back to article Microsoft's ARM blunder: 7 reasons why Windows RT was DOA

Industry doomsayers were circling Windows 8 like buzzards before it even launched, but they picked the wrong carcass. Microsoft's real 2012 roadkill was Win8's ARM-powered cousin, Windows RT. The chattering class's comparisons of Windows 8 and Windows Vista are premature – it will take several more quarters before we can gauge …


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  1. DougS Silver badge

    Surface Pro will also fail

    There's no reason at all to buy it over buying an Ultrabook which it costs about the same, performs about the same, and weighs about the same as Surface Pro including the keyboard cover. The only difference is Ultrabooks will have a better keyboard and be available with better CPUs, neither of which is in favor of Surface Pro.

    On their fourth attempt to enter the tablet market since the mid 90s, Microsoft still doesn't understand it, even after Apple showed them what people want! They still try to make something that does everything a PC does, when the Apple and Android tablet sales demonstrate people aren't asking for that. If they were, the iPad would have flopped and there would still be no tablet market.

    1. NullReference Exception

      Microsoft can't win

      When vendors release tablets that run full desktop Windows, then people complain (as you do) that tablets aren't PCs (they're not), that desktop Windows doesn't work with a touch-oriented device (it doesn't), and therefore the tablets are useless. But when Microsoft releases a tablet that runs a slimmed-down, touch-oriented version of Windows, people complain that it doesn't run full desktop Windows and therefore it's useless.

      I have no idea how Microsoft can get itself out of this trap. Apparently, neither does Microsoft...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Microsoft can't win

        I think if it had outlook and AD integration it could have at least had a role in business...

        As it is, it can't survive in the low cost market where The Rest Of Android dominates, and it can't survive in the high cost market occupied by Samsung and Apple.

        I expect the full fat 8 tablets will have a similar issue except they'll be more use for work, but then people will wonder "but this tablet doesn't have that much more battery then that laptop and the laptop has an okay keyboard and is a single unit... also it has windows 7 which is what all the other PCs I use have on them"

        1. Faceless Man

          Re: Microsoft can't win

          Yeah, the lack of AD and Outlook is killing it. The one thing everyone, even the staunchest fanperson, has to give them is that they have, rightly or wrongly, got business and the enterprise sewn up, and a key part of that is AD. Not having AD integration is throwing away their key advantage, allowing iOS and Android to entrench themselves further in the market.

      2. Paul Shirley

        @NullReference Exception

        It was Microsoft that chose to create confusion over the relationship between Win8 RT and Win8 and it's Microsoft that continues to do nothing to remedy the situation. Can't blame users for not knowing what to expect.

        The bigger issue is this policy leaves buyers wondering why they should spend so much on what is apparently just a low end laptop/netbook. I'm not claiming being much more explicit about RTs nature and tablet focus would do them much good though, the supposed Windows compatibility is so shallow (only new Metro style apps) jumping OS to IOS or Android would be no harder and that's the only sales point in its favour.

        I agree with you, there seems no way out for Microsoft. They foolishly thought they could ship premium price devices based on a 'it runs Windows' slogan instead of competing on what and how well it works as a tablet. There's no reality where the name "Windows" is worth $200 on the price tag unless it really runs full blown Windows and runs it bloody well.

        1. jnffarrell1

          Re: @NullReference Exception

          Windows RT ambiguity is a millstone around Windows Surface Pro's neck. People will only remember that Windows RT 'Sleeps with the Fishes' and think Windows tablets have already died and been buried at sea. Another triumph of Microsoft's old boys in PR.

      3. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Microsoft can't win

        Bought some more NET BOOKS.....

        10 minutes into a 30 minute boot up, set up and registering process - Xubuntu 12.04, UNetBootin - Linux installer on a USB drive, FULL install = wiping out Microsoft Windows, and their half baked trial version crapware....

        Muuuuuuuuch Happier.

        I just think back to all the days, weeks, months and perhaps even years, that this company and it's shitware have cost me, and the enormous amounts of my money and misspent opportunities as well...

