Windows 8 on ARM versus Windows 8 on x86: Will there be confusion? Which is the right choice?

Every once in a while I still hear about how Microsoft might cause confusion with Windows 8. Some tablets can run x86 applications and drivers, some can’t? The idea is that this notion is so huge that consumers can’t wrap their heads around it. I disagree.

I originally felt this might be true, but going with the Windows RT name was a good starting point and making sure confusion was minimal. If they had called it Windows 8 ARM or even Windows 8 RT, yes, confusion would be there.

Windows 8 RT would sound like another version of Windows like Pro, Home, etc…. so logic dictates it SHOULD run everything that Windows 8 can? But calling it RT makes it something else, kind of like Windows Phone 8 is similar looking but is an entirely different animal.

Now all it comes down to is marketing. Windows marketing needs to bill “Windows 8 tablets” as devices that have the new RT Experience while still allowing you the ability to run all your favorite traditional Windows applications and devices. Make it clear that there is a distinction and the problem is solved.

Should you get ARM or X86?

As a consumer, which is right for you? That’s a loaded question. Honestly, the answer is a very vague “it depends”. Think about your needs.

X86 devices are best for the following:

  • users that want the full desktop experience
  • users that have a need or want for using traditional desktop applications
  • users that might not care if battery isn’t as good or if the device is somewhat louder thanks to fans running to keep them from getting too hot

ARM devices are best for:

  • users that want the cheapest possible Windows tablets
  • users that put lightweight, great battery and no noise first
  • users who don’t want to worry about heating
  • users that are perfectly fine with using the Windows Store only and don’t have a real want/need for the desktop

Pretty simple drawn lines here. As far as price, ARM is generally cheaper– I say generally because basic x86 ATOM devices are going to be pretty close price wise. Ultimately, look to the following points when making your decision.

As for me, I’m strongly leaning towards ARM. This is shocking, because I originally thought that x86 was the better deal. The problem is that I don’t want to worry about lesser battery or the noise from fans. Honestly though, it just boils down to the fact that I don’t have a need for the desktop experience on my tablet. If I want a desktop experience, I’ll use my desktop or laptop computer.

Which brand or model is best?

That’s a great question. The problem is that I can’t provide an answer. As we get our hands on devices down the road, I’d love to give you impressions on what is better, but for now we just don’t know. There is going to be a lot of devices to pick from with Windows 8.

My best advice is to draw clear lines on what you are looking for. Ask yourself questions like, “What am I going to primarily do with this device?” Figure out what is important, and what isn’t. That should make it easier to find the right match. When it doubt? Microsoft Surface certainly looks like a sleek, sexy choice that could appeal to all types of users.

What about you?

What are you more interested in, ARM or x86?

Do you believe consumers will find confusion with the two different types or will Microsoft marketing and the use of the “Windows RT” name solve that problem?

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