OMG! They're using Windows RT!

Apparently, some people have missed the memo.
Written by David Chernicoff, Contributor

I know, I know; everyone has declared Windows RT dead and the grave is being dug as you read this. No one wants it, needs it, or has any use for it. Personally, I have a lot of tablets, and the one that currently sees the most use is a Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 LTE (I'm a fan of the Samsung mobile devices). I never even bothered to purchase an RT device, because I couldn't see any need for it in the way I work.

So when my son told me he wanted a tablet for use at college, I went through the common decision tree with him. He had recently switched from an Apple iPhone 4S to a Samsung Galaxy S4, so he had weaned himself off the Apple ecosystem, but he still gave my 4th-generation iPad a chance. Equipped with a Zagg Bluetooth keyboard case, it seemed like it would be a good choice for note taking and general scholastic use.

He decided the iPad wasn't the best choice for him, at least in this configuration. The case didn't lend itself to laptop note taking, and configuring the Citrix client, while not difficult, meant that he had to have access to the school network to access the materials he was using for his summer classes, much of which were provided in PowerPoint format.

Realizing that an Android tablet would have the same problems, I asked him if he just wanted a notebook for school. He gave it some thought and told me that he would prefer a tablet and that some of his classmates were using Windows tablets. I pointed out that a Windows Pro tablet would be about twice the price of any of the other alternatives, but if he wanted to pay the difference, it was OK with me. He told me he would think about it.

A few days later he told me that his classmate's tablets were the same price as an iPad. It turned out that they were all using Windows RT devices. Apparently, the way the school worked really lent itself well to RT and the built-in Office apps. Word was the preferred document format, and teaching handouts and collateral materials were distributed as PowerPoint files. Students were expected to turn in presentations and such as PowerPoint documents (hence the Citrix client availability for students who didn't own the software). While these policies started when the vast majority of students were using laptops or the school's computers, there hadn't been any changes since other technologies became commonplace. And with an Enterprise Citrix deployment making access to the required applications possible from just about any device, there isn't a lot of motivation to make changes.

I gave my son a brief background on the current status of Windows RT, but he was still interested in trying it out, so off we went to a local store so he could get some face time with a Surface RT tablet. He pulled out a USB drive with his schoolwork, plugged it in, and was able to do everything he needed to do, even on the demo machine at the local store.

As this coincided with Microsoft's recent price drop, it looked like the price of the tablet and Type keyboard was in line with what I had expected to spend on an iPad (I hadn't realized how quickly my son had weaned himself off the Apple ecosystem after having been an iPhone user since the introduction of the iPhone 3. I guess it actually is possible when the choice was between a Galaxy S4 and the uninspiring iPhone 5). But as we looked at other Windows RT options, he found that he liked the keyboard-tablet combo of the Asus VivoTab RT better.


With a certain sense of kismet, it turned out that my cellular provider, AT&T, had dropped the price of the 32GB Asus device with 4G LTE and the keyboard dock to a total of $299. Adding the new tablet to my data sharing plan added only the $10 per month to my bill, and gave him the added flexibility of LTE connectivity. Additional costs for a 32GB micro SD card and a case still kept the total price to the same point as buying the Surface RT tablet alone.

So a week into his experience, he has moved all of his work from a USB key to the Vivo RT and the cloud, has had no problem using or creating PowerPoint documents, transcribed pages of written notes, and installed some of his favorite time-killing apps (Netflix, Hulu, a texting app, and a few others) from the Windows store, connected my Xbox Music account, and is just enjoying his new tablet experience.

The Windows RT tablet meets his needs perfectly. He had the option of any of the tablet choices currently available, and this one just works for him and apparently many of his classmates. While RT hasn't taken off like Microsoft had hoped, it isn't the dog that many would like to make it out to be. Once again, suitability to task has made it the right choice, at least in this situation, for the next generation who will be business users in a few years and remember this experience.

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