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. jnffarrell1

    Consider this use case: your enterprise has given you Blackberries, iPads, etc. because they want you on call 24/7 but don't want you to become less productive. You use your iPad for personal tasks and don't want work intruding on your personal business. Now your business gives you a mobile device from Microsoft that is designed to cut you off from Apps you enjoy. When you leave the building you chose to put down your MS device because it is not open to your personal life. How does that help. If MS enforces incompatible APIs rather than using open APIs for MS Office does that increase your productivity.

    It is too late to force the fair haired boys in middle management back to Microsoft. Enterprise fair haired boys carry iThings that enterprises gave them.

  2. Glostermeteor

    Now that convertible laptops are being released it is very difficult to see how the current price of surface slabs has any chance of holding. Why would you spend hundreds of $$$ more on a device that has a lot less memory (64GB max vs 500GB for a laptop), has an inferior OS, and a lot less connectivity options? I think the whole concept of tablets and laptops are going to merge very quickly, and the high price points just will not sell

  3. Gil Grissum


    Microsoft went into this in a rather unfocused manner. There are ways out of it, however.

    1. Price- Lower the price. Not many people are going to buy a hobbled Surface Tablet to get a hobbled OS and hobbled office suite when they can get an iPad mini for less and be able to do more than with a Surface Tablet. Add the keyboard into that lower price too. But before lowering the price, it needs to be un-hobbled.

    2. Un-hobble the device. un-hobble Windows RT and Office RT so that users can get the complete user experience. Add Outlook to it. Allow it to join Domains. Eliminate all of the ridiculous restrictions that hobble the device and make it an expensive hobbled option in comparison to the iPad and in particular, the iPad Mini. Microsoft can't compete with Apple by giving customers a more expensive, less useful tablet option. Customers need a reason to opt for the Surface over the iPad and iPad mini.

    3. Give consumers solid reasons to get a Surface RT Tablet- Obviously, no one at Microsoft has asked themselves the question- "Why should I buy the Surface instead of an iPad or iPad mini"? You can get a Bluetooth keyboard for your iPad, so that nullifies the keyboard add-on as an advantage. While the iPad doesn't come with MS Office, there are alternatives that are usable enough to make a hobbled version of Office on the Surface, no advantage for Microsoft. The app Ecosystem for the iPad is it's biggest advantage and Microsoft's app catalog isn't providing anyone a good enough reason to switch to the Surface. Big the big advantage that Microsoft is missing out on is the BUSINESS USE scenarios.

    4. Add business use scenarios- Make MS Office 100% usable and Microsoft creates the big advantage it could have over iOS and Android. Right now, iOS and Android have MS Office use advantages over the Surface and that simply should not be. The Surface RT Tablet should be able to join a Domain, make use of the file system to copy, paste, and transfer files and documents, and MS Office on the Surface should be fully and completely usable, so that business users have a reason to opt for a Surface Tablet over iPad and iPad mini. A docking system that ties the SURFACE RT to a desk with monitor and keyboard would be good for office use, and the keyboard attachment works well enough for offsite use. Microsoft used it business use advantages to keep Apple at bay in the office. They could do the same with the Surface RT, if it's un-crippled and allowed to be fully usable.

    Maybe these are all the things that Sinofsky pushed for but could not get, and thus, he parted ways with Microsoft. It makes absolutely no sense for Microsoft to overprice an ARM based Tablet, hobble it intentionally to make it unusable for business or personal use (FLASH NOT WORKING? BIG FAIL), and then expect anyone to want to overpay for something less usable than an iPad. Worse, with the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD, and iPad Mini, there are so many less expensive tablet options available that are far more usable than Surface, Microsoft hasn't really given anyone reasons to buy them. Their daft ad campaign hasn't helped at all. The ad campaigns scream (UNUSABLE). I can do more with my iPad 2 than I could with a Surface and the iPad 2 came out in 2010. That's just embarrassing for Microsoft.

    1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      Re: Solutions

      > Price- Lower the price.

      I presume that you are asking for MS to subsidize these. That would guarantee that no OEM would ever build a Windows tablet. Not only would they have to make a loss to match MS low price but they would have to send $70-90 to MS for the privilege and then see MS make money on the apps.

      Apple have a streamlined supply chain and large production which keeps costs down. Surface is still counting startup costs and has not got economies of scale.

      > Add Outlook to it. Allow it to join Domains.

      MS want to sell the more expensive Surface Pro to business. RT is consumer only.

