back to article RIP Windows RT: Microsoft murders ARM Surface, Nokia tablets

Microsoft has quietly pulled the plug on the last device to ship running Windows RT, casting doubt on the future of Redmond's ARM fondleslab OS. The software giant confirmed on Wednesday to The Register that it has stopped manufacturing the Nokia Lumia 2520, a 10.1-inch Windows RT tablet with a quad-core ARM processor, an HD …

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  1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Surface 2 with Win 8 RT-edition

    Lovely hardware.

    The primary annoyance is not being able to install an ad-blocker, thus making it less than useful for consuming ad-supported content (e.g. YouTube).

    1. asdf Silver badge

      Re: Surface 2 with Win 8 RT-edition

      Not sure about blocking ads on YouTube but to block ads in most other places run privoxy on your router or some other computer on your network and then just enter that as the proxy on the Win RT machine. That is how I get ad blocking on an unrooted iPhone. There are also outside adblock proxy services such as Auto proxy URL: http://ipad.speedmeup.net (which will work with any OS) but then they get to see obviously a lot of your browsing habits and info. Privoxy works reasonably well with SSL as well in that it will filter/block source and destination domains but obviously it won't be able to filter the content itself.

      1. goldcd

        A workable solution

        but not 'ideal'

        Currently for £150 you can get yourself a no-name Chinese tablet with an x86 and a 'retina' screen that lets you run any chrome/firefox/whatever plugins there are out there.

        If you want something more professional (e.g. you live in fear that your Onda warranty might not be next day, on-site) there's the proper Surface and ilk.

        RT just seems to be floating the in the dead-end middle, relying on iphone workarounds.

        1. Lusty Silver badge

          Re: A workable solution

          "e.g. you live in fear that your Onda warranty might not be next day, on-site"

          My main fear is that it will catch on fire and burn down my house and kill my family. There's a reason they can offer these things cheaper, and it's not because they have more efficient R&D, test, manufacturing and regulation departments than Apple, it's because they choose not to do those things and hope for the best...

          1. Just Enough
            Flame

            Re: A workable solution

            Yup. It's always worth remembering that these no-name cheapo tablets have pretty powerful batteries in them and everything that a nasty little electrical fire needs.

            The individual components may be sound, but don't imagine anyone has tested what happens when they are crammed in together on a tablet, left on, and stuffed down the side of a sofa.

        2. launcap Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: A workable solution

          >Currently for £150 you can get yourself a no-name Chinese tablet

          Or (as I did recently) a Linx 10 (1GB RAM, 32GB built-in with MicroSD socket, HDMI out) tablet from Sainsburys for £129.

          Has an Intel processor, runs proper Windows 8.1

          Only fly in the ointment - trying to upgrade to Windows 10 Tech preview had... issues. So back on W8.1 now.

          It's never going to be my main machine but is a reasonable little unit.

          1. ParaHandy

            Re: A workable solution

            Linx 10 has 2GB RAM.

            Linx 7 and 8 are both 1GB though.

    2. Vince

      Re: Surface 2 with Win 8 RT-edition

      Why, does the IE not have the "tracking protection" option where you can install the EasyBlock lists which is what Adblock uses? I haven't bothered to turn my Lenovo Yoga RT device on to check, but pretty sure it does allow it.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Surface 2 with Win 8 RT-edition

        It does have Tracking Protection. That's part of IE11. Surprisingly, a lot of people simply don't know it exists. Swipe in from the left, click on Settings and Privacy and its in there as the top option, I think. You can add as many lists as you want including the one that Adblock itself uses.

        Anyway, shame to see it go. It may have served its purpose in threatening Intel by showing that you actually could create a viable OS on ARM and MS were willing. It could have been more than that, though. I have a Surface 2 and find it a great device. Good as a tablet and I can do Office work on it quite comfortably when I want to. Great device.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Surface 2 with Win 8 RT-edition

          "It may have served its purpose in threatening Intel by showing that you actually could create a viable OS on ARM..."

          iOS and Android have already well proven that bit. I think the lack of legacy application support is what really killed RT. One almost might say that it almost proves that many use Windows on x86 simply because they have to due to the applications they already have, not because it's their first choice of OS.

    3. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Surface 2 with Win 8 RT-edition

      "The primary annoyance is not being able to install an ad-blocker, thus making it less than useful for consuming ad-supported content (e.g. YouTube)."

