Microsoft CEO Nadella: Come clean about Windows RT

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.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
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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