      > no one at Microsoft has asked themselves the question- "Why should I buy the Surface ..

      I am sure they did, but the answer they came up with is "Because it is Microsoft, because it is Windows, because they all love Bill Gates like we do."

      > MS Office on the Surface should be fully and completely usable, so that business users ...

      MS Office RT is the 'student and home edition'. It is not licensed for business or commercial use. It requires an additional licence fee if RT is to be used for any purpose that relates to making money.

      As far as I can tell Surface Pro will also require _additional_ cost for Office if used in a business.

      1. Paul Shirley

        Re: AFAIK Office isn't bundled with Surface Pro

        "As far as I can tell Surface Pro will also require _additional_ cost for Office if used in a business."

        AFAIK Pro won't have Office bundled at all, judging from MS statements so far. So it's a non-issue in the sense that you'll need to get a licensed copy separately anyway.

        If MS get spooked enough maybe they'll decide to bundle Office after all but I'll be extremely surprised. A trial license for 365 seems the most acceptable (to the MS beancounters) option.

      2. Vic

        Re: Solutions

        > I presume that you are asking for MS to subsidize these.

        Microsoft can't subsidise the unit for the reasons you state.

        But if they don't get the cost down, the device is DOA.

        I don't know how they'll manage it. But maybe they have someone who does. And maybe they'll fire the bloke[1] who thought the current price point was reasonable


        [1] that's got to be Ballmer, hasn't it?

  4. Stephen Channell

    price is the only issue

    It is hard to imagine how Microsoft positioning could be more dumb about Surface, but the only problem with it is price, if you want to buy market share they need to fight android on price, iPad on quality, then win on functionality.

    Win RT is not DOA because Microsoft will [1]bring surface pro in at RT price point [2] reduce RT Surface price [3] win RT is the ultimate VDI platform.. Expect to see RemoteFX terminals, embedded TV controls & Xbox 720.

    MS are running out of time to regain hegemony, & need to start playing to win like 1980 Bill Gates

  5. David Strum

    Tanker is hasn’t run aground yet

    The Big Elephant that no one wants to kick in the behind is that Ballmer fellow…

    I’m just glad I missed the hype and used logic to resist the urge to go buy what seemed an essential new toy. I’ve got it installed on my PC, and it really REALLY looks out of place nestled next to XP and Win 7; like Vista is the missing link in my Multi-boot progression of OS’; but Win-8 just looks like a mutant.

    I had a bad feeling about it right from the start; and sad to say, my instincts were right. But MS will now try to right the wrongs, that Corporate bullheadedness has inflicted on itself; I fear it’s too late. The Microsoft Tanker is hasn’t run aground yet, but its helplessly going round and round in circles in the high seas of Corporate competition.

  6. Tim 11

    The emperor's new clothes

    One thing I'd like to come out of this fiasco (but I doubt it will) is a bit more scepticism from the public about marketing BS. Analysts, newspapers and celebrities are all bought off by MS to say how wonderful everything is when they know themselves it's s**t.

  7. Mark Allread

    Another day, another win 8 hater story on the reg

    In the UK at least, no-one bought the Surface because they were mail-order only and therefore no-one saw one. Bizarrely, the only place to buy a Surface on the high street is in CEX. Along with every other kind of tablet.

    1. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Another day, another win 8 hater story on the reg

      Lots of people I know have one, and plenty sell on ebay (new).

      Of course I want the pro version, but RT is still pretty cool when you compare it to the limitations of the iPad or Android.

    2. stim

      Re: Another day, another win 8 hater story on the reg

      i bought a 64gb from the MS site when they first came out - that's what people do nowadays, yunno, buy stuff online?!!

  8. clean_state

    Samsung out = bad news

    If even Samsung is bailing out of WinRT, there seems to be a really big problem. Usually Samsung plays the early adopter role quite benevolently. They do not mind experimenting with a couple of devices and they do not care about OS consistency much either.

  9. The FunkeyGibbon

    The problem for Mircosoft is...

    That they want the best of both worlds.

    Apple iPad succeeds because Apple use iOS to best show off it's hardware. It's long been acknowledged that much of what Apple does in the software environment, be it an O/S or an application such as iTunes, it is there to push the hardware. They are are a hardware company for whom the software component is an enabler.

    The success of Android is that Google doesn't mind if somebody skins it an makes it more of their own. They ceded control of the look by allowing Blur, Touchwiz and Sense and then learning from those to improve the core UI. The Android specs aren't also locked down like Microsoft have done, give vendors flexibility and the market will decide who has produced the best device. Once the market has decide what the spec should be (Nexus 7, Kindle Fire, Nook HD etc) then the manufacturers are happy because it was up to them to find their own way.

