Microsoft Windows 8 RT: Really, Microsoft? Have You Learned Nothing?

I’m an iPad user (I write many of my posts on an iPad these days), and I have a big interest in tablets and tablet technology.  Lately, I’ve been reading a bit about Windows 8 and the new “RT” version for is specifically for tablets.  By the way, for those that don’t know “RT” stands for runtime.  There’s a bit of a buzz around the fact that MS is going to enter an arena dominated by Apple (iOS) and Android-based apps like the Kindle Fire.

There seems to be a belief that MS can (and might) make a huge mark in this space because of what they, and the Windows platform can bring to the plate.  But I have to say, I think Microsoft may be about to make a HUGE misstep with this release.  It sounds great on the surface – Windows for your tablet, and it even comes with the key MS Office apps!  Wow!  But there’s a fly in the ointment:  This Windows isn’t really Windows as we know it.

As I was reading about this upcoming release I first thought that I misunderstood when I read that standard Windows apps won’t run on the new Windows RT?  But really, why should they?  These tablets have a totally different processor with a totally different architecture.  Apple understood this when they release the iPad – iOS apps are NOT the same as OSX apps, and no one is likely to mix those things up.

So what’s the problem here?

Well so far it seems like there is almost an effort to NOT talk about the fact that this is really a not a variant of Windows as we know it, and it’s also not a strip-down of Windows – but rather a completely different OS.  And yes, there will be some flavor of MS Office apps included, which are likely to be part of any marketing strategy because it will be the only tablet OS to “support MS Office”. But again, it’s a different OS.  It requires totally new apps – your regular apps won’t run.  Can you start to see the potential for confusion and misunderstanding?

On a bit of a side trip, you also will have to ask, since it needs new and different apps, why would anyone choose this over an iPad or Android tab? What’s the benefit?  I think the key differentiator is going to be the inclusion of the MS Office apps.  And I think those MS Office apps are part of what’s going to make people think, incorrectly, that it’s just “Windows”.  And I’m not entirely certain that MS or it’s partners want you to think otherwise.

By calling it “Windows”, with a kind of meaningless “RT” tacked on it just encourages people in thinking that it is the same (or similar) to other versions of Windows.  So doesn’t Microsoft realize that calling it Windows when it won’t run traditional Windows apps, has the potential to confuse and frustrate users? Did they learn nothing from past mistakes?  Yes people are smart, but to most people – Windows is Windows, but in this case it’s not!

Yup – I know what you’re thinking:  Windows Phone is out there and people aren’t thinking that Windows Phone is going to run traditional Windows apps, so why should they be confused by Windows RT?  Because “Windows Phone” is a name that clearly says this is a phone in itself brings to mind different expectations, just like it’s predecessor Windows Mobile, but “Windows RT” doesn’t really clearly make that differentiation.  The name is likely to be kind of meaningless to most people.  For that reason I don’t think that people are going to make the distinction as easily that this “Windows” is NOT “Windows Standard” or “Windows Professional”.

I get that MS, and it’s partners will want to capitalize on the Windows brand, but I am really convinced that this has the potential to be a bigger marketing mess that Windows Vista or even Windows Me.  This one has the potential to piss people off and that is never good for business.

So again – Apple, while making their user interface front ends on their different platforms more and more similar, has kept a “logical” division between OSX and OSX apps on the desktop/laptop side of the house, and iOS and iOS apps on the mobile side of the house.  No one is confused that an iOS app will run on a Mac.  MS has Windows Phone whose differentiation is clear from the word “Phone” in the name.  But Microsoft is not (at this point) making that division clear with Windows RT.  I think they would do themselves a much greater service by giving this OS (and the related apps) a different name – one that feels different or calls out the difference.  Maybe a fun name like “Windows Panes” or even something more mundane like “Windows Portable” so that people know there is a connection, but also a clear difference.

I suspect that a fair number of people will think that Windows RT will simply seem like a different version like Windows Ultimate or Windows Standard and be disappointed when they realize it’s not.  I don’t think there’s enough differentiation to make the situation clear to potential customers and that could be the setup for a big FAIL.

What do you think?  Do you think people are aware enough to notice the difference, or is this likely to annoy users and be another potential marketing black mark for Microsoft?


About the Author

Christopher Gavula
Chris has been a COBOL programmer, a desktop support technician, network engineer, telecommunications manager, and even a professional musician. Currently, he is focused on deploying Voice over IP technologies in a large, corporate setting. He started working full-time at the tender age of 14, even before there were PCs, and will probably be working and trying to finish “just one more project” as he’s lowered into the grave.