        "Harrrr Harrrrr - Walk the Plank Ye scurvy dogs!" - loosely translated that means, "Microsoft is having another Epic Fail - Ha Ha Ha..."

        Satan - "I welcome them"

      4. JEDIDIAH

        Re: Microsoft can't win

        Microsoft's bread and butter is people that think they "need to be DOS compatible".

        Without that, Microsoft is nothing and Windows is nothing. Microsoft has no competitive advantage in non-PC devices and everyone else has already established "ecosystems".

        People were saying this about Windows-on-ARM before these devices came out and people are still saying this about Windows-on-ARM now. There's nothing mysterious or magical or hard to grasp here.

    2. Allison Park

      Re: Surface Pro will also fail

      Open source, Open O/S, Open HW it's all BS

      Why is everyone buying Apple? Because it is the best overall device, HW/SW/Apps/accessories

      Integration value trumpts best of breed component and that is the future.

      This is also why linux on x86 is the next downward spiral for Intel. HP was the first to fall, Intel is next then Microsoft.


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        1. RubberJohnny

          Re: Surface Pro will also fail

          It's not the openness that is selling Android, 99% of buyers don't know it's open, or what "open" means.

          What is selling Android is Samsung, and Apple actually making their latest phones less appealing.

          1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

            1. DougS Silver badge

              @Eadon - openness selling Android

              Bullshit. As you say, geeks like Android because it is open, but that has had little or nothing to do with its success among the masses. If geek recommendations and openness could sell stuff, Linux would have more than 1% of the desktop market (and before you blame Microsoft, since the consent decree there have been Linux products available from Dell, for instance, but they never sell much)

              When someone buys a phone because of what their friends have, they are generally buying the same phone or same brand. They see their friend's GS3, think it's cool, and get one for themselves. People recommend models or brands, they don't recommend "get an Android", unless they're talking to someone else who would understand what that means - and if you think even half of Android owners know they have an Android phone, you're hanging out with too many propeller heads and not enough ordinary people.

              If Android was not open source, if it had instead been based on a BSD kernel and rather than being freely available to OEMs cost them say $1 to license, it would be just as successful as it was today. The OEMs would still license it, people buying based on what their friends have would still do so, and it would still dominate the market just as much.

              BTW, your idea that Microsoft gets bad karma via the patent lawsuits is ridiculous. The average person may have heard about Apple's lawsuits in passing but very few will have heard about Microsoft's. Even if they have heard of Apple or Microsoft's lawsuits they have no idea what they're about, and certainly don't think "oh noes, a closed vendor is attacking an open vendor, I have to support openness by buying Android". Go find a dozen average non-tech people and ask them about the Microsoft/Android lawsuits and see if a single one knows what the hell you're talking about. Some won't even know what Android is, despite having an Android phone in their pocket! They don't know their phone runs Android, they know it as a Samsung.

              1. Disintegrationnotallowed

                Re: @Eadon - openness selling Android

                You missed the other point completely here, people get Android phones generally because they are cheaper than the iPhone on the same contract. When they look at what is on offer for their upgrade, they see a brand name they know, Samsung, at a contract price that is 1/2 to 2/3 the price of an apple contracted phone.

                They then know that a lot of their friends have a Samsung and it seems to be good enough. You are however right, most of them will have no clue about Android really (other than the little green man), its a Samsung, a decent brand at a good price.

                Geeks here who think that they understand openness, or that they buy a phone based on some geek recommendation are kidding themselves. I have recommended Android tablets and phones to family, largely based on a cost vs usage basis. If I was looking to get something simple for my parents to use I would go for the iPad, as I know it would be easier for me to support out of the box. However on a cost basis I couldn't justify the extra money, so have told them to get an android device, as I know it will be fine, ad may just end up with me being asked more questions.

                Always follow the money, and this is why few consumers are going to buy RT or Surface Pro devices.

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                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: @Eadon - openness selling Android


                    Shows that Obj C isn't that far off from Java.