    Microsoft are a software company so unlike Apple their software has to be awesome on the hardware. Instead of taking the Google approach, they thought they could be like Apple and pissed off everybody in the process, vendors, buyers, developers - the whole gamut.

    Either you own the process from start to finish (Apple) or you let the market shake out how things will be (Google) you can't do both.

  10. The FunkeyGibbon

    Oh and...

    Microsoft licence fees are horrible. Everything they do contains a hidden 'fee' to do something. If I could be rid of Microsoft in the workplace it wouldn't be because of the quality of their software but to be rid of their evil, gouging licence structure. Brining this to the tablet world is an EPIC fail.

  11. Mark Allread

    Gil Grissum: "Not many people are going to buy a hobbled Surface Tablet to get a hobbled OS and hobbled office suite when they can get an iPad mini for less and be able to do more than with a Surface Tablet"

    Sorry mate, but that's just f*cking hilarous. How do people come up with these stupid opinions.. really?

  12. Mark Allread

    Loving all these bedroom market analysts

    Telling us just what Microsoft are doing wrong, what they should have done. All contradicting each other, most displaying a misunderstanding of the products. Sheesh...

  13. al 3

    Meanwhile... in the REAL world....

    Maybe ARM /RT is/will be dead.....

    I am currently testing a Dell Latitude 10 tablet which Dell kindly sent me to trial.

    I have over 5000 PCs over 160 sites so are operating in the real world, ok, business world :-)

    I have no irrational preferences, whatever does the job at the right cost, that includes full lifecycle support..

    I have to confess to being a bit confused with M$ over versions and version names . the Dell website says this Dual Core Atom is RT, but it's not it's WIndows 8 Pro.

    I've just installed full office 2003 and bumped it onto the domain.

    It comes with a nifty little dock with hdmi, usb, ethernet, hdmi so fits my needs as a portable but often I need a mouse requirements, Spreadsheets just don't cut it driven by sausage fingers

    After reading the masses of anti 8 rhetoric I have been pleasantly surprised, I have 140 iPads deployed corporately and in schools and they do not offer the same simplicity of connection to the network and resources.

    There's little in the iStore which is any good to me, logging my zumba scores, wieght, amusing fart apps , twitter linky things don't help me do my job so the population of any of the stores does not interest me.

    My data is all on a large private cloud so I don't need drop(out)box, giggledrive or anywhere to lose/let anyone look at my data.

    I've tried to live with an iPad3 for a while to see if it delivered my needs, it's pretty bar one critical function (to me),

    the windows 8 handwriting recognition and ability to write with something more akin to a pen beats the hell out of the horrible rubbery floppy stylus effort on the iPad, it is just far .

    The dell is about 3500 , that seems ok given that it integrates so well, the flip round keyboard ultrabook at £998 is entirely another story !!!!!

    tuppence ha'penny worth over :-)

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Meanwhile... in the REAL world....

      I lookeded at the dell. Price put me off as we can get a small notebook for the same price. I do think a win8 pro tablet would work for us in a school environment. We trialled ipads but they failed due to lack of document transfer options - people just wanted simple shared drives and my docs esq approaches. The apps wore thin after a month and the ipads were discarded for laptops again.

      A dockable tablet solution with keyboards attached would be the best of both worlds for us. The replaceable battery sold it for me on the dell. Perhaps I'll get a dozen to trial. They arent cheap though.

  14. Ian Johnston Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Is this new?

    It has been possible for years to buy cheap netbooks (sub £100, typically) running Windows CE.

  15. Lucasx2

    The Surface is an excellent tablet

    I've been using a Surface since November, and it is defently the best tablet I have ever used (and no I don't work for MS, but unlike the people saying how bad it is, I have actually used one)

    1. MIc

      Re: The Surface is an excellent tablet

      Same here. The search and share charm make it sooo much easier to do common tasks. I can't for the life of me understand why MS marketing doesn't focus on how the common stuff is easier. The shit you do all day every day takes less effort.

  16. Levente Szileszky

    I know I'm going to sound like a broken record - but IT IS BALLMER & his entourage...

    ...seriously, I cannot repeat enough times; BALLMER MUST GO, along with his ilks, golden boys and his army of INCOMPETENT BUREAUCRATS before they terminally damage/kill MSTF, period.