      IE's built in advert blocking works just fine. No need to use a third party product. I use the same block list as AdAware, plus the one that blocks Google.

      1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

        Re: Surface 2 with Win 8 RT-edition

        Instructions on how to achieve Ad-blocking on Surface RT are here:

        http://www.edandersen.com/2012/10/28/adblock-alternative-on-windows-rts-ie10/

        ... even uses El Reg as the demo site.

        1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Surface 2 with Win 8 RT-edition

          @all

          THANK YOU very much for the pointers to adblocking on the Surface 2.

          Very much appreciated!

        2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Surface 2 with Win 8 RT-edition

          The comments on the above edandersen.com link mention that this process doesn't work for the video ads on YouTube (which is the main point, since they take time). I've managed to suppress the video ads on other devices.

  2. asdf Silver badge

    hmm

    Microsoft trying to succeed outside x86 = a zebra trying to change its stripes.

    Yes technically they can do it and have in the past as well but usually just as a negotiation tactic or as business strategy to kill off a competitor never as a way to actually make any kind of profit.

    1. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: hmm

      Microsoft trying to succeed outside x86 = a zebra trying to change its stripes.

      Sure. MIPS, Alpha, Power, Itanium, now ARM. (Have I missed any out?) All supported at one time or another, all have fallen by the wayside. That track record is pretty damning and becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy: no one wants to adopt a new platform today that won't exist in five years time, condemning MS to continued failure away from their x86 home turf.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: hmm

        Are you saying that your crystal ball's telling you that ARM's not going to be around in 5 years and MS are right to get out?

        1. P. Lee Silver badge

          Re: hmm

          >Are you saying that your crystal ball's telling you that ARM's not going to be around in 5 years and MS are right to get out?

          No, merely that ARM doesn't have the oomph to do what people expect to do with Windows which means:

          1) MS are effectively starting from scratch

          2) Customers are disappointed with the device

          That isn't a good combination.

          Remember the ipad/iphone? No ported desktop apps and very few OSX users who thought they might get OSX on a phone.

          There's also:

          3) MS have a history of dropping non-intel platforms. Even if you like it, its unlikely to be a strategic direction you or your company can take.

          Is this just a question of being too early to market? I'll be interested to see how the new A72's go and if this brings ARM up to atom-level CPU strength. More grunt, less power will certainly bring the hurt to intel in the mobile space.

          I'm waiting to see when the graphics card companies wake up to see that they have control of the x16 slots in a PC and could add SATA ports, NICs and an ARM CPU to provide an inbox NAS. Your NAS could work at pretty much native SATA3 speeds within the box thanks to the X16 slot, but it could also act as an independent server for the rest of the home. Add android & wake-on-(virtual)-LAN and that power-house desktop could mostly stay silent with the intel chip asleep while you get your email and do some browsing.

          Hello? AMD? Are you there? nVidia? Gigabyte? Asus? Anyone?

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: hmm

            On 2, MS chose the wrong software to kickstart the platform off with. The iPad's form was a big iPhone, it made sense to make it compatible with iPhone apps.

            Surface RT's selling point was it was a laptop too, so making it compatible with Windows Phone apps and not compatible with Windows desktop was dooming the platform to failure from the start.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: hmm

            "the graphics card companies wake up to see that they have control of the x16 slots in a PC and could add SATA ports, NICs and an ARM CPU to provide an inbox NAS."

            On paper an interesting concept.

            Now explain to potential manufacturers (and to readers) why it needs all the PC-world junk around it, if mostly what it's getting from the PC is cabinetry, power+cooling and LAN connectivity? (Yes local access at PCIe speeds might count for something. Or it might not, depending on the cost)

          3. John Sanders
            Holmes

            Re: hmm

            """ARM up to atom-level CPU strength."""

            Yes, and the PCI bus enumeration is going to happen how exactly?

            I do not see anybody in the ARM space rushing to develop such PC-Like boards any time soon without proper supporting chipsets.

            PowerPC boards failed miserably because the available chipsets were rubbish.

            ARM SOCs are nothing like what people understand as a PC.

            1. Tom 38 Silver badge

              Re: hmm

              ARM SOCs are nothing like what people understand as a PC.

              Which is why ARM is getting EUFI.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: hmm

              "PCI bus enumeration is going to happen how exactly?

              I do not see anybody in the ARM space rushing to develop such PC-Like boards any time soon without proper supporting chipsets.