                2. JEDIDIAH

                  Re: @Eadon - openness selling Android

                  > If I was looking to get something simple for my parents to use I would go for the iPad

                  That's a common fallacy: that it has to be crippled to be easy. The opposite is actually true.

                  Developers need to be completely free to innovate on the platform. THIS is what leads to a more usable product. A more open environment is what allows the same platform to address different use cases all at the same time. It prevents a system from being "for rubes only". The tyrant is not perfect. They have missed something. They may not be agile enough to adapt quickly.

                  It's like communism/fascism versus capitalism. Central management will always be less effectve. The thing that gets rejected in committe might end up being your killer app.

                  Assuming that "rubes need an Apple device" may end up actually being a disaster.

              2. Daniel B.

                Re: @Eadon - openness selling Android

                Yeah, I'm pretty sure people know more about Apple's patent warfare than MS's trolling.

                But on the openness selling, it is pretty possible that it does have an impact in mobile. On desktop, most people have some dependencies tying them to Windows, especially MS Office. So you can't tell Average Joe to just switch to Linux; even the most radical Linux dudes have eventually returned to the MS Borgship after a couple of years, mostly because Open/LibreOffice will b0rk the documents sent by clients, and the resulting doc looks bad. I took a third option and went OSX instead (and I'm not quite happy with Apple's philosophy either!)

                On the mobile platform? Only those who have invested huge wads of $$$ on iOS apps will be tied ... and that would be to iOS, not MS. Anyone else is fair target, which is why the mobile market has been able to shift so suddenly in a 10 year span. 2005? The mobile OS du jour was PalmOS. 2007? Symbian and/or BlackberryOS. 2010? Symbian and iOS. Then Android and iOS. By now, someone might bring out a radically new mobile OS and it might take over the entire market if it is better than the current ones...

                1. This post has been deleted by its author

                2. Chemist

                  Re: @Eadon - openness selling Android

                  "even the most radical Linux dudes have eventually returned to the MS Borgship after a couple of years"

                  Nonsense - in a big organisation maybe, before I retired I had 2 workstations - a Windows PC for (corporate) e-mail and attached Word documents and a big, powerful Linux system for the real work of data analysis, protein modeling & 3D displaying.The company insisted on the Windows machine.

                  Since 'retiring' - I'm a scientist we never really retire - I've use exclusively Linux - nobody has complained that documents that I've processed with Libre Office are a problem, people send me spreadsheet data as CSV in any case as that's the format that a lot of science uses as it can be processed more readily by all sorts of means.

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                  2. GizmodoT

                    Re: @Eadon - openness selling Android

                    I work with data warehouses and since microsoft isn't shipping power view without sharepoint it's a bit of a mess. Really would like to know about 3D modelling in Linux and if they are web based animated graphs?

                3. DougS Silver badge

                  @Daniel B 06:21

                  Oh I agree that the mobile landscape can shift rapidly, but this is a problem for Android far more so than it is for iOS. And yes, an opportunity for Microsoft, though they will probably continue to do nothing with it.

                  There are some people who are locked in to iOS due to apps spending, but that is massively overrated as a reason for people to stick with Apple. Is even $50 in sunk costs in apps going to change your mind if you have a reason to switch platforms? Only a tiny fraction have spent more than that. The reason people have own iPhones purchase another isn't because they're "locked into the ecosystem" due to sunk costs for apps, but because they're just happy with their iPhone. The surveys that show high satisfaction rates among iPhone owners and high "would you buy another iPhone" rates prove it. Most won't see a need to switch to something other than Apple unless they decide they REALLY want a much larger screen or REALLY want to spend a lot less on their next phone. For the average consumer, those are the only things that differentiate phones beyond the name on the back. They don't care if a phone has NFC or a SD slot or a quad core CPU or has a sassy assistant named Siri.