    The place is full of capable engineers who are RUN BY UTTERLY INCOMPETENT IDIOTS AS MANAGERS eg Ballmer or his disastrously useless marketing people, worthless product managers etc etc.

    Without further ado I must refer everybody again to the now-famous, mandatory Vanity Fair article from last August about Microsoft's lost decade and Ballmer's utter and complete leadership failure spanning over 10+ years, see link below - a truly horrific story about building a perverse, killer company culture on tricks like pitting people deliberately against each other thus triggering paybacks and backstabbing even within teams, instead of fostering collaboration, a culture where committee design is STILL the way to do things, where corporate shitkickers were butchering creativity every day (*ANY* game dev firm bought by MS Game Studios died in a year or two - only Bungie managed to break away, right before they gave up, by cutting off MSFT and quickly moving out physically from the Redmond snake pit, for more on this Google "microsoft destroyed development culture"...)

    How Microsoft Lost Its Mojo: Steve Ballmer and Corporate America's Most Spectacular Decline

    Once you've read this article you'll understand why it's impossible to fix MSFT while Balllmer and his ilks are running it - they MUST GO, ASAP.

  17. swschrad

    you fail to see the (flawed) logic

    there is a Surface RT because there is a mobile windows 8. they are meant to be complimentary without being welded to each other, as the RIM tablet was welded to the crackberry.

    Surface RT is System Lite, and the winphones are System Lite-lite. pros need not apply. Chair Boy has more expensive stuff for you. only you can't use it because the live tiles stuff keeps hiding your work.

    I don't really buy the logic, because it's a screwy tool to me, but there y' go.

  18. FreeTard


    ...purchased a dell RT at Xmas and loves it. It's a great little system for use as a fondleslab for home use.

    Yes it is annoying with it's windows homegroup crap, but that aside the battery life is great, the camera is great for skype calls etc, and lastly the video is great for watching flics in bed.

    As for the target market? People like me who are bored of droids?

    Thanks for the downvotes :)

  19. rogerpjr
    Black Helicopters

    MS 7/8xx

    Why on earth buy into the MS hype, When as it has been said,

    Android has taken a commanding lead on the OS wars.

    The upshot is, MS arrogance can now be side-stepped.

    Better value for money. Up-to-date HW. Up-to-date OS.

    Compelling logic for my company and personal use.

  20. scoob101

    Lies and FUD about WindowsRT.

    "The bottom line is that Windows RT isn't Windows – and we mean that quite literally: Windows RT is Windows in name only."

    RT is a direct port of Windows 8 to ARM. What part of that simple sentence don`t you understand?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bad news for MS.

    I know of no-one who wants the core i5 version either.

    Metro is just a bucket of shit.

    Microsoft were told, and their response was disdain of the devs. In fact disdain isn't strong enough a word. Contempt is more like it.

    So, don't know what to say. I said I wouldn't buy it with Metro, they put Metro on it, so I'm not buying it. Wish them luck but I'm not contributing to the false success of a programme manager who should've been sacked for the Ribbon, just because she's a computing minority.

  22. anarmandawindows
    IT Angle

    From The Guardian: RT's Seven Sins

    Don't know if people saw this, but the folks over at the Guardian's Technology Blog decided to highlight this article at the top of their "Boot Up" post (a review of the week's top stories and articles).

    Personally, I thought McAllister is off on a few of these, but I'll focus on the one the Guardian chose to highlight: the fact that a Windows RT device seems suspiciously like a netbook.

    Here's my objection:

    1) Touch screen. Need I say more?

    2) Full keyboard (at least on the Surface. I haven't tried out the VivoTab's keyboard). My wife has a netbook that we keep in the kitchen to look up recipes and whatnot, and it's a good deal more cramped to work with than my Surface.

    3) Modern UI. I know the jumping back and forth between desktop and Start Screen has been getting panned, but the simple fact is I really do get two devices in one. On the one hand I can just use it as a tablet (though of course I wish there were more apps). On the other, when I truly do have work to get done, I can switch over to the desktop.

    4) Jailbreaking/TeamViewer (and other remote desktop apps). I just started using teamviewer so I can't comment too much on its performance yet. But in theory I'm able to run Chrome through it, removing one of the biggest drawbacks (at least for me) to having an RT device.

  23. stim

    LoveMySurface<3 :)

    i love my surface, dunno what all this fuss is about - it's awesome and everyone i show it to likes it as well :)

    the battery lasts and lasts and lasts, amazing piece of kit... does everything i want.


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