              ARM SOCs are nothing like what people understand as a PC."

              True, but also irrelevant to 99+% of the world's desktop and mobile computing devices and maybe even some others too (eg routers, TVs, etc).

              If everything's on the SOC, as it is with phones, tablets, routers, etc, who gives a wotsits about an external bus?

              If the system has no user-accessible PCI* bus, as with most modern laptops etc, who gives a wotsits about an external bus?

              If the system has a user-accessible PCI* bus but nobody ever uses it, who gives a wotsits about an external bus?

              External PCI* buses are an increasingly niche market. They won't go away but they will be of decreasing importance to manufacturers and to the vast majority of users. Therefore, systems with off-chip PCI* buses will be increasing in price, and therefore, of decreasing importance. Whoops.

              General purpose servers are a different kettle of fish (whereas dedicated microservers could easily be based on SoCs and some people are doing that already).

            3. Adrian 4 Silver badge

              Re: hmm

              This is good, right ?

              Because what people understand as a PC is dead, except for niche markets lke developers.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: hmm

        Those where vapourware and empty promises, I remember that well.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: hmm

        Sure. MIPS, Alpha, Power, Itanium, now ARM. (Have I missed any out?)

        m68k, SuperH.

      4. h4rm0ny

        Re: hmm

        >>"no one wants to adopt a new platform today that won't exist in five years time, condemning MS to continued failure away from their x86 home turf."

        If you use the new Windows Runtime APIs, then your software would work fine on both the x86 Windows and the ARM version. It's a simple configuration option at compile time.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: hmm

          @h4rm0ny: I'm sure it would, if you didn't use any Win32 API that's not in WinRT. It would also be severely limited compared to Win32 with an interface that looks like a Fisher Price toy.

        2. dajames Silver badge

          Re: hmm

          If you use the new Windows Runtime APIs ...

          But why would you? Why would anyone?

          If you're porting an existing desktop application changing the underlying API set is a major piece of work. Is (was) the RT marketplace big enough to justify doing that? Dunno, wait and see ... nope, doesn't like it.

          If you're writing a new application from scratch you want it to have the largest possible market, so you write it to use the most widely supported APIs ... that means Win32 (or the 64-bit incarnation thereof) or maybe some cross-platform toolkit that targets Mac and Linux as well. You won't target the newcomer API unless and until it actually has some users.

          At least there's now something to which the "burning platform" monicker really applies.

      5. CheesyTheClown Silver badge

        Re: hmm

        i860 - The original platform for the NT kernel

    2. Jason Hindle Bronze badge

      Re: hmm - not sure that's a good analysis....

      I think it's more about Intel repeatedly raising its game, rather than Microsoft failing with non Intel processors. It is easy for those of us, who've been here too long, to think in terms of Wintel while forgetting about Intel.

    3. Lysenko Silver badge

      Re: hmm

      "Microsoft trying to succeed outside x86 = a zebra trying to change its stripes."

      Only if you think that Windows only comes in two flavours: PC Desktop and Server.

      The reality is that Windows (disregarding RT), currently ships in at least four other versions: Win 6CE, Win EC 7 (EC = Embedded Compact), Win EC 8 and Win EC 8.1. Most of these additionally have minor versions along the lines of Standard, Pro and Server and between them have BSPs (Board Support Layers) for around 250 variants of ARM chip including vendors like TI, Atmel, Marvell, FreeScale and others. MIPS architecture is also still supported.

      You may regard the RPi, "maker" market as tiny, but the Point of Sale, ATM, Interactive kiosk, Industrial monitoring, in car GPS, Security Scanner and so on markets are not. You might also imagine that Linux and RTOS's like QNX have a lock on these markets - but you would be wrong.

      The hobbyist, schoolkid, Kickstarter end of the "intelligent gadget" market may be Linux/Python/Ruby/JSON dominated, but the professional end isn't. Win CE6 still ships because there are companies still selling designs (gas monitors come to mind) that hit the market 10 years ago and they won't even update the OS version without a shotgun to the head, let alone switch OS entirely.

      The corollary to: "If it doesn't run Windows, it isn't a PC" I'm seeing here is: "If it doesn't run MS Office, it isn't Windows". Both propositions are equally wrong.