                  Now the same is true for a lot of Samsung customers who have been happy with their Galaxy phones, they will buy another Samsung, not because it is Android, but because they were satisfied with their last Samsung purchase and see no compelling reason to switch. That fact is a potential disaster for Google because Samsung has no allegiance to Android and in fact appears that they are planning to go their own way with Tizen to better monetize their customers rather than allowing Google to make all the post-sale money from them. Samsung could switch from Android to Tizen and take half the Android with them! Only those who specifically chose Android when they bought Samsung might abandon them if they switch to Tizen, but that's a very small percentage of all of Samsung's customers.

                  The other problem Android faces is on the very low end, like emerging market China and India, where a lot of the new Chinese companies most of us have never heard of replacing feature phones with "smartphones". Android's Microsoft tax means that a cheaper competitor like the Firefox OS could quickly steal that low end where even $5 per phone makes a difference. This really doesn't matter except for market share perception, since these people are not providing any after-sale value, but if the people see Android's market share drop by 75% over a year or two, the market perception would be devastating.

                  Google is so busy worrying about Apple, which due to its focus on the high end could at best win only a little bit more market share, that it seems to be ignoring the very real potential it could lose a large majority of the Android market in just a couple years.

                  Google thinks they can be like Microsoft, and Android can be like Windows. But Windows had lock in, while Android has none. People didn't choose Windows any more than they choose Android, they chose Dell or HP. Microsoft had enough power thanks to Office to force out all the competition aside from Apple, but Google does not have any killer app they can leverage into a monopoly (no, search isn't, because there is Yahoo/Bing) Microsoft could not have built their desktop monopoly if the web had existed back then, because being Windows compatible wouldn't have mattered if you could run web apps like Google Office.

                  1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

                    Re: @Daniel B 06:21

                    > Microsoft could not have built their desktop monopoly if the web had existed back then, because being Windows compatible wouldn't have mattered if you could run web apps like Google Office

                    The web did exist 'back then', perhaps you missed it. When Windows 3.1 was grabbing market share due to AARD code and illegal 'per box pricing' Netscape was inventing web apps using Java and Javascript. MS had to buy in IE from SpyGlass (and forgot to pay them) in order to cut off Netscape's air supply and strangle 'the cloud' before it could establish itself. It has taken a couple of decades for the natural order to recover from MS's holding back the industry.

                    > go their own way with Tizen to better monetize

                    I am not sure how you think they will do this: their own app store to sell Tizen apps ? their own search/maps/earth/docs/etc which they advertise on or charge for ? renting their customers out to Bing ?

                    It seems that to be successful Tizen should be able to run existing web apps and Android apps like BB10 will do. It would also be useful if Tizen could run GTK+ and Qt so that it can run Gnumeric, Abiword and even OpenOffice like Nokia's N800/N900 can.

                    1. DougS Silver badge


                      Yes, I know the web existed back then, but you're on crack if you think it would have been useful for running remote apps in 1993. What existed back then was about as useless as WAP was (even Apple haters should thank Apple for driving a stake in WAP's heart) with simple menus that worked like operating a mainframe decades ago. It wasn't until IE6 (yeah, as much I hate to admit that) that the proper interfaces existed for making anything like a real web app. Previously all attempts were based on Java, and well, we know how well that worked. It is only 5 or 6 years ago with "Web 2.0" hype that it became something web developers could expect cross platform browsers to handle.

                      As for Tizen, why wouldn't Samsung set up their own app store? Amazon did. They can make it compatible with Android apps, at least at first, and with them owning half the Android market every major Android app would be sold on Samsung's store within a year. That's immediate revenue going to Samsung rather than Google. Then they can enhance Tizen in ways that aren't compatible with Android apps, but with Samsung owning half the market, developers will develop not just for iOS and Android, but iOS, Android and Tizen. Sorry, WP8 and BB10, there won't be room for you. And what's wrong with renting their customers out to Bing? Do you really think that the average person cares who serves them their search results? If they do, they could always download a Google Search app - given that Google did one for Apple, surely they'd do one for Tizen.

                      1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

                        Re: @Richard

                        > It wasn't until IE6 ...

                        Netscape supported Java and Javascript for remote apps in 1995 (prior to Win95 release). IE6 was, what, 6 years later.

