 drive docks, flash drives up to 64GB, and several 32GB & 64GB micro SD cards. For most folks who use just email and Web Surf, with biz communications/presentations/scheduling/spreadsheets and no legacy programs needed a Surface RT will do fine with some external storage as needed. I prefer full 8.

            I use Office 2010 Home and Business on my X2 all the time without the keyboard. The folks who don't have touch have no clue. Touch on a Windows 8 full computer is all I need 90% of the time.

            The statement made that $300 price points are not happening for full Windows 8 tablet computers says you don't get it. The Dell Venue 8 Pro is $299.00 and comes with free office. The ASUS T100 is a hybrid with keyboard dock and full Win 8 for around $349.00 with 64GB SSD on sale if you have patience. There is a reason they are sold out everywhere. All have great Bluetooth and can be used with regular keyboard and mouse sets that many of us have as spares that use a USB receiver for both in that set. We like the Logitech K-400with built in right side touchpad for her tablet, rarely used. We just use the micro to full female USB adapter that came with her Lynx and plug the keyboard set USB receiver into it. Works just like my desktop. Or you can use the Bluetooth keyboards.

            I have used mine for almost a year and am selling them as always with laptops and desktops and netbooks, so I get something for them usually about 50% and keep up my tech/gadget hobby. I liked them so much I bought a 27" quad core i7 quad HD touch screen tablet on a support stand called the Dell 2720. I decided it will be downsized to the 18" portable with charging stand. Great for company.

            The main reason I am upgrading is I image my systems weekly and I really like the blazing speeds of USB 3.0 compared to 2.0. mine are 2.0.

            X86 AND all the capabilities to use the many apps usually on limited tablets only, in one device, not two, like the OSX computer and iOS tablet phones are not program OR app compatible AFAIK.

            Can you run iOS apps on OSX? I can run Apps and programs on my Windows 8 full function fast computers that just happen to be 11.6" tablet form factors. Star Trek! We're there!
            AreV