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: hmm

        Win CE6 still ships because...

        re-certification of any existing solution is such an expensive pain in the arse most engineers would rather be dragged over hot coals interlaced with razor wire buck naked than re-certify a completely different solution. Does that FTFY?

        1. Lysenko Silver badge

          Re: hmm

          @Eddy

          "re-certification of any existing solution is such an expensive pain in the arse most engineers would rather be dragged over hot coals interlaced with razor wire buck naked than re-certify a completely different solution. Does that FTFY?"

          I'm not following you. You appear to be saying the same thing I did. Windows is big on ARM, that has nothing to do with WinRT and developers using Windows on ARM aren't going to be switching to anything else in a hurry. The regulatory inertia in the embedded space is worse than even Financial Services (notorious for running IE6 way past its sell by date).

          I build such stuff (albeit on Yocto). Doesn't change the fact that I'm in the minority re. our immediate competitors who are mostly Win EC 7 shops.

          1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

            Re: hmm

            @Lysenko

            My bad, I get your sense now. On my first read it seemed that you were saying there were actually people of the "you can have my CE when you pry it from..." type.

      2. picturethis
        Unhappy

        Re: hmm

        re: QNX.

        It may have a large presence in the embedded space, but that may be due to historical reasons rather than new "wins" during the past couple of years. A couple of years ago I looked into them for the company I work for (medium size company) and ROFLOL as I hung up the phone after talking with their regional rep. They were charging USD 220,000 per development seat and that didn't include runtime licenses. At first I thought he was joking around (he's an acquaintence of mine), but he wasn't...

        We've beem using OpenRTOS (FreeRTOS) for the past 7 years or so and it's actually okay for our needs. In some respects it's actually better than the few remaining commercial RTOS' due to access to all of the source code while debugging. It looks like we'll be putting more effort towards improving this (and we won't be spending $220,000 to do it either)..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: hmm

          RTOSes

          RTOSes are incredibly diverse both in the functionality provided and in the hardware environments they support. Comparing QNX to FreeRTOS is crazy. I like FreeRTOS and have used it on many projects but it is at the minimal end providing task/thread scheduing sycnhrinisation and basic inter thread messaging. QNX is at the opposite end comparing the two is like comparing a car to a sandal.

          I am also very sceptical about the quoted price. QNX is pricy but the number quoted is roughly ten times what I was last quoted.

          1. CheesyTheClown Silver badge

            Re: hmm

            Let's not forget that Windows CE is also a real-time operating system... which in many cases is why it failed so bad as a user platform as did Symbian when they went that route.

            Real-time operating systems are awesome for things which need predictable time. From a user perspective, they are not nearly as responsive since the scheduler simply does not prioritize user experience. They're excellent for things like real-time communications but almost always fall flat when running applications.

            Of course in the case of QNX, using a more advanced scheduler which offers real-time to real-time tasks and prioritized scheduling to user tasks works out well since the real-time functions tend to use minimal amounts of time when running. Real-time preemption is deadly to user experience for large tasks like running an EcmaScript thread in a web page.

            I spent A LOT of time porting the Opera Web Browser to QNX back in the day and while QNX rocked for machine control and such, it was a pathetic OS at the time for running a browser. These days, I'm only speculating on the new scheduler behavior, but I do assume that for the work they did for Blackberry, they probably made it a hybrid which makes sense.

            I agree with your comparison of a minimal embedded OS like FreeRTOS vs a full-feature OS like QNX which happens to have a real-time microkernel, other than time-slice management, I just don't see anything else in common.

            1. druck
              Thumb Down

              Re: hmm

              CheesyTheClown wrote:

              Let's not forget that Windows CE is also a real-time operating system...

              Not on anyone else's planet! It's just a port of a very old Windows NT kernel, and about as real time as a brick. All Windows CE based phones had to have a separate processor to run the phone stack.

            2. Lysenko Silver badge

              Re: hmm

              @Cheesy

              I take you point, but there are different perspectives of "user experience". For what I'm working in now, the relevant user experience is that the DMX stage lights go on and off in the right place at the right time. The lighting engineer may want to hit "pause" if there is a scenery glitch or something, but other than that he doesn't want to interact with the software other than hitting "go" at the start. Even setting that aside, his user experience is insignificant compared to that of the audience. To a large extent he us a robot peripheral there to replace blown bulbs etc. when the control system instructs him to.