                        I refer you to:


                        """Java applets were introduced in the first version of the Java language in 1995,"""


                        """ Netscape considered their client-server solution as a distributed OS, running a portable version of Sun Microsystems' Java."""

                        It was Netscape's starting to implement 'the network is the computer' that spurred MS to get IE and to kill Netscape.

                        """Developed under the name Mocha, LiveScript was the official name for the language when it first shipped in beta releases of Netscape Navigator 2.0 in September 1995, but it was renamed JavaScript[9] when it was deployed in the Netscape browser version 2.0B3.[10]"""

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                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: @Eadon - openness selling Android

                  Do you realize that while the kernel is Linux, the libc is BSD-derived? Android isn't really Linux-based, at all.

              4. StooMonster

                Re: @Eadon - openness selling Android

                Non-Geeks do not care about Android, Samsung know this. Regular people buy "Samsungs", not "Androids".

                Which is why Samsung will be safe when they dump Android for their own Tizen OS, which is clearly their plan.

          2. DiBosco

            Re: Surface Pro will also fail

            It's the openness that is attracting the manufacturers who then attract customers. So, although you are probably right, the customers probably aren't buying because of Android's [relative] openness, they are getting fed devices with software built on Linux and FOSS.

            For me, it's a shame Google don't mention Linux more often. In the same wat Apple wouldn't have been able to build OS X without BSD, Google couldn't build Android without Linux.

          3. Stuart Castle

            Re: Surface Pro will also fail

            And that is, in my opinion, a problem for Android. The fact that the one company who has taken it to the masses has shown that it is ready, willing and able to switch it's focus to a different platform with minimal notice. This is a problem (IMO) for Android as the general public seem to be going for Samsung phones rather than Android phones. If Samsung should abandon Android, and those users stay with Samsung, Android could be in trouble.

            In fact, if Samsung go for Microsoft big time, it could help Microsoft.

            Don't believe Samsung are willing and able to switch platforms with a speed that would make even Apple jealous? Look at their history. They've only been making smartphones for a few years, yet already they've used various custom OSes, various Symbian OSes, various versions of the Microsoft Phone OSes (Windows Mobile and Windows Phone) as well as various versions of Android. Even now, they offer both phones and tablets running Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8.

        2. Lallabalalla

          Re: Surface Pro will also fail

          Rubbish. Nobody apart from a few thousand geeks give a toss about "openness" - it's a meaningless term anyway. Ask one million tablet owners what it means and I'm willing to bet that only a handful can come up with any sort of answer.

          I'll tell you exactly how Android is taking market share away from Apple. People buy the best they can afford (or think they can get away with hence droid sales to date), so most people have bought Apple, and now that droid devices are beginning to come close to what Apple offer they are starting to buy those, hence rising sales. This will continue until Apple trounce them yet again with the thing they have been working on for the last 2 years while Samsung et al were playing catch-up. It's likely not going to be a tablet though,making this entire market moot.

          I realise that reality is an inconvenvenient truth for most people but you really should make an effort to get used to it.

          HP? no-one cares about HP any more than they remember what IBM once were.

      2. technome

        Re: Surface Pro will also fail

        Loving the downvoters here!

        Once again El Reg's commentards prove themselves completely divorced from the real world.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Surface Pro will also fail

          Jog on technone - no-one's biting at your crass troll bait.

        2. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Once again El Reg's commentards prove themselves completely divorced from the real world.

          I'm guessing you havn't seen the dire Suface sales figures then....

      3. Sil

        Re: Surface Pro will also fail

        First Intel is a big Linux supporter and do you remember that Linux was originally developed for x86?

        Second we have heard of Linux overtaking the desktop and killing Wintel for more than 10 years and what is the reality year after year?

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: Surface Pro will also fail

          RT does nothing that and android or is device can't. As has been commented on the office is gimped so polarised office does a decent enough job to mimmick it. At half the price you can get a tab2 or an older ipad. An AC commented above, if it had AD integration with domain toys then it would be useful to businesses. As it is it is a very standalone toy. Waste of money.

