Is Windows RT still Windows?

News is Microsoft isn’t letting developers outside of Microsoft build desktop apps for Windows RT.  Mozilla (the creator of the Firefox Browser and Thunderbird mail client) and Google (the developer of Chrome) are upset.


Because Microsoft is not only not letting them access low level win32 API’s, but also because Microsoft will have their own IE10 browser and Office desktop programs for Windows RT.

When asked about this by Paul Thurrott, Microsoft gave an interesting answer.

They said Windows RT isn’t really Windows.

Not really Windows?  What makes Windows RT now Windows?

From screenshots, they both look identical.  Heck, they both even have “Windows” in their names.  The difference seems to be mostly under the hood.

  1. Windows RT was written to run only on devices with ARM processors, while Windows 8 is more like present versions of Windows that run on x86 devices and computers.
  2. Windows 8 will be able to run windows desktop programs while the only ones Windows RT ill be able to run are the ones Microsoft develops (including IE10 and Office).
  3. The update process for Windows RT will probably be more like Windows phone than Windows 8 (and current versions of Windows).  With Windows 8 Microsoft creates an update, tests it internally and then sends it to the consumers (just like previous versions of Windows).  I believe with Windows RT after Microsoft makes the update, they have to send it to the device manufacturer to test it and then it gets sent out to users.  This could be important because critical updates may not get to windows RT devices as quickly as they will for Windows 8 (except for maybe Windows Defender definitions).

Here is a cart that lists key features by editions.

To the average user this could get confusing because most people don’t know the difference between ARM and x86 processors, or the difference between Windows RT and Windows 8, they just know Windows.

Windows 8 and Windows RT look so much alike, will Microsoft be able make it clear enough for a regular consumer to differentiate between a Windows 8 and Windows RT tablet so they can pick the one that suites him/her best?

Worse case scenario, someone buys a Windows RT tablet and gets angry because they can’t install their favorite desktop programs.  Microsoft is going to have to have to get sales people trained to ask the right questions so they can steer consumers to the right device for their needs.

Curbing other desktop programs from running on Windows RT makes sense.  Desktop programs take up more RAM and processing power which could hurt battery life.  Arm processors are made for low power handheld devices that use mobile apps, not full desktop programs.

A log of desktop programs would bog down an ARM based tablet because ARM and x86 have different instruction sets (special code within the processor that enables it to carry out all its tasks).  ARM processors are more simplistic while x86 processors have more complex instruction sets.

ARM processors also can only run embedded graphics which aren’t as powerful as desktop computers with separate graphics cards (or even a laptop with a separate graphics chip).

We also don’t know enough about the versions of IE10 and office that are being developed for Windows RT.  What did Microsoft have to do to get them to run well on a tablet which will have much less ram, processing power and graphics than a PC?

I personally think it would have made things easier if they would have taken desktop out of Windows RT.  Windows RT should be the consumer version has simple versions of office and IE10 Metro apps (similar to Windows Phone 7) and leave the desktop versions for Windows 8.

For one thing, from what I hear, Office for Windows RT is just going to have Word, Excel, Power Point and OneNote.  If this is true it’s not going to have outlook which for businesses I think this would be a game changer.  Most businesses that use Office rely on Outlook.

The thing is, if they took desktop out of Windows RT, it still wouldn’t fix the issue of differentiating Windows RT and 8.  The only way to do this would be to have distinctly different OS’.  Windows 8 being the desktop only OS that retains the look of today’s desktop OS and Windows RT which would be the finger friendly tablet OS.

I don’t think I’d like that though.  I like the idea of being able to buy a tablet with a keyboard dock that runs desktop programs instead of having to buy two devices.  So if someone needs desktop programs they can just buy a Windows 8 tablet.  This would also stop Mozilla and Google in their tracks and everything would be ok.

On an interesting note, Paul Thurrrott made a great comment in his article that’s worth remembering; “If Windows RT takes off and is truly successful, it becomes windows.  That is it does what NT decades ago, existing for a time side-by-side with what used to be Windows and then eventually supplanting the old Windows (becoming the base for Windows 2000).

In other words if Metro takes off and people embrace it, Microsoft may get rid of the desktop (or at least hide it like they did with Command Prompt) then there won’t be a difference between Windows 8 and Windows RT hence Windows RT will become Windows.

What do you guys think?

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