              The set designer who creates the cross fades and so on is a different matter. He uses a nice C# GUI running on full fat Windows. Probably I've had an odd career, but the majority of the stuff I've done from this to call centres, involves the carbon based wetware carrying out the instructions of their silicon overlords ;)

          2. werdsmith Silver badge

            RTOS

            FreeRTOS is the OS that I think Pebble watch firmware is based on.

        2. Colin Critch

          Re: hmm

          Yes I have found FreeRTOS to be very good also on the ST Arm chips. Also there is good task and Queue support on the IAR Embedded Workbench for ARM.

        3. Lysenko Silver badge

          Re: hmm

          "We've beem using OpenRTOS (FreeRTOS) for the past 7 years or so and it's actually okay for our needs."

          We've played about with it too, but so far it hasn't been a great fit (at least the way we design things). For things that aren't hard timing critical Yocto/ARM is fine and for other things that are very sensitive like nasty third party ModBus and DMX implementations we stick micro controllers (usually Microchip PICs) on the board and code them directly in ASM or C.

          For those who don't do this sort of thing, it is a bit like having a Raspberry Pi master controller with a bunch of Arduinos attached to the GPIO lines to handle the external comms processes asynchronously.

        4. JLV Silver badge

          Re: hmm

          $220K? Anyone know how that's evolved since BlackBerry took them on? I've always had a soft spot for QNX and I rather like my "new" Z10 so it'd be disheartening to see it become irrelevant due to irrational costing.

      3. John Sanders
        Holmes

        Re: hmm

        WinCE is not windows, at least not what 99% of the population understands for "Windows".

        The companies using WinCE like you say do it because of legacy products/reasons.

        If it can not run Windows x86 commercial software windows is barely of no use to barely anybody.

        1. Lysenko Silver badge

          Re: hmm

          @John Sanders

          "If it can not run Windows x86 commercial software windows is barely of no use to barely anybody."

          Tell you what: ask for the full, personal, "latex glove" security procedure at the airport next time. Then come back and tell me Windows (likely running the regular security scanners) is of "barely any use to you". I'll lend you a fiver for a tube of Preparation H, since you wont be using the ATM (probably Windows as well).

      4. JLV Silver badge

        Re: hmm

        >Only if you think that Windows only comes in two flavours

        Upvoted you for the comprehensive details. But the OP still has a point. MS has a fairly long history of testing the waters but not staying the course, especially in the early stages. I would most definitely consider it a risk, when considering a strategic commitment on their non-core stuff - including software.

        And your quote of a 10 year period wrt to pro markets cuts both ways. Those companies need long term stability and commitment from their vendor and that's even more scary than a 2-3 year window.

        Their core stuff? It will be around forever but only if you picked right the right branch to sit on. Best way to gauge is probably to look at their divisional revenues.

        I suspect this experimentation is driven by MS trying hard to diversify income outside of Win, Office & servers. That's laudable and so is cutting off dead branches, both technical and financial. But frequent unpredictable backtracking risks getting a predictability all of its own.

        So maybe they need to pick their fights much more carefully, execute much better and bite the bullet on staying the course once they've committed. Trite, I know.

        In a way, I wonder if open sourcing (under MIT, no less) the .Net stuff isn't at least partially motivated as an antidote of sorts to these concerns.

    4. goldcd

      Hmm, maybe.

      I loved the idea of RT and ARM, but.. as soon as Intel released usable x86 and MS gave free licenses...

      *re-reads*

      Sorry, I agree with you entirely.

    5. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: hmm

      If Windows on ARM fails (again) it won't be down to Windows itself but the handling of existing x86-based applications. This is perfectly doable in software but hardware support would make it better. When Apple made the change it had Intel's support. Unfortunately, Microsoft has made it even more complex with the different 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

      Even with Apple's aggressive support of x86 it took years before developers switched to cross-compiling their applications (almost always new versions). The Windows environment is even more diverse.

      The Windows on ARM initiative, however, may end up bypassing the tricky world of end-user software entirely and focus on the enterprise market where new kit with new applications is more plausible. The new ARM chips are going to be perfect quite a lot of workloads, even on Windows.

  3. Paul J Turner

    Poor timing for this announcement

    This makes it very clear that Microsoft's Windows 10 on ARM 7 support and development will only be there to support the relatively tiny maker market using Windows 10 on the new Pi 2 B.

    I can see that already has a long future behind it.

    Their left hand really doesn't know what their right hand is doing, does it?

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