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: Surface Pro will also fail

            Silly swipe (damn keyboard less tablet :)) I meant android or iOS device

          2. TheVogon Silver badge

            Re: Surface Pro will also fail

            RT does loads that Android cant. Full multi-tasking - running one app on the tablet and a different one on an external monitor for a start.

          3. Slawek

            Re: Surface Pro will also fail

            >>RT does nothing that and android or is device can't

            Well, it has much better handwriting recognition, for example.

        2. jnffarrell1

          Re: Surface Pro will also fail

          Intel's CEO sits on Google's Board. Lenovo has introduced a Chrome Book with lower power Intel chips. The Chrome Operating System is based on Linnx. Which of these data plots on a line forecasting future dominance of Wintel?

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          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: Surface Pro will also fail

            Dell marketed and sold linux

            1. Bernardo Sviso

              Re: Surface Pro will also fail

              They still do.

              Though admittedly it can be hard to find Dell's Linux offerings, even when you know about them -- and when you do manage to track them down, most of them are (deliberately?) unattractive (poorer hardware and/or higher prices, and fewer options) compared to the similar Windows models, . (When I looked, the model I liked didn't come with the option for the larger battery, but did have the option for Norton 360). It's hard to avoid ascribing this to monopoly-abuse pressures from Microsoft

              Most Linux users end up opting to buy the Windows version of a known Linux-compatible model, and install Linux themselves -- there's much better choice of hardware, and it's usually actually cheaper, (The downside is that this gets counted as a Windows sale -- and feeds the persistent mythology that almost no-one uses Linux.

              -- but on the other hand, there's also this in the high end developer niche


              which has received substantial positive attention in Linux/developer circles.

            2. Robert E A Harvey
              Thumb Down

              Re: Dell marketed and sold linux

              Sold, perhaps, if you were determined enough.

              Marketed? no. It was a dirty secret, not offered with any enthusiasm.

          2. DougS Silver badge


            However - this situation may not last much longer - Android will appear on the desktop in some form, and at that point, MS will rapidly lose market share.


            Android will never appear on the desktop. It isn't suited for it. However, a more desktop oriented GUI (i.e. Chrome desktop) will be installed on Android phones at some point and it will run instead of Android as a desktop when plugged into a monitor. I guess you could consider this "some form" of Android since it would be running the Android kernel, but it won't look anything like the Android GUI, which is designed for touch and is as useless on a desktop as a desktop OS would be on a smartphone. But there will be no PCs or laptops sold that run the Android version of the Linux kernel. With a bluetooth keyboard/mouse this "docked" smartphone will be a true replacement for the desktop for the large number of consumers who don't need Windows compatibility, once they leave Windows desktops they'll never return.

            Apple will do this too, using the OS X GUI it will be almost indistinguishable from running on a Mac, aside from reduced performance. It will hurt OS X sales, but better they eat their own market share rather than having someone else do it for them. Apple will want to wait until they have a 64 bit CPU in iPhone (which could possibly be ready this year, but would be more likely for next year) to do this so they only need to worry about supporting 64 bit ARM apps under this new OS X flavor.

            Android might introduce this feature this year, though Google probably realizes the Chrome desktop needs a lot of polishing before they want to throw this out in front of people - if it flops, it would be hard to get people to give it a second look and might send people Apple's way when they release their more polished solution using the mature OS X GUI.

            1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Eadon

              "Google probably realizes the Chrome desktop needs a lot of polishing before they want to throw this out in front of people"

              You can't polish a turd.

              1. hplasm Silver badge

                Re: You can't polish a turd.

                How apt on a Surface/WinRt thread!

          3. StooMonster

            Re: Surface Pro will also fail

            Before Android arriving as a desktop OS, there will be Valve's SteamBox which is a Linux OS dedicated to gaming.

            SteamBox will be targeted at the PC gaming crowd, who are an important constituent of the Windows audience, and if Valve's gaming focused open OS succeeds -- they've got OEM lining up apparently -- it could be a significant step in destroying the hegemony of Windows on the desktop.


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